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  • July 8, 1923: Virginia Woolf is T.S. Elliot's hand typesetter for Hogarth Press

    “I have just finished setting up the whole of Mr. Eliots [sic] poem with my own hands – you see how my hand trembles” wrote on July the 8th of 1923, Virginia Woolf, author, editor, publisher and typesetter for the freedom of the press. Woolf had just completed her work hand typesetting the first English edition of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. The book, published by Woolf and her husband Leonard’s’ Hogarth Press is just one of many publications which the Woolfs typeset and published by hand

    The book, printed in 460 copies has been considered a rare gem in printing for numerous reasons and a rare UK first edition of The Waste Land has been bought at auction by the University of St Andrews for £4,500 after being donated to Oxfam in 2013. Woolf put out 460 copies of the poem in 1923 through Hogarth Press, the publisher that she and her husband Leonard had created to publish her writing. “Woolf had difficulty with the typography because of the way Eliot would write, the rhythm and space used in his poems, and she had a bit of trouble getting the typeface right” said Lydia Wilkinson, books specialist at auction house Bonhams, which handled the sale on behalf of Oxfam to The Guardian.

    The Waste Land  by T S Eliot, 1923, The Hogarth Press, © Estate of T. S. Eliot via the British Library

    “On the afternoon of 23 March 1917 Leonard and Virginia Woolf were walking down Farringdon Road in London when their attention was caught by the window display of the Excelsior Printing Supply Company” writes Duncan Heyes, curator in Printed Heritage Collections and Contemporary British Published Collections, in his article for Woolfs' Hogarth Press

    “They had been discussing the possibility of taking up printing for a while, and towards the end of 1916 decided that they would definitely do it. They had even gone as far as enquiring about enrolling at St Bride School of Printing, only to be turned down because courses were only open to trade union apprentices whose numbers were strictly controlled. Nevertheless, undeterred they entered the small printing supplier and explained their plight. They were greeted by a helpful assistant in brown overalls who convinced them that with the aid of a 16-page booklet they would be able to teach themselves all they needed to know to get started. So, for the sum of £19 5s 5d the Woolfs became the proud owners of a small hand-printing press, some Old Face type, and all the other necessary paraphernalia to begin their printing endeavour. The printing press was duly installed on the dining room table at their home Hogarth House, which gave the Press its name. After a month of experimentation, setting type and inking blocks, the Woolfs felt confident enough to print a page of a book. Their first publication, Two Stories, appeared in July 1917. In its first five years the Hogarth Press published works by Katherine MansfieldT S Eliot, E M Forster, Clive Bell, Roger Fry and Sigmund Freud.”

    “The whole process of printing and production (except in one instance) is done by ourselves” wrote Woolfs in a flyer announcing the Hogarth Press circa 1919 via the British Library

    From the time of its inception in 1917 until Leonard Woolf sold the Hogarth Press in 1946, only 34 of the 525 Press publications were printed by hand. “Printed and bound by Leonard and Virginia Woolf, they are fascinating examples of amateur bookmaking” notes Smith College which owns a dozen of the hand-printed titles. “The illustrator Richard Kennedy worked at the Hogarth Press from 1928 to 1930. In one of his original drawings, Virginia Woolf is seen setting the type for Herbert Palmer’s poems. Kennedy feeds a platen press in the foreground. George (“Dadie”) Rylands, who was also an assistant at the Hogarth Press, published two volumes of poems, one of which is on display. Setting type and binding books were therapeutic activities for Virginia Woolf. She was trained by bookbinder Sylvia Stebbing.”​

    Richard Kennedy. Virginia Woolf Setting Type: ink and graphite drawing, n.d. This was an illustration for Kennedy’s A Boy at the Hogarth Press (London, 1972). Presented by Elizabeth P. Richardson ’43 via Smith College


  • FC Barcelona Play is Barça's bespoke type for the win

    From this season on Barça is set to have its own “more expressivetypography aptly named FC Barcelona Play.

    Barcelona's new typography will be featured on the backs of the club's shirts as well as in all club marketing during the upcoming season in Barca's first foray ever in type design.

    “The intention is for it to become a new identification element of the club, known for its personality and uniqueness” reads the club's official statement.

    “The new typography, which has already been seen on the shirts of the new signings in the different professional teams, is the result of a creative process that has taken into account the history of the club to the brand story and the need to have a strong graphic character, whilst at the same time owning a creative expressiveness that is recognisable and can be identified with Barça.”

    Barça Women, Barça B and the basketball, handball, roller hockey and futsal teams, as well as their youth sides, will also use the new typography in their friendly matches and official competitions. In addition to usage on the shirts when permitted by the regulations, the new typography will also be applied to sporting campaigns, as well as in the retail and merchandising area of the club.

    This is the first time that Barça has driven the design of their own, new typography, although in previous seasons the shirts had different designs developed by Nike.

