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Baseline Cover Issue 15


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Cover: Van Morrisson, 1967, Wes Wilson


Editorial Mike Daines

Worries about the impact of the computer on our typographic world continue. If anything, the debate about quality standards and loss of ‘craft’ increases, it seems with more vehemence, lots more heat although not much more light. In our last issue we provided examples of type craft, including the high level skills employed in calligraphy and type design. In this issue more fine skill are on display, especially the stunning wood engraving of Reynolds Stone. We also celebrated another threatened quality, originality. Psychedelic graphic from America’s West Coast designers and the interwoven letters of Archibald Knox are products of original thinking, without the aid of software.

Esselte Letraset’s Bob Campbell is interviewed about the designer’s view of graphic design software developments. Every month it seems that programs can do more. We are told that the results are now limited only by our imagination, our creative thoughts and even that the computer enhances the creative process. Here in this Baseline we find plenty of originality in the past, and we observe current typographic competitions disappointing though an apparent lack of new thought. To achieve originality, by breaking all the rules is not so difficult. Making a real contribution to typographical design demands more, and is much less common than it appears at first glance.

Perhaps while computer programmers strive to provide products which allow us to achieve results, similar to those we could create by other means twenty years ago, we are in an imitative phase.

Originality, who needs it? When it’s combined with integrity, typographic design does.

Mike Daines

Reviews Editorial team
STD Awards Editorial team
Archibald Knox Margot Coatts
Arabic calligraphy – from reed pen to mouse Mike Daines
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There are only a few scripts which have continuously been practised and developed since their origin, both for artistic purposes and plain communication. Chinese is an example but Arabic surpasses that language thought the richness of its styles of calligraphy. Because of religious inhibitions representational art in the Arabic world has been limited, with the exception of Iran. This has channelled the artistic potential of the people into abstract decoration ‘arabesque’ and lettering in both its inscriptional and written forms. Through his important contribution to Arabic culture the scribe has achieved a high social status, well-deserved after several years apprenticeship to his art. The thick and thin strokes of his lettering result from the chisel nib fashioned from a hollow reed, and the combination of calligraphy with an element of drawing forms the foundation for all of the historic shapes of letters…

Mike Daines

Software development for designers Editorial team
Reynolds Stone – a sense of movement Emma Beck
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My father worked at home, in the house where I grew up. My parents found the house, a redundant rectory in west Dorset, about a year after I was born. In the summer the house was completely hidden by encircling trees. Built on the side of a hill, it had a huge wooden garden which sloped down into hollows, with streams, and pools, and even little waterfalls, we lived with sounds of rooks and running water. Whenever a new guest came to stay, they always thought that it was raining when they woke.

He did not shut himself away in some distant attic studio, or garden shed, but rather worked in the heart of the house, the long L-shaped drawing room. The room was lined with books, and always smelled deliciously of woodsmoke. He worked in a corner of the room, facing an overgrown window, through which filtered a greenish light. His desk was tucked in next to his gramophone. It was covered in a kind of sacred clutter. Some of these little objects never moved and had a soft dust patina. There would be tiny fragile bird skulls brought in from the garden amongst the scatter of engraving tools and open books. There was a wooden box of French chalk, and in the centre of it all, sitting on a leather covered sandbag would be the block in progress, and around it a scattering of other blocks. Some might be just started some nearly finished and some discarded or ‘boshed’ as my father described them…

Emma Beck

Psychedelic Type Julia Thrift
Aaron Burns Mike Daines
Lettering on English Canal Boats Tony Lewery
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The lettering used on the ’narrow-boats’ of the Midland canals during the final years of canal transport is particularly interesting for several different reasons. For historical and economic reasons some very old fashioned styles of signwritting remained in regular use into the 1960’s, and continue in use amongst the new generation of canal boat conservationists.

This survival was bound up with the social life of the floating population of working boatmen and their wives and families, for the lettering had become and inextricable part of their convention of intricate decoration and bright colour. This extraordinary tradition included hearts, clubs, patterns of multi-coloured diamonds, pictures of romantic landscapes and innumerable swags of painted roses, and turned the cabins of their tiny floating homes into masterpieces of a vibrant English folk art. Even more surprising is the fact that this art grew and flourished during the toughest part of the industrial revolution, a period when most other traditional arts and crafts were withering away…

Tony Lewery

Desert Island type – Michael Harvey Editorial team
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In each issue of Baseline we invite a well known artist/typographer to choose his or her favourite pieces of typography to take with them to a desert island. Michael Harvey, the letterer who designed Ellington began his career as an engineering draughtsman. Then, inspired by reading Eric Gill’s autobiography, he ‘decided to become Eric Gill’ and took up letter-cutting. Between 1955 and 1961 he worked as Reynolds Stone’s assistant, subsequently turning to the more commercial field of lettering for book jackets to make a proper living. An ardent jazz fan, he often works in his studio to a jazz accompaniment…

Editorial team

Reviews Editorial team

©1992 Published by Esselte Letraset Ltd.