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Ten iconic letterheads from a bygone typographic era


ou know that we are living in a material world and Madonna is a material girl. You also know that logos and brands and their very articulated graphic designs are all over us, like a spamp on a letter. They inhabit our actual means of communications, thus our messages, our posts, our emails are delivered to us in a template. Gone are the days when letters were king, when the slightest characteristic of a paper stationery, from the font to the size of it to the kerning to it's everything, was a statement. One can only be nostalgic of the age of innocence, when the communication by post was thriving, when smart, ingenious, eccentric or not, designers embodied in the letterhead their client's signature in print.

Sometimes promotional, sometimes an experiment in brand strengthening, sometimes personal letterheads, sometimes public, some full of typography, some not, whatever the case, letterheads are even today, decades after their creation, a gallery of beautiful things. A typographic art form with a sole purpose, to make a single page out of a person. What a task indeed.

The phenomenal blog Letterheady, which is run by archivist Shaun Usher is our new online obsession. That page where we keep coming back to think of our history, our celebrities, our culture. Here, a selection of letterheads from a number of personages or organizations, famous and otherwise -“an online homage to offline correspondence; specifically letters” as Shaun describes it-, is carefully archived amd curated, being a treasure for ephemera lovers and designers indeed. This online compendium of celebrity branding is just another project of a curator of “online homages to offline correspondence”, a British whose other online ventures and books Lists of Note and Letters of Note brought him fame amongst the literaties.

A former copywriter, Usher's trip down memory lane begun in 2009, when hewas asked to write an article for a stationery company. This is how he found these treasures, this is how Letters Of Note is attracting 1.5 million visits each week, and now we can at last imagine what it would be like to receive a letter from David Bowie or Nelson Mandela. We are thankful to Shaun Usher, who lives in Cheshire, England, with his wife and two sons, for this stunning education in past design when human interaction was not digitized and people were not avatars.  

By Loukas Karnis

                                                  Adam Ant

                                                  Anais Nin

                                                  Dick Gregory

                                                  Mohandas K. Gandhi

                                                  Harpo Marx

                                                  Henry Miller

                                                  Jim Henson/Muppets Inc.

                                                  Marilyn Monroe

                                                  Stacia Blake, artist, one-time dancer for Hawkwind

                                                  Terry Gilliam