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I dedicate this week of work to my wonderfully kind, caring and erudite father, to whom I owe my thirst for knowledge, love of blues and long fingers, and who very sadly passed away peacefully on Sunday 18th April 2021.
Always in my heart Dad, I do this for you xx

Week 10 - Press - Type & Page

Constructs of Typography, Systems & Theory

Typography was the overarching theme for this week.  This was something I have been trying to research as an aside for some weeks, having no experience of selecting, using and designing with type.  My research notes can be seen below. 

Discovery Notes
Analysis of Research

Having already begun to look at Typography before this weeks topic, I was relieved to recognise some of the terms and theory discussed by Kristopher Soelling in the introductory lecture this week.  The broad understanding I have gained this week, thanks in part to Tom Foley's very informative guest lecture, is that every typeface can be traced back to calligraphic or hand written starting points.  Soelling talks about the role of the 'scribe' whose job it was to painstakingly transfer written communication for early religious texts, by hand writing. (Fig. 1)

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Fig 1.  15th Century Monk in a Scriptorium Scribing Religious Texts (https://www.britannica.com/art/scriptorium)

The illustration shows a quill pen being used and this was the writing tool used at this time and up to the 19th century before the invention of the metal nib pen.  The quill would have given varying weights of line depending on how the tool was cut and sharpened, or the pressure applied by the user.  I imagine there was a strong risk of ink blotching if you were not a skilled scribe with a very steady hand.  Furthermore the act of transcribing manuscripts would have required an extreme level of concentration and discipline to avoid mistakes, resulting in highly skilled draftsmen at that time. 

Once we move past hand scribed texts to the inception of the first printing press (Fig. 2)  by Johannes Gutenberg, with movable letter blocks, a significant development begins that brings the first mass printed texts, including the Guntenberg Bible c. 1450 (Fig. 3)

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Fig. 2 - Gutenberg Printing Press c. 1440
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Printing_press
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Fig. 3 - The Guntenberg Bible.  Printed c. 1450. 
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Johannes-Gutenberg/Printing-of-the-Bible

Development of printing, as shown in Fig. 4, progressed significantly in the 19th century, which in turn inspired a period of substantial literary works that are still very influential, respected and studied today.  Authors such as Jane Austen, The Bronte Sisters, Mark Twain and Louise May Alcott reached huge reading audiences through the reproduction of their works on a large scale. 

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Fig. 4 - Printing Development Timeline by Wikipedia. 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Printing_press

What we can also see from figure 4 is the many variations to printing devised through the 20th century, many of which are associated with development of printing inks.   Perhaps the most revolutionary is the launch of the first 3D printer that has opened up a newer, faster and more superbly accurate method of production and engineering, particularly for precision products (Fig. 5) 

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In my own work I have been trying to replicate typefaces using my preferred medium of textiles, yarn & thread.  There are a number of ways of creating text using such materials, including embroidery techniques and applique,  however I am also interested in how certain printing inks can produce effects that resemble the properties of textile materials.  I have been looking at printing techniques that create a raised/textured surface.  UV Inks in clear or matt can enhance a CMYK printed surface, adding texture and definition (Fig. 6)  I would like to try mixing the processes of textiles with these printing techniques.

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Fig. 6 - UV Inks used by Australian designer Dave Foster.
https://www.rolanddgn.com/blog/2018/10/02/uv-textures-and-effects

As I began to look at the given resources it was clear to me that the choices designers make in regard to typeface style, placement & weight are fundamental elements to successful use.  Parrinder & Davies (2015) describe typography as a "crucial tool in expressing identity and anchoring meaning" (New Perspectives in Typography, pg 42)  In order to have an identity, type needs to have pre-established links to culture, history and politics.  Many of these links are established by their use in a particular arena, such as a Nazi propaganda poster or a political campaign slogan.  Connotations and associations are then applied, some have such strength that to use them in a different context, could cause offence or controversy in the public domain, something a discerning designer needs to be very aware of.  Fig. 7 illustrates how powerful a font choice can be in relaying the wrong message.  Minor celebrity and son of esteemed actor Tom Hank, Chet Hanks suggests a party club vibe for summer 2021, perhaps in response to coming out of lockdown and with a desire to have fun with is friends.  However his choice of Gothic font expressing gang culture, anarchic and aggressive call to action. (Thank you to Yara for posting this on the ideas wall)

