ATypIical Leanings

A bit of history to build our future

Jo De Baedemaeker’s fascinating look at reverse italics

One common thread during the week was historical context: in techniques, origins and innovations. One of the most compelling to me was Briar Levit’s look at life before Desktop Publishing and was followed by a screening of her fascinating work-in-progress look at the history of graphic design production, Graphic Means. There is work to do, but it was highly entertaining, informative and interesting look at the history of our work.

The trend continued with Pedro Amado and Catarina Silva’s examination of the evolution of the type specimens, a beautiful examination of Polish Characters from the Deputy Director of the Polish National Museum, and a fascinating look at the evolution of wood type from David Shields.

He dug into the details of various typefaces, tracing them back to the type companies and where possible the actual employees who may have been the designers. A look at census data and correlating with other references led to some fascinating insights into origins, populations and gender breakdowns in the type industry in America during the 19th century.

Another standout for me was Dan Reynolds’ look at the inevitable shift away from punchcutting as part of the type creation process. An interesting similarity with David’s talk was the compelling way he brought things around full-circle, uniting historical context, technological advancements, and even societal pressures and how they came together to push type creation into an entirely new realm.

Not just reverse italics, but Rototalics too!

I have to mention Jo De Baerdemaeker’s examination of reverse italics titled ‘Lean Back’ — chock full of beautiful images and examples, bringing home (to me anyway) in rich detail how important a realization is that italics (in either direction) are about adding emphasis, and so long as that works, the direction serves to attenuate the amount of attention based on historical norms.

Wrapping up the event was a wonderful talk by Brody Neuenschwander’s sweeping overview of the origins of writing: from the earliest pictograms to the latest advances in digital type production and how the method of creation and consumption impacts how we create written communication. I can’t do it justice, but suffice it to say that the documentary he’s working on will be a must-see.

Some beautiful Arabic metal type

This is certainly not a comprehensive list: there were a number of other fascinating historical investigations — only some of which I saw. I have to admit I missed a few I dearly wanted to see, but if I didn’t get out to see Warsaw after traveling a few thousand miles to get there I would have felt even worse.

I hope you enjoyed today’s installment! More on what I learned and found in the next. (As always, if you did enjoy it, please hit the green heart and help others find it as well!)

Part 1: Seven Days in Warsaw 
Part 3: ATypIcal Meanderings
Part 4: ATypIcal Sightlines
Part 5: ATypIcal Bedfellows
Part 6: ATypIcally Significant
Part 7: ATypIcally Reflective

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