Sunday 1st Nov 2009
Entirely coincidentally, I get to post about another archive of a long-running and well-known magazine; this time, Playboy. John of I Love Typography tweeted a link to this, just over 50 issues of Playboy from 1954 to 2006. The site will require you to install Silverlight, but is fairly well put together and easy to use, with a nice contents feature that also lists the ads and a search function that works well. If you need to be reminded that Playboy magazine contains a few pictures here and there of ladies in provocative poses with few clothes on, then consider yourself reminded — for whatever reasons you have, be they sociological, political or because a magic sky-fairy told you, if you find such things offensive, don’t click through. Of course, the images and type I’ve included below are entirely ‘safe for work’.
I’ve never looked at Playboy magazine before — it’s not really my thing, shall we say — but have of course heard the somewhat defensive assertion that the articles are worth reading. Just a quick look through reveals interviews with Fidel Castro, Miles Davis, Sterling Moss, loads of fiction, journalism, pages and pages of dense, dense text, and then, so rarely you almost ask “What’s that doing there?” a picture of a young woman with not much on. I must admit I didn’t really look at the newer issues, as after the logotype changes in 1972 the whole thing looks a whole lot less appealing, and makes me think perhaps the magazine becomes a little less, er, cerebral from this point. The bits of type and spreads below are mostly from the late ’50s and early ’60s, and are just an example of some of the lovely bits of type and layouts in the magazine. So yes, go and have a look at the Playboy magazine archive and do some of your own typographic research, if that’s what you’re after.
Friday 30th Oct 2009
I’ve been browsing through some of the copies of LIFE magazine in this wonderful archive on Google Books, and as well as the photography and journalism I’ve found some real type treasures, especially in the advertisments. Some of the slogans and phrases read just like bits of pangrams or the beautiful mini-stories that Font Bureau create for their type samplers, and some of the type and lettering is quite lovely. The ones below are mostly from this issue from May 1945. A few are also from this one, which also has a short article and some photos (from page 43) of the first Lewes Bonfire night after the end of World War Ⅱ - something of local interest at least to me (and other Sussex people).
Thursday 1st Oct 2009
This week sees the launch of a new Turkish-language edition of the New York Times’ International Weekly, distributed for free with the Sunday edition of Turkey’s Sabah newspaper. To advertise the launch, the newspapers commissioned this incredible animation - a typographic tour starting from Liberty Island, across various bits of Manhattan, very nearly making it over to Brooklyn before arriving on the Bosphorus with a gorgeous view of Istanbul rendered in type.
I’ve seen a fair few animations of the places-rendered-as-words variety, and more than plenty of the ‘kinetic typography’ kind, but this one is very nicely done — it hangs together beautifully, and the level of subtle detail rewards re-watching. The waves, rippling banners and flags are a lovely touch, just noticeable enough to add to the sense of place without distracting you from the overall theme.
There’s one especially lovely bit when the camera turns to show you the Brooklyn Bridge being created from type — definitely go and watch this one. It’s quite lovely, and thanks to @typographerorg (of Typographer.org, naturally) for sending me it.
Sunday 20th Sep 2009
Drawn linked to this set of posters by Noma Bar that make clever use of negative space, and they reminded me of an image I’ve had saved on my computer since last year, this poster for the Humana Festival by Tomer Hanuka, below. It doesn’t need any explanation, I just love it — the image is beautifully conceived and rendered. You can read more about its development on Hanuka’s site, Tropical Toxic.
I would tweak the type a little bit thought, especially the ‘31st’ — for some reason the height of the 3 hasn’t been optically adjusted, making it look much smaller than the 1. It’s rather odd that was done like that.
Sunday 13th Sep 2009
This feels more like a found type entry than anything else, even if I didn’t strictly find it, and that it’s more lettering than type. The Contemporist posted an article and series of photos of Habitare ’09, Finland’s largest furniture and interior design fair. Buried deep in the photos were these two, of Finnish store Skanno‘s stand, showing large letters (presumably spelling the name of the store) made out of plastic tubes and suspended like venetian blinds as dividers. It’s a simple technique, well done. I want some letters like that.
Friday 17th Jul 2009
One for the ‘what a nice idea’ pile, this. Cardon Webb goes round upgrading notices pinned up in the streets - you know the ones, ‘Lost Cat’ and the like. There’s one I saw the other day near me that was pleading for the return of a lost plush bunny. I hope they found it; the tone of desperation told a whole story in itself, a wailing inconsolable child, pushchair left unfolded in the hall, coat fallen to the floor, scattered attempts to make-it-all-better: a melted bowl of ice cream, other toys, the Teletubbies DVD and so on, and still the sobbing.