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Absorbing more of the book by H Kubel and S Williams, Type: New Perspectives in Typography, it became clear that expression of culture is of paramount importance in modern typeface development.  In particular the multi-national, multi-lingual audiences designers cater for has shaped type development.  Fig. 7 shows a typeface by Netherlands design company Typotheque, a font created for multi-lingual use, the process of which is sensitive & complex, requiring experts in the global scripts to ensure no society is alienated or offended by an incorrectly placed glyph or shaped letter.  I note that the 

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Fig. 7 - Multi-lingual Typeface by Typotheque. https://www.typotheque.com/fonts/global

Alongside the variations designed for different languages, I note that the foundary illustrates a huge array of different weights for it's multi-lingual fonts, like this example typeface in figure 8 called November.

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Fig. 8 - November Typeface in varying line weights by Typotheque
https://www.typotheque.com/fonts/november/greek

A particular element of interest to me mentioned in the chapter by Monika Parrinder and Colin Davies, Type Today & Tomorrow, is the type experiments undertaken by designers using physical materials.  One of the most interesting that I found was the work of New North Press based in London.  A letterpress company upholding and maintaining the dying craft of letterpress, they have meticulously collated hundreds of original letter blocks which they use in their studio to create bespoke designs.  In the video below, Richard Ardagh, one of the 3 partners of New North Press, explains how he instigated a project working with A2 design & Chalk studio to produce a set of 3D printed letter press blocks.  The complexity and the experimental nature of the project is evident in the film and the resulting printing blocks are a true reflection of modern technology, creative design and historical reverence.  An example of the letters printing can be seen in fig. 9.

A23D Project Video
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Fig. 9 - A23D Letterpress Example 
http://new-north-press.co.uk/product/a23d-specimen-3/

The idea of blending and complimenting old traditional crafts with modern digital developments is something that I find very exciting.  I have been exploring how Sans typefaces have dominated digital screen use due to the low resolution of the first viewing devices.  As we move forward in technology the quality of screen resolution is improving and Serif type can be seen more clearly (this is a Serif Georgia type I have chosen to use here).  I have been looking at how 'hinting' has helped the legibility of type on screen.  Built into software are 'hinting' implementations that support text to display as closely to the printed version as possible by utilising the sub-pixels on the screen.  One such 'hinting' code is ClearType, associated with Microsoft.  Figure 10 shows text rendered with and without Cleartype applied.  Text without hinting appears far more 'blocky' as it uses only pixels.  The Cleartype rendered version makes use of the red, green and blue rectangular shaped sub-pixels in an LCD display screen (see figure 11).

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Fig. 10 - Text with Cleartype hinting (b) and without (a)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ClearType
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Fig. 11 - Sub-pixels on an LCD screen.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ClearType

The construction of a screen in pixels per inch has direct parallels to how knitted and woven textiles are constructed.  The density of fabric is determined by the number of picks per inch (a pick is one yarn/thread).  I would like to explore this relationship more within my work as a means of investigating how typefaces can be accurately and respectfully iterated using textile materials. 

Research trials undertaken in the last ten years have been exploring how legibility, cognition and reading speed are affected by the style of screen the user is employing.  Screens designed specifically for reading, such as the Amazon Kindle, are said to most closely resemble the printed page.  Parrinder and Davies believe that the loss of the tangible experience of turning a page is replaced by the readers ability to manipulate scale and position of text on the digital page.  Whilst this is true, the power of manipulating a typeface for ease of reading brings forward issues of authorship.  Typographers design typefaces to be viewed in a certain way, our ability to change that will inevitably change the designers original intent.  Is this something that designers must accept, in the same way that artists work can also be adjusted on a digital screen?  Or maybe it is something to embrace, as designers develop variable typefaces with built in user controls.  It will be interesting to see how type designers respond to this and whether we see more examples of typeface manipulation and use with no consideration of cultural, visual or historical significance.

