Our mid-winter issue provides much for the typographically minded to consider by the fireside. Fascinating images, but thought-provoking text predominates.
Martin Andrews gives us a knowledgeable introduction to the larger than life character, Robert Gibbings, contrasting nicely with Steven Heller’s study of the serious business of comic(s) lettering, an unsung artform.
Typographica was an exceptionally influential journal, a suitable case for adaptation by Rick Poynor, while Christopher Bignens concludes our overview of the partnership Odermatt and Tissi, through his article on Siegfried Odermatt.
David Gibson’s photographic images offer more visual metaphors – subtitles for life, and we attempt to quantify the true origins of Art Deco types, digging beneath the obvious clues.
Our typographic lexicon reaches H–M, and the books under review this time are especially worthy of a place on our typographic bookshelf.
Culture snobs bifurcate art into high and low, creating polar opposites within everything from literature to graphic design. High design, for instance, is given classic or modernist pedigrees, while low is crass and populist, like the comics. Even within the hierarchies of art schools and professional circles designers are considered saints and comics artists a notch above greeting card illustrators. Although graphic novels have earned serious critical attention thanks in large part to Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize winning Maus, comics are still situated in the design culture’s pecking order as the bastard offspring of a sordid ménage a trois between art, literature, and design. In reality, comics are the first real multi-media, a co-mix of these three disciplines and something more – comics are fonts of typographic innovation…
A less scrupulous writer would have stolen Patricia Bayer’s opening paragraph from her excellent book: Art Deco Architecture, without acknowledgement. ‘Art Deco architecture is a particularly hard concept to define; it refers to a decorative style at once traditional and innovative, which absorbed influences from a variety of sources and movements and introduced a whole range of new or improved materials into the vocabulary of architecture.’ For architecture, read typography. Art Deco typography reflected a time when exuberance and modernity came to epitomize the spirit of the age. World War 1 was at an end. But its horror, futility and imposed austerity provoked a wave of reaction.
The repercussions of war, both positive and negative, ignited an explosion of creative energy in the design world and led to experimentation in art, architecture, fashion and manufacturing. The drive towards modernization generated widespread growth in the advertising industry. This in turn fuelled a demand for typography that could embody the contemporary. Art Deco typefaces, and layouts were born in response to these artistic and commercial influences. Significantly, they became not just an expression of this era, but fundamental elements within it. Rarely has a typographic style achieved or retained the power to influence people’s perceptions and evoke a period so strongly…
©2001 Bradbourne Publishing Ltd.