Three Dimensional Building Letters


The avant-garde developments in continental Europe were illustrated and discussed by Tschichold, writing several reports from Germany in the British trade magazine Commercial Art in 1930 and 1931. In Britain (where Tschichold was to work in the late 1940s in a practical but painstakingly exquisite traditional manner) the New Typography was only superficially understood. It was seen as a style that was useful to suggest modern sophistication; German work was crudely imitated with – 5-serif type and a scattering of rules, and posters weakly emulated the French designers' decorative Cubism. Tradition remained the most powerful influence in Britain.
The only notable avantgarde reaction had, in fact, come before the First World War in response to Futurism. Marinetti visited London in I and soon after, that same year, the Vorticist group of artists was formed. Their thick journal, Blast, appeared in only two issues, in 1914 and 1915. 
It was printed direct from type, the front cover with black poster lettering set diagonally on solid deep pink. The text pages were printed in heavv grotesque type, their size and arrangement reflecting the sense and importance of the words. By choosing such a typeface and exchanging symmetry for the consciously crude layout of popular adver-tisements, Yorticists were original in Britain in exploiting typographic form as part of a w ider reform.
There had been precedents for asymmetry in title pages, the most remarkable being the polemical publications of the artist Whistler, such as The Gentle Art of Making Enemies (1890), inspired in their layout by his friend Mallarme as well as the Japanese, an influence on some Eng¬lish private presses. The playwright and critic Bernard Shaw, though cursed in the pages of Blast, had for some years insisted on a 'ranged left' layout for the title pages of his plays and on a single typeface, Caslon.
It was in the design of letterforms that Britain made a lasting contribution to the appearance of the printed word. The lesson the Arts and
Crafts Movement had drawn from early printed books produced the opposite of Whistler's airy aesthetic: they put more ink on the page, insisting on more robust lettcrforms with less space between words and lines.
The letters from which words were printed could by the end of the nineteenth century be selected at a keyboard and cast as metal by machine, instead of being typeset by hand from existing type. Compet-ing systems of typesetting needed to offer their customers new typefaces. The first type designed specifically for the Monotype company's cast¬ing system was Imprint (1912), named after the typographical journal The Imprint, which had played a part in its development and was the first to use it. Further faces based on historical models followed: Plantin (1913), Caslon (1916), Garamond (1922) and Baskerville (1923).
One of the co-editors of The Imprint was the calligrapher Edward Johnston. His work took tradition to an extreme. He wrote with goose quills on animal skins and, as a teacher, persuaded generations of stu-dents to do the same. His classic textbook, Writing & Illuminating C Lettering, first published in 1906, has gone through thirty reprints. In 1915 Johnston was asked by London's Underground Railway to design an alphabet for its signs, 'which would belong unmistakeably to the twentieth century'. 
The Underground had experimented with letters based on squares and circles a decade before similar German attempts; but Johnston went back to the proportions of Classical Roman capitals, with a completely circular 'O' and the uprights of the 'M' forming two sides of a square, the diagonals meeting in its centre. The lozenge-shaped dots on the 'i' and 'j' and in the punctuation show quite clearly the origin of the letterforms in calligraphy and the diamond shape is natural to a dot made on paper with a square-nibbed pen.





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Three Dimensional Building Letters
The American Academy of Arts and Letters is a 250-member honor society; its goal is to “foster, assist, and sustain excellence” in American literature






Three Dimensional Building Letters
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Three Dimensional Building Letters
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