 

A research project by Dr Jeanne-Louise Moys at the University of Reading explored another concern regarding human interaction with type and reading.  Participants in the trial were given the same extract of text to read with vary styles of layout, colour, typeface and paper.  Interestingly the findings showed that the subjects were most concerned with the treatments applied to type rather than the typeface itself.  Elements such as drop shadows, bold or italic made significant impression on the audience.  I wonder if this is in part due to the fact that the participants would not necessarily recognise a particular typeface used and may not even realise that Serif and Sans type exists.  It is perhaps only the educated designer who would notice such things.  

Another important realisation that manifested through Moys studies was that genre and context were very important design considerations.  Participants assigned meaning to the text based on a perceived memory or context, for example bold red headings were associated with tabloid newspapers and therefore sensationalised content.  Arrangement of elements on the page also conveyed meaning.  Less columns were thought to be more formal and professional whereas asymmetrical and non-uniform layout was considered more playful, casual and youthful.

These research findings are interesting and can help designers when approaching a particular brief, however some of the best design seen in typography over the last century has been from creatives that break these established rules and paradigms.   I was most interested to see this approach from designers involved with the Dada movement established during the First World War.  Keen to break with traditions, designers such as Kurt Schwitters saw type as the main elements of design, rather than a side text.   I particularly enjoy the movement created by use of scale & irregular placement and mix of capital/ lower case, bold & italic.  See figure 12. 

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Fig. 12 - Wonderfully expressive and full of movement using type as illustration. - Kurt Schwitters & Theo Van Doesburg 
http://www.artnet.com/artists/theo-van-doesburg-and-kurt-schwitters/kleine-dada-soir%C3%A9e-bCt4KPcpaEsnLGMsc8hkqw2

The most inspiring designer I have uncovered during my research is Marian Bantjes.  Marian's website shows a huge back catalogue of work in which she skilfully and whimsically plays with colour, objects, pattern, repetition and typefaces.  The variety and creativity in her work is massively inspiring.  When listening to her talk about how she has arrived at her current design location, she speaks of wanting to follow her heart, interests and ego.  She laughs at the mention of her ego and explains how ego should not play a part in meeting the needs of a client brief but it is only by listening to her own instincts and following her own path that her work has become popular and desirable.  There clearly needs to be a balance between meeting the demands of the brief whilst not compromising your own design integrity and this is not something that comes easily, but Bantjes believes her work is more "compelling and sustaining" as a result.  She believes that through her work she is "seeding the imagination of the populace" (Tedtalks. 2010)  I think this is a wonderful way of thinking about the worth & role of creatives in society. Figures 13-15 show some of Bantjes designs.

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Fig. 14
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Fig. 13
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Figs. 13-15 - Designs by Marian Bantjes
https://bantjes.com/work/category/portfolio/
Workshop Challenge

Imagine how written text can be translated & communicated into a new typographic form.  Create and analyse your typeset piece.

The workshop challenge this week asks me to take the first line of a poem or text and create an interesting image through drawing, or sculpting or setting.  Following that I was required to set the type for the excerpt.  Encouraged to think about leading, kerning, layout, space, materials, typeface choice, I found a poem I liked on the brilliant resources site www.poetryfoundation.org.  The poem I chose was entitled "Alone" written by nineteenth century writer Edgar Allen Poe.  (See Fig. 16)

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My first thought after finding the poem, was to research the author and try to understand the context in which he wrote the prose.  I learnt that the poem was written by Poe in 1829 shortly after he was hourably discharged from the army at age 20.  Poe had a complicated childhood and as the focus of the poem was his youth, I realised that this history was significant, making the poem an introspective by the author.  Despite being a prolific writer of prose and short stories himself, Poe was also well known for his critiques of fellow writers of the time.  He edited several literary publications in Baltimore, USA before his untimely death at the age of 40 in mysterious circumstances.  Poe had a keen interest in Cryptography and solving ciphers, perhaps from his army background, and wrote secret messages in to his short stories for readers to solve.

