Blue Pencil

Blue Pencil is a “slog”: a slow blog. It does not get updated daily or even on a regular schedule. Instead, it gets updated when there is something of value to be posted. Postings often take a long time to prepare and appear at intervals of a few weeks or even months. Sometimes there is a flurry of postings within the span of a few days. Blue Pencil may be unpredictable in its frequency, but not in its purpose. Blue Pencil is fiercely dedicated to the 3Rs: research, reading and writing.

Strathmore Papers and the Untold History of American Graphic Design

Recently Chris Harrold, Vice President of Business Development/Creative Director at Mohawk, invited me to up to the Albany/Troy area to see the Strathmore Archives that he has been digging into for the past few months. I was lured by the promise of seeing unknown work by W.A. Dwiggins and by the opportunity to do some preparation for my upcoming talk on “W.A. Dwiggins and the Promotion of Paper 1915–1935” at the Type Directors Club on June 3*.
For months both Dan Rhatigan …
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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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Reflections on AIGA Medalists

The occasion of the AIGA Centennial Gala on April 25th led me to some thoughts on the identity and choice of the AIGA medalists over the years. The AIGA medal was first awarded in 1920 to Baltimore printer Norman T. A. Munder. Between then and 1954 it was given out erratically with some years (e.g. 1921 and 1933) skipped entirely and in others (e.g. 1924 and 1950) with two being presented. Then from 1955 to 1972 only one was given …
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The Rchive no. 19—The Terror of the Turks

Detail, Alessandro dal Borro plaque (Arezzo, Italy). Photograph by Paul Shaw (2008)
This unusual R is from a plaque marking the birthplace of Alessandro dal Borro (1600–1656) in Arezzo, Italy. Dal Borro was a nobleman and highly successful general who was given the nickname “Il Terrore die Turchi” for his successes in the wars between the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Venice. The plaque is signed A.F. Sandrelli and dated 1828. There is at least one other plaque in …
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The Rchive no. 18—Art Deco in Sunnyside

Detail, Phipps Garden Apartments in Sunnyside, Queens (New York City). Photograph by Paul Shaw (2008).
This Art Deco R is from a sign at the Phipps Garden Apartments in Sunnyside, Queens (New York), a housing complex that was built in response to the garden city movement begun in England at the turn of the 20th century following the theories of Ebenezer Howard. The movement, in response to the rapid shift in population to urban areas in the 19th century …
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The Rchive no. 17—Italian neon signs

Detail from pizzeria sign in Testaccio (Rome). Photography by Paul Shaw 2013.
This R is from the sign for Il Grottino, a pizzeria in the Testaccio neighborhood of Rome. It is one of the best pizzerias for eating Roman-style pizza, but hard to find despite being on the busy via Marmorata. Its sign is discreet, faces only one way (towards the Tiber), is often obscured by trees—and only says “PIZZERIA”. Il Grottino was established in the 1930s but the sign is most likely …
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The Rchive no. 16—Three more from London

Arden House detail (Lambeth, London). Photograph by Paul Shaw (2014).
Arden House in the Kennington neighborhood of Lambeth, London was built in 1968. The name over the estate entrance is an excellent example of vernacular lettering: simple and unpretentious. The sans serif capitals are constructed out of flat strips of iron that have been cut and welded together. Combined with the bordering strips the design harks back to some of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s lettering. The R is a plain grotesque/gothic.
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The Rchive no. 15—Hamilton Wayzgoose

R composition (2012).
At the 2012 Hamilton Wayzgoose at the Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin I asked Lucio Passerini, the Milanese master printer who was one of the letterpress demonstrators, to proof some grotesque wood type letters for me. I was a calligraphy demonstrator at the Wayzgoose and I used some of Lucio’s R prints as the basis for improvisational calligraphic compositions for attendees. This one came out the best in terms of both vivacity and composition. For …
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The Rchive no. 14—Superior Florists

Superior Florists (Manhattan). Photograph by Paul Shaw (2005).
Superior Florists, established in 1930, is one of the remaining floral and plant businesses in what used to be the thriving Flower District along Sixth Avenue south of Herald Square in Manhattan. The neon sign (script for “Superior” and sans for “Florist”) is dated to 1951 by Tom Rinaldi, author of New York Neon.

The Rchive no. 13—A London Trio

Metal R (Jermyn Street, Westminster, London). Photograph 2014 by Paul Shaw.
The latest addition to the Rchive is this metal inline R in a classical mode that I recently photographed in the St. James neighborhood of London. It is not from a typeface, though it reminds me of the R in Weiss Antiqua. The juncture of the leg to the bowl near the stem is also similar to Futura. The pink paint makes it look as if it had been …
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An appreciation of Frederic W. Goudy as a type designer

Most type designers today dismiss the accomplishments of Frederic W. Goudy (1865–1947) because they fail to understand the state of type design in his lifetime, especially at the outset of his career.
A very short summary of the profession of type making is in order. From Johannes Gutenberg through Simon de Colines, the earliest creators of typefaces were printers who doubled as punch cutters. The first punchcutter who was not also a printer was Francesco Griffo da Bologna who cut punches …
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A video of Michael Harvey

Stan Knight just told me about a video made a few years ago of Michael Harvey reminiscing about his life. It can be found at the Edward Johnston Foundation website. He is sitting in his compact studio—a photograph of Luminous Boy, the black and white cat he and Pat had in the 1980s is visible in the background—quietly talking about Reynolds Stone, Eric Gill, book jackets, type design, etc. with his characteristic candor, lack of pretension and low-key humor. …
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Michael Harvey’s opinions

Michael Harvey was always candid about his likes and dislikes in the overlapping worlds of calligraphy, lettering, lettercutting and type design. At the same time, he was very gentlemanly about them. Sometimes he kept them to himself or voiced them privately to friends and colleagues, such as myself. At other times he uttered them in public but always in such a way that there was no sense of meanness or rancor, just opinions borne of experience and long reflection.
One of …
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Addendum to Michael Harvey’s Teaching Notes, parts 8C and 8D

Eric Kindel, Associate Professor of Graphic Communication, University of Reading has kindly sent in his recollections of studying with Michael Harvey in the 1990s. Here are his comments:
I attended Michael’s ‘Letterforms’ classes (and James Mosley’s lectures) in 1996–1997. I was working at Central Saint Martins at the time (on the ‘Typeform dialogues’ project), and CSM kindly sponsored my time away from work and my travel expenses. James’ classes were every Saturday morning (9:30–10:30), while Michael’s classes took place in six …
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Gilgengart: The tale of a typeface

Gilgengart Fraktur (often shortened to just Gilgengart) was the first typeface designed by Hermann Zapf. Its history is not only complicated but a bit muddy. This is because in the various books on his career, Zapf has given conflicting accounts of its origins and of the dates of each of its stages. Before trying to untangle the true story of Gilgengart, it should be noted that for all of his typefaces Zapf rightly makes a crucial distinction among the three phases …
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Michael Harvey’s Teaching Notes 1983–1995, part 8D

READING 1995–1999 : Letterforms
These final notes from the Letterforms course are devoted to type design from punches to pixels. They were scattered about in the Reading 1995 folder so I have arranged them in an order that seems to make sense to me. Perhaps one of Michael’s Reading students will be link the notes to the actual classes.
It is not clear exactly where this page belongs in the Letterforms course notes. I am placing it with the notes about …
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