Dissections

Blue Pencil was born out of the disappointment of seeing the editorial quality of books on graphic design and typographic history decline precipitously over the past decade. Its raison d’être is to dissect books on graphic design history and typography to ferret out errors—typographical, orthographical and factual—in such books and post them publicly. Dissections are not done to denigrate authors, but to rebuke proofreaders and editors who have failed their jobs and publishers who have abdicated their responsibility to the reader. Blue Pencil marks up a text with an eye to improving it.

AIGA Timeline: A Window on American Graphic Design

In the course of preparing my posts on AIGA Medalists I kept looking in vain to the AIGA website for information. I especially found the AIGA History Timeline on its website to be deficient. The timeline, which runs backward from 2014 to 1914, is very sketchy for the decades prior to 1980. Out of 33 entries, 24 of them are for the last thirty-four years. Here is a decade-by-decade breakdown:
1914—1919—1 entry
1920–1929—2 entries
1930–1939—1 entry
1940–1949—1 entry
1950–1959—2 entries
1960–1969—1 entry
1970–1979—3 entries
1980–1989—5 entries
1990–1999—7 entries
2000–2009—7 entries
2010–present—5 …
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Blue Pencil no. 34—The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design: E series

E [1920–1929]
E001
Pro Dva Kvadrata | El Lissitzky | book| UNOVIS | 1920
[Deborah Sutherland]
images: 5
text: 4
apparatus: 0
Why isn’t the Russian title translated into English in the heading as well as in the text? This is done with German items. In general, the text is good, though Sutherland does not explain how the book was done despite calling it “highly sophisticated” in execution. The date is misleading. Lissitzky designed the book in 1920 but it was not published until 1922. See Museum of Modern ArtChristie’s and The …
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No Show; Only Tell

“Graphic Visualization and Visuality in Lester Beall’s Rural Electrification Postrs, 1937” by Michael Golec in the Journal of Design History (vol. 26, no. 4) 2013, pp. 401–415 is a prime example of what is wrong with design history in academic journals. The article contains no full or full color images of Lester Beall’s iconic posters for the Rural Electrification Administration. They do appear in the background of two REA photographs from 1938 (figs. 4 and 5). But they are obscured …
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Reflections on AIGA Medalists, part 2—non-Americans

As I expected the response to my post on gender disparity among AIGA medalists provoked questions about other anomalies. I will try to address the issue of minority representation among medalists in another post. But for now I want to look at the issue of honoring non-Americans.
Greg D’Onofrio, a partner in Kind Company and the website thisisdisplay.com, asked me why so few Europeans had been honored by the AIGA. My question is why have any been honored? I think that …
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Blue Pencil no. 33—The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design: D entries

D [1910–1919]
D001
Oxo | unknown | packaging graphics | Oxo | 1910
[Helena Michaelson]
images: 5
text: 4
apparatus: 4
Is the front image of an Oxo tin small because it is reproduced at real size? The caption does not say. There are also no dates for two of the three images on the back of the card. Image no. 3 is 1957 or later, based on Michaelson’s text which says that foil wrapped cubes of Oxo did not appear until that year.
Michaelson describes the lettering of Oxo as “slightly …
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Blue Pencil no. 32—The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design: C entries

C [1900–1909]
C001
Combinaisons Ornamentales | Alphonse Mucha, Maurice Verneuil and Georges Auriol | book | Librairie Centrale des Beaux Arts | c. 1900
[Simon Bell]
images: 3
text: 3
apparatus: 0
Why show six pages from Combinaisons Ornamentales on the front? This is not typical of the Archive’s approach and it does a disservice to the book. The back has more small images: the binding/cover and three more pages. There are no captions. This means that most readers are unlikely to realize that the small upper right image on the …
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Blue Pencil no. 31—The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design: B entries

The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design
(London: Phaidon Press Limited and New York: Phaidon Press, Inc., 2012)
Commissioning editor: Emilia Terragni
Project editors: Alanna Fitzpatrick, Andrew Ruff and Davina Thackara
CARDS
B [c. 1800 to 1899]
B001
Printers’ Fist | various | symbol | international | c. 1800
[Caroline Archer]
images: 3
text: 4
apparatus: 3
The front image of an array of 88 fists is nice, but not as graphically compelling as a single fist would have been (or even three stacked up)—assuming one wants to frame the card. (Neither is it as visually exciting …
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Blue Pencil no. 30—The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design: A entries

The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design
(London: Phaidon Press Limited and New York: Phaidon Press, Inc., 2012)
Commissioning editor: Emilia Terragni
Project editors: Alanna Fitzpatrick, Andrew Ruff and Davina Thackara
Blue Pencil has always avoided using rating systems, but for The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design it seems to be the only way to indicate the mixed quality of the box’s contents. Separate ratings, each on an ascending scale from 1 to 5, are provided for images, text and editorial apparatus (title block and …
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Blue Pencil no. 29—The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design: booklet