All these rich facts about Poe spurned a few initial ideas in my mind about how I wanted to pursue this brief.  The sparks were:

  • write the poem using a cipher

  • write the poem backwards with a mirror to de-cipher it

  • write the poem in hand script as if it was a diary entry by Poe

  • cipher keywords in the text

  • write the first line as a dated entry with day, month, year and time referenced - perhaps in military style journal entry

  • use locks/padlocks/keys to indicate 'secrets' and thoughts 'locked away'

  • use keyholes/keys to form letter shapes in the first line

May next instinct was to begin looking at visual references for literature/typography/books/diaries etc from the time the poem was written, 1829.  I then produced a mood board (Fig. 17) to help my iterations. 

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Fig. 17 - 1829 Edgar Allan Poe Moodboard

Development of Ideas

My visual inspiration gave me lots of different possibilities to take my iterations.  I began with the idea of mirrored type and I knew I wanted to use a Script typeface for this project.  I looked for a typeface that I felt resembled the hand scripted documents I had found from 1829 and settled on one called Austen Pen. I started by trying an impression of the first line in foil and paper but because the handwritten style font was already not an easy read (something I was happy with as I felt it was more authentic to real handwriting), it was almost illegible as an indentation.  You can see this in the top left corner of figure 18 below.  I also tried a rubbing of indentation on the reverse side of the page and the lettering appeared as a mirror reflection.  I trialled a couching outline of the first word of the first line and thought that it was beginning to resemble 18th/19th century women's pocket embroidery on cotton, as shown in figures 20 & 21, although an interesting direction, this was not the aesthetic I was looking for in this piece.

I turned to using a mirror to play around with the interesting shapes created by placing it on type and found Edgar Allan Poe's signature to experiment with.  I realised that the mirroring could be played with in Indesign, so I trialled some layout ideas using the whole of the first line (see fig. 21)

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Fig. 18 - Iterations for "Alone" First Line
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Fig. 19
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Fig. 20
Fig.'s 19 & 20 - Appliqued and embroidered cotton 19th century women's pocket
https://www.vads.ac.uk/digital/collection/POCKETS

Playing with the first line of text in the Austin Pen typeface, I trialled the type as a mirror image and I liked the interesting shapes created by the cross over of text when I brought the segments together.  But I was conscious that the legibility was reduced.  I also realised the the length of the word 'Childhood's' was not providing a balanced shape on the page if it was also mirrored, so I decided this word should be left out and this worked well as a stress on this word was appropriate for the theme of the poem.

I trialled placing the text around a central shape, in this case an oval, as I thought this could have a mirror added to the centre, the text then being embellished with gold embroidery as shown in the initial experiments in Fig. 18.  I wanted to convey the ornate, gilded mirror on my mood board.  Although this idea had pleasing elements, I felt the mirrored lettering was more interesting and so continued to play with this, adding colour.

I wanted to print the final piece on to page that had been made to look aged.  I dyed the paper with tea and then mimicked the colour in Indesign to see how the text colour would look on the background tone.  At this point I realised that a dark brown font colour would work better than black.

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Figure 21 shows an original manuscript written by Poe.  This was the piece inspiring me at this point in the project. 

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Fig. 21 - Original Manuscript by Edgar Allan Poe
https://letterformarchive.org/

I began to trial some ideas as portrait orientation (below) using the two first line iterations, but I quickly realised that the space was cramped and so switched to a landscape layout.

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I began to consider the design of the first line and the balance on the page with the remainder of the text.  I played with justification of the main body copy.  I had originally wanted the piece to feel like a diary entry by Poe and had included the date from 1829, however this extra element was hard to balance with Poe's signature, the title, the first line design and the body copy, so I eventually removed the date.  In deciding on a colour for the font that would work with the tea-dyed paper, I realised that stress could be placed on one side of the mirrored text to make the other side more legible by reducing the opacity of the text and this worked well. 

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'Alone' Page Layout & Colour Iterations
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'Alone' Final Layout Design

With final layout decided, I then needed to print on to the tea-stained paper and add the mirror & gold embroidered embellishments I wanted to enhance the meaning of the piece.  I also wanted to crop the page because I knew that the A4 paper sizing was not formally set until 1975.  Looking at the children's book from the era (seen on my mood board), I liked the creasing and threading holes showing evidence of previous binding and wanted to incorporate this in to the final delivery.  I trialled cutting space around the lettering for the mirror to show through and using gold 3D paint over the letters but was unhappy with the way these looked - the paint was too messy and destroyed the elegance of the typeface. ( Fig's 22 & 23)

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Fig. 22
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Fig. 23

I settled on cut outs of the enclosed and partially enclosed counters revealing mirror inserts, adding gold to the peaks of the letters and a 'faux' binding edge.  The final piece was now complete.

