Gail Anderson on the alphabet of everyday things
Caterpillar cocoons followed by ice cubes followed by shadows, by sand, jasmine branches and cherries. Typography is not a medium humans invented. Typography is a universe in which we live and breath, we create and get inspired. We type to be remembed. We can only guess what was the core idea of this amazing project that Thames & Hudson published some weeks ago. Since 1990, he, Steven Heller, New York Times art director for 33 years and she, Gail Anderson, former art director of Rolling Stone have compiled books about typography and illustration yet it is in ther latest compilation titled The Typographic Universe that they introduce us to ‘the alphabet of everyday things’. Letters found in all kind of places, in every possible or impossible material, fonts made of fauna and human anatomy. “Type is everywhere. You can even see it when you look in the sky—particularly when you focus on what’s in the trees. Letterforms seemingly become elements of nature” Anderson told us and we are more than amazed with the unexpected typography that is literally everywhere.
“The genesis of the book was a project I gave my MFA students at The School of Visual Arts in NYC. I sent them out to ‘look up and look down’ and photograph all of the resulting typography that was in shadows, in the trees, and just about anywhere else their eyes led them. I was pleased by their type-is-everywhere collective epiphany, and Steve Heller suggested that we turn the project into something much bigger—a book. This is our ninth book together (out of his 165!).” What a number, what a word.
The Typographic Universe: Letterforms Found In Nature, The Built World, and Human Imagination by Thames and Hudson is a 350 page book of typography found in virtually everything, in things in nature and cities, made from anything but ordinary ink. As designers and co-authors Steven Heller and Gail Anderson explain in the introduction: “If you cast your eye up to the sky or down to the ground, there’s an excellent likelihood you’ll discover something that either looks like a letter or actually is one”. It is this revelation that makes this book great not only for the typography enthusiast, but also for the common reader.
“Type is everywhere. You can even see it when you look in the sky. Letterforms seemingly become elements of nature”
In this massively inspiring volume of edited ideas bodily, floral and edible types delve in the ever expanding Laniakea of typography. “An alphabet made from non-typographic materials can either be a brilliant concept or a bad pun. The latter–etters that stretch the ‘joke’ beyond being funny–must be avoided.” is a rule we learned just by reading about a project that brought inspiring ideas and people together. “Working on The Typographic Universe might have been the most fun I’ve had researching a book” Andersen reminded us. “There was a wealth of material, and the people we contacted were wonderfully enthusiastic and supportive”. A step towards a better humanity obviously starts with a letter.