Slanted #15

I’ve had a copy of Slanted magazine’s newest issue on my desk for weeks. The pals over at MAGMA Brand Design were very kind to send me a copy, and I enjoyed flipping through the issue very much. Still, I have no idea what to write about it.

Issue 15’s theme is “Experimental,” which surprises me somewhat. The previous two issues were dedicated to humanist and grotesk-style sans serif typefaces (geometric sans serifs were tackled all the way back in issue 7), and issue 16 promises to be about extremes in type design – the advertised theme is “Bold/Light.” Still, Slanted isn’t a magazine like Typography Papers. It isn’t PAGE, novum, HOW, eye, or baseline either. Slanted is just weird. And by weird, I mean mind-blowingly-awesome, with its finger on the pulse of the now. Its designers at MAGMA Brand Design are some of Germany’s best. Whenever I teach a class, one of the first questions I ask my students is to name their favourite typeface. I held a workshop earlier this year where about a quarter of the students all named typefaces that were featured in Slanted 11: Monospace. Typewriter. If you are on the forefront of typography here, you care about Slanted magazine.

Still, an issue titled “Experimental” just doesn’t feel right. Everything that Slanted publishes is new; a lot of its contents are short-lived student projects. These are always experimental works. Slanted’s layout is a continuing work in progress; articles are often presented in untraditional ways. The entire magazine has been an ongoing experiment, and will hopefully remain so. To single out a crop of work from the past few months or years for this issue – and to label this “experimental” work – seems to run against the grain.

This does not mean, dear readers, that I recommend against purchasing Slanted 15. Most of you are probably long-familiar with Slanted, and will read the issue no matter what I might write here. But, if you are not a Slanted purchaser/reader/subscriber yet, I recommend joining the crowd. Slanted supports design today, and the project itself should be encouraged and supported.

So, what did I particularly enjoy about issue 15? To start off, the cover design comes in lots of different colors. My copy has a cool green-and-orange split fountain printing-thing going on. The black and white photos of Lara Henning and Manuel Wesely’s design for the HBK Saar 2011 Diplom exhibition are pretty awesome. Slanted always has a copy of great interviews in each issue. The interviewees are often speakers from the annual Typo Berlin conferences. Shelley Gruendler has an interesting article in this issue called “Just Try.”

There are a copy of different paper stocks used in the issue, and I really like the typeface used for the text this time. It is called Korpus, from Michael Mischler and Nik Thoenen at Binnenland. The caps remind me a little bit of Malabar’s, which is probably why I like it so much. Of course, it would be awesome if Slanted would use Malabar in an issue; but she would never, ever work on the kind of paper stock they usually print on.

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New Cooper Black book

It is very rare that I publish “press release” sorts of posts here on TypeOff. I normally don’t like to promote events in which I am not actively involved, or recommend books that I haven’t actually read. However, I got an e-mail last night from BIS Publishers that made me curious. They’ve just announced the publication of a new book, entitled Big, Black & Beautiful – The Cooper Black Book. This is by Ward Nicolaas, and is scheduled for release in October. I’ve embedded the BIS promo PDF right here in this post; it comes from the BIS Publishers Issuu page.

Cooper Black is just a divine typeface. There seems to an avalanche of “books about typefaces” recently. I hope that this title does the typeface justice. If any TypeOff.-readers have seen the book, please comment on it here.
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TYPO issue 44 is out

Cover of TYPO #44

I’m a subscriber of TYPO magazine, a quarterly publication from Prague. Surprisingly, TYPO is one of the only regular magazines dedicated to type and typography. Sure, there are several great new-comers on the scene, like 8 Faces or Codex. And then there are stalwarts, like Baseline and Typografische Monatsblätter. But TYPO has been running strong for years. I recommend them.

TYPO magazine is a bi-lingual publication, written in Czech and English. This issue has a special treat: an article toward the end of the issue on the Škoda’s new corporate typefaces. The types are the first large corporate commission from Berlin-based Mota Italic, and the article is written by the designer of the faces, Rob Keller.