Anyway, back to the nice things. I found this on idsgn, who had created a nice header graphic out of the ‘before’ and ‘after’ images of one of them, and I found that such an appealing presentation I’ve recreated it myself. Still, the original works are the stars of the show, so have a look round on Cardon Copy at the others. I initially thought that the idea was to simply improve the original notices but found a few of them rather hard to read, reading the Cardon Mission reveals all:
Cardon copy takes the vernacular of self-distributed fliers and tear-offs we have all seen in our neighborhoods. It involves hijacking these unconsidered fliers and redesigning them, overpowering their message with a new visual language. I then replace the original with the redesign in its authentic environment.Cardon Copy
So there you go, the key phrase is ‘overpowering their message’. Explains some of them. The others, like the one below, are far more appealing. You’d keep an eye out for that cat:
Here’s something I’ve been meaning to post about for a while, and happily it’s a local project, right here in Brighton and Hove. There’s a new service, just launched, which lets you text a code for a particular bus stop to a number and get an SMS back telling you the next five buses to go from that stop. It’s quite a neat idea and pretty fast (I tried it), and a nice complement to the other ways of getting bus information*.
So that’s the back-story. What is good, and particularly appealing to me, is the advertising campaign and the various materials to help people keep a track of the bus stop codes, designed by David Earls of Typographer.org, for Brighton & Hove City Council. I saw a fair bit of the development work on this and I’m glad that this design was chosen and made it through to print unscathed. It’s a beautiful arrangement of type and colour, designed to appeal mainly to teenagers and young adults (and, incidentally, typographers) and adapts well to a wide variety of applications. The typeface (Rockwell Extra Bold) lends itself well to this kind of extreme kerning, with the nicely balanced word shapes the alternating colours and tones ensuring the message remains perfectly readable. The campaign included billboards, bus-stop adshels, A4 posters, information stickers, leaflets with punch-out cards, and a competition to win a new mobile phone:
* Note: I should point out that it’s not free, or even particularly cheap. It’s not provided by Brighton & Hove City Council either - though it is partially subsidised by them I believe.
Sunday 7th Jun 2009
A while back Jo at Languste Fonts sent me a link to the collection of the Austrian Museum of Applied and Contemporary Arts. Their collections site is pretty huge, with sections for ornamental and woodblock prints, textiles, drawings, and posters. Lots and lots of posters. They’re arranged in categories, but the best thing is just to keep clicking through them and enjoy the variety - there’s some pretty gorgeous lettering, type and illustration in there. I’ve (of course) traced some of it, and I love the blackletter calligraphy below. I’d link to the page, but it’s one of those sites that doesn’t have unique URLs for things. Just search for Nieder Österreich and it’ll be in there somewhere.
Monday 25th May 2009
Another gem found through Coudal, this. Re-Type posted an article about the beautiful lettering by Leo Beukeboom on the windows of bars and cafes in Amsterdam (with a nice appreciation of decent, old-style, non-trendy bars in there too). There’s a series of photos with the article, which I’ve traced the lettering from (below), and as a bonus Re-Type themselves are working on interpreting the lettering into an Opentype face, which so far looks great - can’t wait to see it finished.
I did a bit of hunting around for more information on Beukeboom, and found this article on David Quay’s site, containing a lot of background information and an interview, which is fascinating and well worth a read. I’m particularly taken by this:
The letter you use on a pub window depends on the type of pub. If you have a traditional brown café, with lace curtains on copper curtain rods, with stained glass windows, you choose a nice, ornamental curly letter, because it fits in with the environment. It is not the information that counts, because everyone can tell it’s a café, but it’s about decoration, about creating an atmosphere. For the lettering on the traditional brown cafés I developed my own script based on the calligraphy of Jan van den Velde.Leo Beukeboom, from David Quay Design
I love that. The words themselves become secondary to the style in conveying information - without knowing what it says, you know what it says. Certainly not an infallible system, but most types of place (and many things) have their signature look, and as I’ve posted before (warning, extremely wordy article) you should know what you’re doing before you mess with it. They’re the design patterns of urban existence, if you will, though in the case of Beukeboom’s lettering, this is one that is slowly fading - unless anyone wants to become his apprentice that is. If he still wants one.
I am indebted to Adrian Giddings for finding the originals of these images. I saw them on Design Crush, and from there to ffffound and from there… a blank. Blogger really needs some kind of reverse lookup for their dreadful impenetrable image URLs, and ffffound needs to better record the URL of the page containing the image. Still, I now know where these posters are from. They’re clever, simple, and have a graphic elegance reminiscent of Otl Aicher’s work for the 1972 Munich Olympics, with typography that is pure London. If Wolf Olins had gone down this route I’m sure there would have been far less controversy about the branding for London 2012.
Of course, these are proposals designed to work with the Transport for London branding, not for the Olympics, and I think work perfectly in that context. For the Olympics itself, for all their cleverness and simplicity, they’d be a bit too classic Olympics, a little too safe. Perhaps.
As for the actual 2012 logo/brand, it’s has been out for quite a while now, but I’m still not entirely sure yet what I think of it - I don’t like it, but it may be exactly right for the event. We won’t really know until after the Olympics, and then, no doubt, we’ll have plenty of learned analyses about it to tell us what to think. I wonder how agnostic I’ll be able to be.
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