This crime story has all the makings of a wonderful BBC Masterpiece Theatre episode. The real-life tale of passion for typography and revenge began in 1916 when an elderly gentleman walked onto London’s Hammersmith Bridge after midnight and began tossing tiny metal pieces of the font used exclusively by The Doves Press into the Thames River. This destruction of typographic art was perpetrated by printer/bookbinder, T.J. Cobden-Sanderson, to keep the font out of the hands of his former business partner, Emery Walker. Both leaders in the Arts and Crafts Movement, Cobden-Sanderson and Walker co-owned the renowned Doves Press, revered for creating exquisite fine arts books set in Doves type. In the contentious process of dissolving their business partnership in 1909, the two men fought bitterly over the rights to the Doves font. Rather than see Walker gain ownership, Cobden-Sanderson laid a plan to make sure that the font could never be used again. Over a period of about six months, the then 76-year-old Cobden-Sanderson set off each night under the cloak of darkness with bits of Doves font hidden in packets and pockets and surreptitiously sprinkled about a ton of the metal slugs and matrices onto the Thames. In all, he made about 170 trips from his bindery to the bridge to avoid arousing the suspicion of passersby.
In this short film by Tom Beal for BBC News Magazine, type designer Robert Green picks up the story a century later and recounts his obsession with recreating Doves accurately and his heroic effort to rescue the sunken metal type.
Celebrated Dutch book designer Irma Boom continues to push the boundaries of book design by defying the conventional use of publishing materials and printing. Boom’s special edition for Chanel No. 5 is loaded with images and text and uses absolutely no ink. The sheets are completely white and blind embossed throughout. The result is sensual, intriguing, ethereal and haunting, like the best fragrances. Boom’s approach to book design is that of a fine artist. In fact, of the more than 250 books she has designed, more than 50 are in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Boom created this limited edition book for the No. 5 Culture Chanel exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.
The opening of a new location in Osaka, Japan, was occasion for luxury retailer Louis Vuitton to ask Italian design studio Happycentro to produce an appropriately elegant invitation card.The result was a printing and folding tour de force involving offset printing, transparent, silver mat, pearl and rainbow foils, dry embossing, silkscreen and die-cuts. As if that wasn’t complicated enough, the square sheet was precisely folded by hand origami-style 34 ways. One has to believe that the designer Federico Galvani has a fiendishly clever mind to devise something that tested the skills of printers and origami artists alike, but the team pulled it off and the result is lovely and unique.
When you are given an assignment to demonstrate the awesome special effects possible on paper, you need subject matter worthy of such dazzling printing feats. Superheroes. Pirates. Bigfoot. Weird larger-than-life creatures. Spies. It didn’t take long to figure out where to find all of them in one place – at 826 National, a nonprofit network of tutoring, writing and publishing centers for kids, ages 6 to 18. The 826 centers are “disguised” as retail stores, selling gear for “real” working pirates, superheroes, time travelers, bigfoot researchers, robots and so on.
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.
Authored by Jessica Helfand and Michael Bierut. The Design Observer has hosted conferences, launched a publishing imprint, hosted three podcasts, and attracted more than a million followers on social media. All of these enterprises are rooted in the original mission to engage a broader community by sharing ideas on ways that design shapes―and is shaped by―our lives.
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