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Reorganizing my books

Living room, books

I have never been able to get too excited about typeface classification systems. Of all the texts that I have read about the subject, I think that I most agree with Jonathan Hoefler’s “On classifying type” from Emigre number 42 (1997). Or perhaps with John Hudson’s classification system (based on this source). Still, I’m excited that Indra Kupferschmid and Nick Sherman will be leading a several-hour-long discussion on the topic at the upcoming ATypI. It is a pity that I will likely miss that day of the conference.

I recently began thinking about the trouble with classification systems while reorganizing the books in my library. Like typeface classification, there are several library guidelines and numbering systems I could rely on. Perhaps someday, I will even do this. But for the moment – due to some additional new shelving space in my apartment – I have decided to rearrange my books according to the following categories:

  • Architecture
  • Architecture magazines
  • Art history
  • Annual journals and other regular journals
  • Award annuals
  • Bibles
  • Books about learning Hindi
  • Books about lettering
  • Books about specific type foundries
  • Books about typography
  • Books and folios by designers, design studios, or publishers that just look cool
  • Cookbooks
  • Costume design
  • Dictionaries, phrasebooks, and language-learning books
  • Fairy tales
  • Fiction and poetry
  • Gutenbergiana
  • History of design
  • History of printing
  • History of writing
  • IKEA catalogs
  • Magazine-like publications from foundries
  • Magazines and miscellaneous type specimen
  • Miscellaneous design books
  • Monographs about designers
  • Monographs by designers
  • My own work in print
  • Photo albums
  • Sketchbooks (mine, and Anke’s)
  • Stupid typography-experiment books and folios
  • Theater
  • Travel guides and maps
  • Type foundry specimen books
  • Typography manuals
  • World history and current events

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French sans serifs in Slanted #13

Cover of Slanted #13

For about two years, I’ve been wanting to write a short piece about current typeface design in France. Of course, writing about the type design output of just about any country with a rich typographic history is a much larger undertaking; something more book like, e.g., Jan Middendorp’s Dutch Type (2004) or the ATypI + Adpf book Lettres Françaises (1998). But, Flo and Julia from the Slanted editorial board humored me this past January. In the newest issue of Slanted, readers may find my brief text, “Some new sans serif typefaces from France.”

For the article, I selected nine typefaces that I think are selective enough of what French type designers are drawing in terms of sans serifs today. Most of the faces are humanist sans serifs; in fact, Slanted #13 is wholly dedicated to this genre.

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End of 2010 book recommendations

Over the past two months, I’ve acquired more books than usual … books that I purchased on my own, received review copies of, or was given as gifts for my birthday or Christmas. Of those, these are the titles that I have just finished reading, or am starting now, as the year changes. They are not ranked, but listed alphabetically, by the author’s last name.

