This stop-motion video by Lynn Kiang isn’t so much about letterpress printing as it is about where typesetting terminology came from. To understand the nomenclature, it helps to see how type used to be made out of wood or metal. Terms like “upper case” and “lower case” harken back to the days of handset type when capital letters were stored in the upper section of the typecase and small letters in the lower case. Around 1886, the invention of the Linotype speeded up typesetting, letting typesetters keyboard in the text, which was cast out of molten metal one line of type at a time. Depending on the design, these hot-metal “slugs” would either be “leaded out” by placing thin sheets of metal between the lines or closed up by “taking the lead out.” When all the type was set in layout form within a metal frame (“chase”), the printer “locked it up” and “put the job to bed” on the bed of the letterpress. These terms have become industry jargon, but in the age of digital typography, their origin has become lost. This video, set to the soundtrack from “West Side Story,” is a great little primer. Lynn Kiang, an M.F.A. student in graphic design at the Rhode Island School of Design, named her video “Type High,” which means the height of the type from the face to the foot.
When Nickelodeon sought to tout its new HD network in Europe, its parent company, MTV International, hired ManvsMachine agency in London to brand the channel. What they got back was a logo identity study that playfully took Nickelodeon’s screaming orange brand color and morphed it from one texture to another, from faux fur to plastic to globule bubbles, all reforming themselves back into the Nickelodeon logotype. It’s fascinating to view.
Years ago designer Saul Bass explained how he approached film title sequences to me when I interviewed him for an article. “Find an image that will be provocative, seductive yet true to the film,” he said. “It has to have some ambiguity, some contradiction, not only visually but conceptually. Not just isolating the prettiest frame, but finding a metaphor for the film.“
Beginning with his 1955 work on Otto Preminger’s “The Man with the Golden Arm,” Bass transformed the way film title sequences were perceived forever. He approached the task with a graphic designer’s eye, so that stills from his title sequences easily translated into a powerful iconic poster for the movie.
For a Central China Television (CCTV) promotional commercial, Chinese ad agency, MMIA, undertook to retrace the history of China in an animated version of a traditional Chinese ink-and-wash landscape painting. Ink-and-wash is an art style that developed thousands of years ago and is noted for brush strokes that range from bold forms to faint ink washes that render scenes in a dreamlike mist. To simulate this liquid effect, MMIA turned to Troublemakers.tv, a production company based in Paris, and German director Niko Tziopanos of weareflink. The result is mesmerizing, a merging of design, computer graphics, visual effects and live action blending seamlessly together to appear that an ancient ink painting has come to life.
Lacoste has borrowed a page from real printed books, and gone one better, with this engaging online pop-up book dedicated to its founder Rene Lacoste. The six-chapter story is set to a lively ragtime tune and sound effects. Clicking on a chapter prompts visuals to pop up, and following the finger-pointing tab reveals a “gatefold” sidebar with explanatory text, old photos and vintage flim clips. A hybrid of different communications media, the online pop-up book tells the corporate story in a fresh way.