    “Conceptually, FC Barcelona Play is a typography based on the origins and history of the club, Catalan modernism in the late nineteenth century and specifically relating to the direct link between Barça and the current artistic and aesthetic trends in the city of Barcelona and Catalonia. The intention was that each word written with the typography had its own personality and ability to have variants. Once the typographic base was defined, the creative process introduced its own elements that make Barça a unique and different club, such as the style of play. Thus, the new typography includes traces that suggest movement and dynamism, and a wink to the movement of the ball” the official statement reads. 

    The first game in which the players from the first team will be wearing this new typography will be in Tokyo on July 23, when Ernesto Valverde's team face Chelsea on the Japan tour.

    Image via FC Barcelona

  • Back to the Eighties: a decade filled with bold typefaces goes viral again

    This year marks 30 years since the Design Museum opened its door in 1989.

    To celebrate the occasion, the weekly Twitter frenzy #Fontsunday was all about those eighties. From Neville Brody and Emigre magazine through iconic American graphic designer, artist and educator Edward Fella and the Japanese maestros of poetic type -Koichi Sato's zen approach to design will melt your heart- the eighties may well have been one of the boldest decades in the typographic realm. 

    With Stranger Things relaunching a love for all things eighties (and ITCBenguiat) this #FontSunday is filled with memories and electric dreams of type. 

    For more check here. 


  • Everything you type should be in Comic Sans font today and this is why

    Love it or hate it, Comic Sans has made a name of itself for numerous reasons. The sans-serif font is celebrated in the Netherlands every first Friday of July since 2009 and it is thanks to two Dutch radio DJs, Coen Swijnenberg and Sander Lantinga, who introduced to the world the Comic Sans Day 15 years after it was introduced to the world.

    Designed by Vincent Connare Comic Sans MS is a sans-serif casual script typeface released in 1994 by Microsoft Corporation. A casual, non-connecting script inspired by comic book lettering, Comic Sans intended for use in informal documents and children's materials. “This casual but legible face has proved very popular with a wide variety of people” explained Microsoft of the typeface which has been so extremely popular, often used in situations for which CS was not intended, and inevitably has been the subject of criticism and mockery. 

    “What's so wrong with Comic Sans?” wondered Simon Garfield, author of Just My Type: A Book About Fonts (Profile Books) in his article for BBC almost a decade ago after Comic Sans became the target of an online hate campaign. “Comic Sans is unique: used the world over, it's a typeface that doesn't really want to be type. It looks homely and handwritten, something perfect for things we deem to be fun and liberating. Great for the awnings of toyshops, less good on news websites or on gravestones and the sides of ambulances” notes Garfield.

    Over popular and in demand by many Comic Sans was created by Connare, type engineer and graphic novels fan, who began work on Comic Sans in October 1994. Connare had already created child-oriented fonts for various applications, so when he saw a beta version of Microsoft Bob that used Times New Roman in the word balloons of cartoon characters, he felt that the result was a formal look inappropriate for a program intended to introduce younger users to computers. His decision was to create a new face based on the lettering style of comic books he had in his office, specifically The Dark Knight Returns (lettered by John Costanza) and Watchmen (lettered by Dave Gibbons).

    The Comic Sans adventure was just beginning. Connare completed the face too late for inclusion in MS Bob, but the programmers of Microsoft 3D Movie Maker, which also used cartoon guides and speech bubbles, began to use it. The speech bubbles eventually were phased out and replaced by actual sound, but Comic Sans stayed for the program’s pop-up windows and help sections.

    The typeface later shipped with the Windows 95 Plus! Pack. It then became a standard font for the OEM version of Windows 95. Finally, the font became one of the default fonts for Microsoft Publisher and Microsoft Internet Explorer. The font is also used in Microsoft Comic Chat, which was released in 1996 with Internet Explorer 3.0.

    Installed on the majority of computers worldwide, Comic Sans widespread use happened overnight. Within four years of its release on Windows, designers had begun to argue that it had become overused, often through use in serious and formal documents in which it could appear too informal or even as inappropriate and disrespectful. 

    The Boston Phoenix reported on disgruntlement over the widespread use of the font, especially its incongruous use for writing on serious subjects, with the complaints urged on by a campaign started by two Indianapolis graphic designers, Dave and Holly Combs, via their website “Ban Comic Sans”.

    The movement was conceived in 1999 by the two designers after an employer insisted that one of them use Comic Sans in a children's museum exhibit, and in early 2009, the movement was “stronger now than ever”. The web site's main argument is that a typeface should match the tone of its text and that the irreverence of Comic Sans is often at odds with a serious message, such as a “do not enter” sign. Comic book artist Dave Gibbons, whose work was one of the inspirations for the font, said that it was “a shame they couldn't have used just the original font, because [Comic Sans] is a real mess. I think it's a particularly ugly letter form” and film producer and New York Times essayist Errol Morris wrote on the subject back in August 2012: “The conscious awareness of Comic Sans promotes—at least among some people—contempt and summary dismissal.” With the help of a professor, he conducted an online experiment and found that Comic Sans, in comparison with five other fonts (Baskerville, Helvetica, Georgia, Trebuchet MS, and Computer Modern), makes readers slightly less likely to believe that a statement they are reading is true.