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Final Outcome

Journal Reflection

This week I have learnt much technicality about the make up of typefaces including terms such as 'grotesque', 'glyphs' and  'counters'.  I understand that traditionally Sans Serif fonts have viewed better on screens and Serif's in print but that this is changing as screen resolution and technology advances.  I can now recognise typefaces that are more suited to display and decorative use and that fonts fall in to categories such as humanist, geometric and script.  Moreover, I can recognise a type derived from broad or fine nib writing style and that culture, historical relevance and social significance are associated with typefaces and therefore designers should choose and use with a discerning and educated eye.  I can appreciate that typeface design is facing a revolution right now as technology provides the means for anyone to produce a font, good or bad.  The advent of variable typefaces and those that have a huge array of weights is challenging concepts and providence, as well as notions of authorship and copywrite.

 

I feel that I will use typefaces with much more care and consideration than I ever did before and hope that my designs will reflect this respectful voice.  One day I may be brave enough to design my own typeface, but for the time being I will endeavour to be mindful of appropriate materials that reflect the nuances of a well designed type and hopefully something the original designer would be happy with.

My final piece for this week used a script font that could easily become illegible if presented too small or manipulated too much.  This was something I wanted to avoid because I enjoyed the poem so much and wanted my audience to be able to read it clearly.  I think my 'designed' letters achieved this and the piece had enough elements of authenticity and creativity to make it an interesting outcome.  My intentions were to represent Poe's childhood feelings of isolation, his difficult relationship with his foster father that meant he was unsupported and economically challenged at times in his short life and finally convey a feeling of handwritten, aged documents from the 19th century era.

If I was to re-visit this project at a later date, I would explore the avenue of embroidered/appliqued Victorian linens and childhood textiles as a medium for the prose.  I could envisage the piece being embroidered on a large scale, and weathered through traditional Victorian washing treatments, a final presentation on a washing line of a cobbled Victorian back alley, would be a relevant and experimental approach to delivery.

References

 

Kubel, H. and Williams, S., (2015) Type: New Perspectives in Typography. London: Laurence King.

Baines, P. and Haslam, A., (2005) Type & Typography. London: Laurence King.

Linotype.  Dadaism. Available from: https://www.linotype.com/786-12586/dada-typography.html [accessed 12 April 2021]

Artnet.  Jamie Reid. Available from:http://www.artnet.com/artists/jamie-reid/ [accessed 12 April 2021]

Artnet.  Kurt Switters.  Available from: http://www.artnet.com/artists/kurt-schwitters/ [accessed 12 April 2021]

Jan Tschichold and the New Typography: Graphic Design Between the World Wars. Past Exhibition (2019)  Available from: https://www.bgc.bard.edu/exhibitions/exhibitions/89/jan-tschichold-and-the-new [accessed 13 April 2021]

TED Talk. (2010)  Marian Bantjes:  Intricate Beauty by Design. [online video]  Available from:https://www.ted.com/talks/marian_bantjes_intricate_beauty_by_design [accessed 13 April 2021]

Moys, J.­L., Loveland, P. and Dyson, M. (2018) eInk versus  paper: exploring the effects of medium and typographic quality on recall and reading speed. Visible Language, 52 (3). pp. 74­ 95. ISSN 0022­2224 Available at  http://centaur.reading.ac.uk/79737/ 

Moys, J.­L. (2014) Typographic layout and first impressions:  testing how changes in text layout influence reader's  judgments of documents. Visible Language, 48 (1). 881. ISSN  0022­2224 Available at http://centaur.reading.ac.uk/39859/ 

Edgar Allan Poe:  Eulalie Original Manuscript (c. 1842) [online resource] Available from: https://hrc.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15878coll102/id/156/ [accessed 14 April 2021]

New North Press. (c. 2015) A23D: a 3D-printed letterpress font project.  Available from: http://new-north-press.co.uk/project/ [accessed 14 April 2021]

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