  • Max Bollwage, Buchstabengeschichte(n). New history of type and lettering by one of Germany’s elder typographic scholars. Includes interesting, more detailed claims about the development of the alphabet from hieroglyphs than anything I have read before. Also includes sections that have been previously published elsewhere, such as his type classification scheme, which I first encountered in the Gutenberg-Jahrbuch 2000. (Info.)
  • Harry Carter, with an introduction by James Mosley, A view of early typography: up to about 1600. James Mosley’s lectures at Reading spurned me on to finally read this book, but I didn’t have a copy of my own until last week. (Info.)
  • FontShop, Berlin and Fuenfwerken, apfel i. I was lucky enough to get a free copy of the expanded second edition if this small wire-bound typesetting reference manual before supplies ran out. FontBlog has announced that it will be published as an eBook soon.
  • Adrian Frutiger, Type Sign Symbol. After about a year’s worth of searching for a copy of this classic text that wouldn’t cost a fortune, I found a seller who I was happy with. This book is an interesting snapshot of typeface design at the time (1980), but the book is not as comprehensive or useful as the much more recent Adrian Frutiger Typefaces: The Complete Works.
  • Anneloes van Gaalen, Never use more than two different typefaces: and 50 other ridiculous typography rules. I received a review copy of this book from BIS Publishers. I have not read the book yet, but I am looking forward to it. I hope to post a review of the book here by mid-February 2011. (Info.)
  • Juli Gudehus, Das Lesikon der visuellen Kommunikation. I’m not usually swayed by reading reports of how awesome other people’s books are. So I paid little attention to all of the positive reviews about this book over the last three months. But then, a week before Christmas at the Linotype office, I saw a copy of the book: it really was awesome! The type, the paper, the binding, the writing, the originality … I loved everything about it, except for the slip case it comes in. This feels less qualitative than the book itself. I ordered the book from FontShop.de, which had a 20-percent-off sale through 31 December. (Info.)
  • Frank Heine, Type&c. Better than Emigre No. 70: The Look Back Issue, this designer “autobiography” shows almost all of the graphic and type design work from the author, who unfortunately passed away shortly after the book was published in 2003.
  • Jan Middendorp, Creative Characters. I read all of the interviews in this colorful volume in their original format: e-mail newsletters from MyFonts.com. Still, I am very happy that they have been republished in printed form. Jan and BIS Publishers sent me a copy to review. I should have an article about this book up by the end of January. I don’t know where I will publish my review, though. Any suggestions? (Info.)
  • Philipp Oswalt (Ed.), Bauhaus Streit 1919–2009: Kontroversen und Kontrahenten. This was a birthday gift that I was very happy to receive. It includes a number of superb, German-language essays about the historiographical debates on the Bauhaus’s image. Unfortunately, it is the most poorly typeset book I have ever seen.
  • Eckehart SchumacherGebler et al., F.H. Ernst Schneidler: Schriftentwerfer, Lehrer, Kalligraph. Ever since I first say this book in Indra’s office in Saarbrücken, I’ve been pondering when the right time to buy it would be. This year, the massive tome was my Christmas present to myself. It is a fabulous book; better, for instance, than Adrian Frutiger Typefaces: The Complete Works (but only if you can read German, alas). Many of the pages in this book were printed from handset type, or typeset with a Monotype caster, depending on the chapter. (Info.)

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Graphic design and the soul

How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul

Princeton Architectural Press recently published an expanded, second edition of Adrian Shaughnessy’s How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul. About a month ago, I received a free review copy. Although I had never read the first edition, published by Laurence King Publishing Ltd. London in 2005, I decided to read the book right away. I spent about a week with it. During two of those days, I was in bed with a cold. Shaughnessy got me thinking more than I had expected.

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Slanted 11: Monospace, Typewriter

Slanted 11 cover

 
To begin this review, I would like to reiterate my affection for Slanted magazine; of their ten previous issues, I’ve contributed in a small way to at least six. While I played no role in issue 11, this rests entirely on my shoulders: Slanted regularly asks its readers for article contributions. Magma Brand Design, the Karlsruhe graphic design agency behind projects including Slanted magazine, the Slanted.de blog, the Volcano-Type foundry, and the Typodarium calendar, is one of Germany’s most creative companies. It is difficult for me to criticize anything to do, as I have much respect for their enthusiasm, their ability to continually follow their passions, and their work in general. Nevertheless, I’m a bit at a loss when it comes to the newest issue of Slanted magazine.

If you are unfamiliar with the newest issue, you can read a few basic facts about it on the official description at Slanted.de (in German and English, with images). You may also enjoy the Magma Brand Design project page for Slanted 11 (in German, with images).

 
1. Introduction
At the beginning of September, one of Slanted’s editors asked me to write a review of this issue. I have blogged about Slanted here on TypeOff. before, but most of my posts regarding the magazine have just highlighted my own contributions to it. After receiving my copy of Slanted 11 the mail, I read the issue from cover to cover in a single day. Actually, as I the magazine arrived on the day I travelled to the ATypI 2010 conference, I read the issue in the air, en route to Dublin. Since then, it has been necessary for me to mull over the issue somewhat. Had Slanted not requested a review, I would not be writing this.

