Mark Gilbert’s study of a ‘book as architectural object’ sets us thinking about the need for new ways of presenting complex visual information. He examines how Bohatsch Visual Communications answered this challenge with a constructional, mathematical approach, well suited to modular content and an architectural subject.
Elsewhere in this issue there is a distinct emphasis on the human hand. Steven Heller eulogizes the ‘first digital lettering tool’, and its output, as Michael Harvey describes the daunting task inherent in trying to capture the refined product of Hans Tisdall’s hand, and rendering it as a type font.
The English Lake District provides Howard Pattinson with typo/graphic inspiration, a bucolic contrast to Adrian Tyler’s photographic mapping of the elusive cityscape.
Meanwhile Eric Kindel gives us a comprehensive primer on 19th century stencil lettering and its accoutrements, making a serendipitous link with earlier thoughts about handmade letters, and, obliquely, with the urban landscape.
For stencil letters, the early 20th century is something of a beginning when, in the decades after 1910, they were relieved of their workaday tasks and cast anew by artists and designers of the avant garde. So compelling was this reconfiguration, by Cubist and Futurist painters initially and thereafter by a succession of painters, architects and graphic designers, that the contexts in which stencil letters were made and used before their 'rebirth' have now slipped almost entirely from view.
If a history of stencil letters and their myriad applications is to be assembled from a past more distant than the 20th century, the United States in the 50 or so years before 1900 is one place and period that certainly merits review. There, stencil work was diverse and inventive to a degree that in hindsight seems remarkable but on reflection is in keeping with a time of considerable fertility in the design of letters, and rapid advances in trade, transport and manufacturing…
Long before the computer, artists and artisans used a very complex tool for making letterforms – their hands. At five digits per hand it was the first digital lettering tool. Letterforms in all shapes and sizes were drawn, carved, and engraved using the hand. Even allowing for its various technological flaws and quirks, the tool enabled the creation of some of the most beautiful lettering ever devised. Which underscores the paradox that after centuries of progress we have both gained and lost something of value. The computer made arduous procedures unnecessary and allowed for increased precision, yet it also atrophied the instincts needed to create beautiful and beautifully bawdy hand lettering. Although drawing on the screen is perhaps no less complicated than it is on paper with the hand alone, the new tool nevertheless eliminates the serendipitous edge that was inherent in the old one…
©2002 Bradbourne Publishing Ltd.