The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design
(London: Phaidon Press Limited and New York: Phaidon Press, Inc., 2012)
Commissioning editor: Emilia Terragni
Project editors: Alanna Fitzpatrick, Andrew Ruff and Davina Thackara
BOOKLET
Authors [inside front page]
There are no authors listed for A015 Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, F001 George Bernard Shaw Series, F052 Mercedes-Benz, and K005 Expo 85. Multiple authors are listed for E005 Chanel (Amelia Black and Riikka Kuittinen), E006 Bauhaus Programmes (Sony Devabhktunil, David Hyde, Paul Shaw and Graham Twemlow), E028  The New Yorker (Jody Boehnert and Ina Saltz), E037 Depero Futurista (Davina Thackara and Richard Weston), E062 Vogue (Véronique Vienne and Zoe Whitley), and G016 Herman …
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Blue Pencil no. 25—A last word on About More Alphabets

Jerry Kelly has emailed me (12 December 2012) with a response to Blue Pencil no. 24 but also with a request not to post his comments. Although I will honor his request not to quote him or his email I will respond to two of his assertions. First, he claims that Comenius Antiqua had oldstyle figures and suggests I look at the Berthold Exklusiv specimen. Although I am not sure which specimen from Berthold he has in mind, my copy …
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“Who Made That? (Subway Signage)”—Who Knows?

“Who Made That? (Subway Signage)” by Pagan Kennedy, in The New York Times Magazine for 9 December 2012 (p. 30), discusses the signage of the New York City subway system that Unimark developed between 1966 and 1970. I was contacted for information for the short article, specifically about Helvetica as the iconic typeface of the system. I tried to explain the complicated history of the system’s use of Standard (Akzidenz Grotesk) and Helvetica; and to distinguish the contributions of …
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Blue Pencil no. 20—Zapfiana no. 1: About More Alphabets

Title page spread, About More Alphabets (2011). Typography by Jerry Kelly.
About More Alphabets
Jerry Kelly and Robert Bringhurst
Rochester: The Typophiles and RIT Cary Graphic Arts Press, 2011
Typophile Chap Book New Series no. 3
112 pp.
4.5 x 7 in.
$35
http://carypress.rit.edu/publications/books/about-more-alphabets.html
[updated 7 December 2012 to reflect corrections pointed out by Jerry Kelly]
Hermann Zapf (b. 1918), widely considered to be one of the preeminent type designers of the 20th century, has continued to design new typefaces and revise earlier ones in the 21st century. His career …
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Blue Pencil no. 19—Lettering by Andrew Haslam

Lettering: A Reference Manual of Techniques
Andrew Haslam
with photographs by Daniel Alexander
London: Laurance King Publishing, 2011
produced by Central Saint Martins Book Creation
design and diagrams by Andrew Haslam
jacket design by Jason Ribeiro based on an idea by Andrew Haslam
senior editor: Peter Jones
picture research: Suzanne Doolin and Andrew Haslam
copy editor: Melanie Walker
240 pp.
hardcover with jacket
8.25 x 10.625
full color photographs
Jacket for Lettering; design by Jason Ribeiro based on an idea by Andrew Haslam
This dissection of Lettering includes an assessment of each of the …
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Blue Pencil no. 17—Corrections

I received this email from Matthew Carter pointing out some mistakes in my dissection of Just My Type.
A couple of corrections to your corrections: p. 66 The original weight of Snell Roundhand was released in 1966. I arrived in Brooklyn in September of 1965 and had to do Cascade first and make a start on Helvetica Compressed. My one surviving Snell drawing was revised on August 1st 1966 which provides a ‘terminus post quem.’ The Bold and Black weights …
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Blue Pencil no. 17—Just My Type—Part Two

p.71 “Carter then [after apprenticing at Enschedé] returned to London, and found there wasn’t much demand for skills rooted in the 1450s. So he began to paint signs, another archaic art. At the beginning of the 1960s he [Matthew Carter] went to New York… After a while he was offered a job at the Mergenthaler Linotype Company in Brooklyn….”
The implication here is that Carter moved to New York early in the 1960s, worked as a sign painter in the city …
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Blue Pencil no. 17—Just My Type—Part One

Just My Type. Jacket design by Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich.
Just My Type: A Book about Fonts
Simon Garfield
New York: Gotham Books, 2011
[London: Profile Books, 2010]
This is the original review that of Just My Type that I wrote for Imprint. I am posting it here because a number of comments in this dissection refer to it rather than to the revised review that Imprint published. For the revised review visit Imprint.
It was inevitable that once typefaces became fonts that …
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