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My blackletter angst (and Slanted #10)

Postcard of teh poster for the tenth issue of Slanted.

The newest issue of the Slanted magazine—its tenth—is entitled “Heavy Metal. Lovers.” Devoted to blackletter type, it is naturally a collection the absolute coolest elements in typography today. My love affair with blackletter runs deep; I’ve drawn half a dozen blackletter typefaces, but they never seemed quite right. I will never release them. Early in my carer, Hermann Zapf told me it would be impossible for a blackletter to be created today that could hold its own against the great designs of the past. Otmar Hoefer told me to put Fonotographer away, and start writing with a broad nib. Both of them may have been right; someday, I hope to hit the nail on its head.

Angst
When Slanted issued its call for submissions last year, I froze. Of all Slanted’s topics to date, this interested me the most. But what could I contribute? I thought about writing out pages of pages of the phrase “blackletters are just so awesome” in a Kochish hand, but what would be the point of that? Such things are probably only cool in my own head. In the end, the deadline came, and I had sent nothing in. I was quite embarrassed; but even after the fact, I was no wiser as to what I should have submitted. I am such a toad. I would like to blame my inconclusiveness on overwork, but I could have found a way, had I discovered a proper idea.

Thanks to Slanted’s superb editorial team, I still played a minor role in the issue. Earlier in 2009, a team from Slanted visited Linotype and the Klingspor Museum. Some of the photographs that they made in our Bad Homburg archive ended up in issue 8. They sent me an email asking me if I would be willing to sift through all of the blackletter photos that they had made, and select enough images to run across eight pages of the magazine, which is like asking a child on the day before Christmas if he wouldn’t rather just start eating his chocolate Santa Claus immediately. A DVD with 214 images arrived in the mail, and I went to work.

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Dmig2 published! (Read the HTML version)

The

Years ago, in what seems to have been a time before the German type blogs Slanted and FontBlog were born, I recall often visiting a site called Design Made in Germany. Under the motto “German design is gray,” this site offered users a reduced, simple interface, as well as lively discussion. It was not unique on my radar; the two German type fora Typografie.info and TypeForum were great sites to visit as well. But dmig did occasionally have interesting type and font-related threads.

At some point, the site disappeared into the ether, but I never seemed to notice. Slanted had become a strong force from the southwest, and FontBlog was on its way to becoming one of the most important blogs in the entire country. TypeForum seemed to die down (I stopped visiting the site regularly after some acidic discussions about the then-new idea of a capital German ß), and Typografie.info neve ceased to be actve.

Design Made in Germany has seemingly been resurrected. A new graph of dubious origin even reports that it has a wider reach than FontBlog. This would be like some small obscure country beating the NBA champions in a pick-up game of basketball, if were true. Nevertheless, the new dmig has something that I can’t recall the old site ever having: an online magazine.

The second issue of the dmig magazine was published last week. The magazine may be viewed either in an HTML version (there is even an iPhone-optimized page), or as a PDF. You could even do both… each article also has its own PDF-download link.

dmig approached Linotype awhile back, asking if we’d be interesting in sponsoring their second issue with a typeface family. I was glad when the discussion came around towards my Malabar family. However pleased I am to see anyone use my typeface, though, I hope that no one reads this magazine in PDF form.

I do not wish to deride the dmig magazine, or even this particular issue—Dmig2. I finally got around to finish reading all of the articles yesterday. Some of them were quite nice, especially the interview with Daniel Janssen on his punchcutting experience in Paris. Then are are several good articles, such as the interview with Thomas Klein from Metadesign on the refreshed Commerzbank identity. Even articles that are not so up my alley still offered an interesting point of view.

I just find the idea of a PDF magazine completely against the idea of the Internet. I also think that it is plain unnecessary. Sure, if makes it easier to save articles for reading later, or to perhaps to print them out and to store them. But websites are dynamic and temporary. PDFs—perhaps despite their original intention?—strike me as only being really great for streamlining the print production process.

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