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  • World Book Day 2019: Rob Roy Kelly's American Wood Type: 1828-1900 is a treasure to behold

    Any day celebrating the book, World Book Day or National Read A Book Day, is to be celebrated with the best (typographic related if possible) books the world has to offer. Enter Rob Roy Kelly's "American Wood Type: 1828-1900 - Notes on the Evolution of Decorated and Large Types"

    This massive tome of inspiration and nostalgia is the first and most authoritative history of wood type in the United States. The book tells the complete story of wood type, beginning with the history of wood as a printing material, the development of decorated letters and large letters, and the invention of machinery for mass-producing wood letters.

    The 19th-century heyday of wood type is explored in great detail, including all aspects of design, manufacture, and marketing, and the evolution of styles. Many related trades interacted with wood type production; the book examines the influence of lithography, letterpress, metal-plate and wood engraving, sign painting and calligraphy, poster printing, and type-founding. Long out of print, the book is still regarded by scholars and designers as an invaluable resource for a rich legacy of typographic art. More than 600 specimens of wood type are classified and annotated, as are more than 100 specimens of complete fonts.

    The book, first published in 1969, has been reissued in 2016 with a new foreword by David Shields, then Design Curator of the Rob Roy Kelly Wood Type Collection at the University of Texas at Austin, discussing the renewed interest in the subject since the mid-1990s as well as ongoing research into the history of wood type.

    The Rob Roy Kelly Wood Type Collection is a comprehensive collection of wood type, comprised of nearly 150 faces of various sizes and styles. Rob Roy Kelly (1925–2004) the noted design educator, collector, and historian began gathering the types in the late 1950s and continued adding to the collection through the mid-1960s.

    His decade-long research project culminated in the publication of "American Wood Type, 1828–1900: Notes on the Evolution of Decorated and Large Types and Comments on Related Trades of the Period", which remains today to the preeminent history of wood type.

    Last November Shields gave a talk in the Rose Auditorium at The Cooper Union as part of the Type@Cooper Program. David Shields is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Graphic Design at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and he is currently focusing his research on 19th century typographic form and visual culture arising from investigations of Rob Roy Kelly’s American Wood Type Collection.

    He keeps a slow blog of his research at Wood Type Research (

    Read the book, watch the talk, do whatever you like, but do fall in love with American Wood Type as much as we do.

    Rob Roy Kelly: A bottle of Scotch for two cases of wood type with David Shields from Type@Cooper on Vimeo.

    Images via Amazon   

  • New York Times, a farewell to the Behind the Cover video series we adored

    Addictive? Yes! Insightful? Sure! Inspiring? All the way. The New York Times Magazine's Behind The Cover video series was a viral hit in the Twitterverse and now it is time to say goodbye to one of our most beloved visual stories we encountered online.

    "Sadly, this is our last Behind the Cover video. Thanks to Dropbox for sponsoring the series and to HunterGatherer, Phil Pinto and Laura Tomaselli for their fantastic work on the videos" writes Gail Bichler, design director of The New York Times Magazine on Twitter of the collaboration which kicked off almost a year ago.

    Back in April 2018, Dropbox and the New York Times teamed up to produce a weekly “Behind the Cover” video series. The series explored the creative process behind the iconic covers for the New York Times Magazine. How does the design team come up with ideas? How do they make tough creative decisions? And how do they pull it all together in just one week?

    The team used Dropbox to collaborate on ideas and coordinate the many people who help make these covers. These videos offered a sneak peek at early drafts and concepts, including some designs and ideas that didn’t make the cut.

    “We’re proud to support the New York Times Magazine throughout their design process,” said Carolyn Feinstein, chief marketing officer at Dropbox. “We know that teams work best when they’re in sync: sharing, collaborating, and providing feedback in one place. It means less busywork and more time for the team at the New York Times to unleash their creative energy—resulting in these iconic, unforgettable magazine covers.”

    The series eventually came to an end and we pay tribute to it with some of our beloved behind the cover mini-documentaries the New York Times and Dropbox brought online.

    Typeroom celebrates this dedicated video series on the marvels of graphic design and the magazine industry we adored.


  • Do we need ligatures at all? Searching for answers with the Plantin Institute of Typography and the University of Antwerp this September

    An intensive 5-day programme on the value of research for a better understanding of type and typography takes place this September in Antwerp and you are invited to join the search for answers. 

    Meant for international bachelor and master students who want to gain a deeper understanding of typography and type design as well as professionals such as graphic designers, graphic consultants and web designers the summer school highlights the need for critical approaches to typography.

    "Today everyone who uses a computer is practically a typesetter and typography is hardly considered a specialism anymore. Conventions are automatically maintained: practitioners of typography – professionals and amateurs – base their typographical decisions on what is considered common. The legibility aspect, for example, seems easy to control by selecting type that is generally accepted, without the requirement of knowledge of what legibility exactly comprises. As a consequence the conventions and related conditioning are basically never questioned" writes the summer school's press release. 