    “If you love it, you don't know much about typography [but] if you hate it, you really don't know much about typography, either, and you should get another hobby” commented Connare on its haters and fans alike, being obviously the biggest fan of his creation. “Twenty years ago, I made the best font in the world,” he said speaking at WIRED's annual two-day conference in 2015

    But science is with the use of Comic Sans as studies, such as one from Princeton University in 2010, show that those who study using more difficult fonts such as Comic Sans are more likely to retain information.

    So remember, Comic Sans Day is celebrated every first Friday of July and on this day you should “send all your mails, print all your reports and all your sticker address labels in this illustrious font” per Swijnenberg and Lantinga. If you are not impressed with the font's super-popularity just ask Fabiola Gianotti, the spokesperson of the ATLAS experiment. Back in July 2012, when the discovery of the Higgs boson was announced at CERN, Gianotti attracted comment by using the font in her presentation of the results. And that was just one of CERN's funny obsession with the most reviled font ever. Just in time for April Fools day 2014 CERN announced that all of its official communication channels are switching to exclusive use of the font Comic Sans

    “The move comes after weeks of deliberation by CERN management and top web designers about how best to update the image of the laboratory for this, its 60th anniversary year. 'This is an important year for CERN and we wanted to make a bold visual statement, sia dsays CERN Head of Communications James Gillies in a statement. 'We thought the most effective way to communicate our research into the fundamental structure of matter at the very boundaries of technology was by changing the font.' For Gillies, Comic Sans says: 'This is a serious laboratory, with a serious research agenda.' And it makes the letters look all round and squishy' he added. Following the viral success of ATLAS spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti's presentation on 4 July 2012 announcing the discovery a new particle consistent with the Higgs boson, Gillies scrambled a team of emergency typographers to work towards the change. Working in shifts night and day for over a year, they deconstructed Gianotti's presentation at the very tiniest level to study its fundamental structure. They then came up with a sophisticated statistical model to separate the font from the background content. 'According to our calculations, 80% of the success of the presentation came not from the discovery of a fundamental particle that explains the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism for how particles get mass, but from the choice of font,' says presentation analyst May Dupp, who worked closely with comic-book artists and circus clowns to lead the change. 'It's a logical step – and plain common sense – to apply this technique to all of CERN's communications.'

    "When preparing my Higgs presentation, at first, I had Georgia on my mind," said Gianotti. "But when I saw the closely spaced, slightly squishy rounded characters in my drop-down menu, I knew in my heart that Comic Sans was the right way to go." Comic Sans makes scientists happy so touché!

  • Busted! Watch Genius typographic evidence in its case against Google

    Music lyrics website Genius says it has proof Google is copying its lyrics, displaying them in search results, and driving down traffic to reports PC Magazine and its evidence is pure typography. Genius has watermarked lyrics displayed on its website with patterns of apostrophes, which can alternate between the straight and curly single-quote, to make the punctuation marks spell the word “Red-handed” when translated into Morse code. Eventually, the Genius watermarked lyrics edition surfaced on Google's “information panels.”

    “Google knowingly displays lyrics that are copied from Genius in search results in order to keep users from leaving Google to go to other sites. They have known about this for two years and it's clearly unfair and anticompetitive,” Genius told PCMag in a statement. According to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the story it all started back in 2016 when a Genius software engineer noticed that Google search results were displaying lyrics submitted by artists to Genius only. Genius began watermarking its song lyrics and has since found more than 100 examples of Google's search engine taking its lyrics. Reportedly, Genius notified Google about the lyrics copying in 2017 and told Google it was violating Genius's terms of service, not to mention antitrust law, the Journal says.

    “The lyrics displayed in information boxes on Google Search are licensed from a variety of sources and are not scraped from sites on the web,” Google said in a statement. “We take data quality and creator rights very seriously, and hold our licensing partners accountable to the terms of our agreement. We're investigating this issue with our data partners and if we find that partners are not upholding good practices, we will end our agreements,” the company added.

    The outcome in this “fractal plagiarism” as Kevin Marks, a well respected open source guy and someone who has been working at Google and other companies for years notes, is that Google will eventually be showing in the search results where they license (pay for) the lyrics by adding an attribution to the lyrics box. “To help make it clearer where the lyrics come from, we’ll soon include attribution to the third party providing the digital lyrics text” Google stated per Seroundtable.

    Watch how Genius invested in typography to prove the case against Google below.