    "Art historian Ernst Gombrich notes that the stimulus patterns on the retina are not alone in determining our picture of the visual world, and that its messages are modified by what we know about the ‘real’ shape of objects. In other words: ‘One cannot see more than one knows.’ But what exactly do we know of type and typography and what do we consequently see? What forms the basis of the typographical conventions and how solid is this basis anyway? Could research, whether scientfically based and/or empirically oriented, tell us more about this basis? Furthermore, would the resulting knowledge be useful for the practitioners of typography?" 

    "This summer school will investigate and discuss the value of research for typography. The five keywords are ‘Perception’, ‘History’, ‘Convention’, ‘Technology’ and ‘Legibility’. Answers to the related research questions will be, for example, distilled from the study of artifacts in the collection of the famous Museum Plantin-Moretus. After all, the typographical conventions were fixed with the invention of movable type (and related technical constraints) during the Renaissance. Present-day font technology is developed with the same conventions and even Renaissance technical constraints in mind still. Hence, during the course also the focus will be on how digital font technology has developed since the early 1970s. The technical possibilities for Latin and non-Latin scripts will be further investigated, theoretically as practically, in relation to the typographical conventions."

    In the summer school Dr. Frank E. Blokland, type designer, founder of the Dutch Type Library (DTL) font producer, software developer, and Senior Lecturer at the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague and at the Plantin Institute of Typography in Antwerp and seven guest speakers (Jan Dries, Guy Hutsebaut, Dr. Goran Proot, Lara Captan, Walda Verbaenen, Dr. Juergen Willrodt and Patrick Goossens) will guide the students and the attendees to a journey for better typographic choices in the future. "We will critically reconsider these typographic conventions, so we will be able to avoid amateurish mistakes in the future and we will be knowledgeable to make better choices. When and why should typefaces be tracked or letterspaced? Do we need ligatures at all? Which fonts make a good combination and which ones combine badly? How can we improve the legibility of our documents?" notes the Association of European Printing Museums., historian and conservator, Antwerp.

    All sessions will be in English and the venue will be the city campus of the University of Antwerp, in the city’s historical center.

    The application deadline is 2 June 2019. Learn more here

  • The Face: Bureau Borshe rebrands the iconic magazine for a new generation

    Bureau Borsche, the renowned for its versatility graphic design studio which since 2007 redefines the visual language of our digital times, has done it again. 

    Mirko Borsche first became involved in the project after receiving an email from Dan Flower, the magazine’s managing director reports It's Nice That.

    “He asked whether I would be interested in designing a website and magazine that was from the 90s – he didn’t mention the name, but he’d left The Face’s logo in the footer of his email, so I knew that’s what it was about. After three or four emails, we agreed [Bureau Borshe] would do the art direction and creative direction for the magazine and the website,” Borsche notes of the just relaunched online edition of an iconic magazine and brand that defines an era.

    Rebranding Neville Brody’s iconic graphic design legacy is risky, Borsche says but eventually the same DNA runs free in this relaunching that is totally revamped. "We re-did all the typefaces, we tweaked the logo and redesigned the layouts” he adds of the magazine which will feature three new and custom typefaces -one solely for online use and the other two for the first print issue which will be available later this year. 

    The Face’s new website is live and we loved the Language of Now feature and from this Friday on everything old is new again here

  • National Poetry Month: Enter New York Time's 10th annual spring blackout poetry contest

    Every April since 2010 New York Times celebrates the joys of spring and National Poetry Month with a found poetry contest. This year NYT asks from its readers to participate in a brand new typographic-infused format. Instead of using articles from the paper is inviting students to make blackout poetry from the print paper.

    "Why? Well, this new method has all the literacy goodness of the previous format — the same need for close reading, experimentation with language and attention to detail — but it also celebrates the 'daily miracle' that is the print paper, at a time when fewer and fewer young people read the news in print" notes the paper.

    What is blackout poetry? you ask. NYT answers: "A blackout poem is a kind of found poem in that it, too, is verse composed from words and phrases found in another text. But, unlike the digital found poems we asked for in years past, this kind of poetry demands print and a marker. The best explanation we have found is the one in this video, embedded above, by Austin Kleon, who has popularized the method. To see many more examples, take a look at Mr. Kleon’s Newspaper Blackout site. And to experiment yourself, try The Times’s own online blackout poetry-maker. Fun, right?"

    All poems submitted must be created using The New York Times in print. "However, you can use any words on any page of any New York Times ever published. So, feel free to use that yellowed copy of the paper currently acting as wrapping for breakable objects in your attic — or use one hot off the presses this week. You can also feel free to make poems from special Times sections like T Magazine or NYT Kids, and you can use any of the words found on any page, including in advertisements. To get started, you might consider what sections of the newspaper interest you most, whether sports, the arts, food, business, global news, science or style, and experiment from there".

    All entries must be received by Thursday, May 9, 2019, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern.

    Watch the video, be inspired and use your imagination to make poems out of NYT's daily miracle. For more check here