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.

From the Archives no. 18—Satz- und Druck-Musterheft 1938

Satz- und Druck-Musterheft 1938
Vorlagenheft für Setzer, Drucker, Werbefachleute, Graphiker und Reproduktionstechniker
Berlin: Verlag der Graphischen Monatsschrift “Deutscher Drucker”, 1938
Satz- und Druck-Musterheft 1938, a printing trades periodical, is another instance where I wish I was able to read more than a few words and phrases in German. (The translations here were done with the kind help of Indra Kupferschmid who also helped with proofreading the German.) It is a compendium of articles about printing, typography and design …
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From the Archives no. 17—More on Helvetica in the United States

This evening at the Type Directors Club I came across a type specimen entitled helvetica (all lowercase) issued by Empire Typographers, Inc., a type house in New York City, in February 1963. It was designed by Martin Friedman, a name that is unfamiliar to me. More importantly, it stated on the inside of the front cover, “Helvetica is now being cut in display sizes. The following will be available at Empire Typographers in the …
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Opinion redux—Deviations from Standard Deviations

I am gratified that the first out-and-out Blue Pencil opinion piece has received a warm welcome. However, several people have posted comments or emailed me privately with corrections or comments that need to be addressed.
1. David Lemon of Adobe has written to point out that, “Stone was the first original alphabetic typeface designed at Adobe, but was preceded by Carta, Sonata & the now-ubiquitous Symbol. (I agree the “originality” of Symbol could be disputed, since it’s stylistically an extension to …
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Opinion—Standard Deviations

On January 24 of this year the Museum of Modern Art announced that they were adding 23 fonts to their Architecture and Design Collection. I paid little attention at the time to the news, other than to nod approvingly at their choice of typefaces by Matthew Carter, Jonathan Hoefler and Zuzana Licko. But last week I visited MoMA to see the Counter Space exhibition and afterwards I stumbled upon Standard Deviations: Types and Families in Contemporary Design, an exhibition of …
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From the Archives no. 16—Choosing a Typeface

Among the items that interested me in the former library of the High School of Graphic Communications Art have been books, pamphlets and articles that promise to shed light on an often overlooked aspect of 20th c. graphic design: the origins and development of the type director and the type house. Two of the names that often pop up as early figures in this area are Frederick M. Farrar and Gilbert P. Farrar. I assume that they were brothers, but …
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What’s Online no. 5—Inland Printer 1901

Here is another interesting tiny article from the 1901 Inland Printer which, like the 1899 one, is also available through Google Books. This time the article is related to printing. It is an early indication of interest in trying to use the new technology of photography to make typesetting easier, faster and more flexible. It is another reminder that we do not have an adequate history of phototypesetting, a technology that enjoyed a brief heyday but is increasingly forgotten.
Typesetting by …
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What’s Online no. 4—Inland Printer 1899

Several months ago I stumbled across the complete 1899 issues of the Inland Printer on Google Books. I downloaded the bound set and in skimming the pages this item caught my attention.
It is not creditable to the American people that they have to be “lawed” into respecting the flag of their country and the uniforms of the service. New York has found it necessary to pass a law making it a misdemeanor to publicly mutilate or deface the American flag. …
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A Case Study no. 1—Chocolate & Zucchini—Addendum

The typeface used for “Chocolate” in the title of Chocolate & Zucchini is ITC Eclat (1984) by Doyald Young (1926–2011) who unfortunately passed away recently. You can see some of his sketches for the font at: http://www.doyaldyoung.com/DC04.html
There are a number of tributes to Doyald online. Here are a few:
http://www.idsgn.org/posts/remembering-doyald-young/
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/07/arts/design/07young.html
http://fontfeed.com/archives/doyald-young-passes-away-at-age-84/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doyald_Young

Tutorial no. 2 addendum no. 2 Comments—Sure and Faust

Johnny (Alex Morgan), Demo and ecs,
I don’t usually post comments on Blue Pencil without filtering or editing them first, but I think these testaments about Faust and Sure are deserving of being put up as is. Thanks to all of you for clearing up my misidentification of the star as an A and for explaining that SURE and FAUST are two different graffiti writers. I am sorry to hear that Sure was killed in Afghanistan.
Thank you for reading Blue Pencil …
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From the Archives no. 15—Helvetica and Standard

Something else that I came across at the High School for Graphic Communication Arts were two issues of a former local trade magazine called Graphics: New York. Both were from 1965 and they help to pin down the moment when Helvetica arrived in New York and began to muscle out Standard (aka Akzidenz Grotesk).
The first issue is volume 2, number 1 from January 1965. On its back cover is an advertisement from Amsterdam Continental Types, the firm that imported European …
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From the Archives no. 14—Linoskala


The High School of Graphic Communication Arts in New York City, originally founded in 1925 as the New York School of Printing, is changing with the times and one casualty is its extensive library of books, periodicals and ephemera about the printing industries (papermaking, binding, type design and manufacture, typography, editing and proofreading, graphic design, photography, illustration and more). Fortunately, thanks to Abby Goldstein, the material is being saved from the dumpster and will be …
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Blue Pencil no. 12—Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig

Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig
Steven Heller and Elaine Lustig Cohen
San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2010

Book design by Tamar Cohen
This is not the usual Blue Pencil post. The book examined here has very few errors, whether typographical or factual. Most of the commentary is about its lack of context. Although most of Lustig’s career took place during the Great Depression and World War II these momentous events are ignored. I was unaware of this lacuna …
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From the Archives no. 13—Frederic Goudy

Recently I was looking through back issues of The New Yorker online in order find “Glorifier of the Alphabet”, a profile of Frederic W. Goudy written by Milton MacKaye and published in the January 14, 1933 issue. I thought it might contain some information on the famous but vexatious quotation about stealing sheep attributed to Goudy. There is much dispute online over the exact wording of the quotation and what, specifically, Goudy was complaining about: spacing lowercase type, spacing …
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Blue Pencil no. 11 addendum

R. Roger Remington and Robert S.R. Fripp, the authors of Design and Science: The Life and Work of Will Burtin, expend a lot of effort to prove that Will Burtin was responsible for the popularity of Helvetica in the United States. In Blue Pencil no. 11 I challenged the evidence they presented in support of this claim. Here I want to put forth a counter-claim: that Massimo Vignelli is the individual who deserves credit (or blame)—if anyone does—for the spread …
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Blue Pencil no. 11—Design and Science: The Life and Work of Will Burtin

Design and Science: The Life and Work of Will Burtin
R. Roger Remington and Robert S.P. Fripp
Aldershot, Hampshire: Lund Humphries, 2007
Designed by Chrissie Charlton & Company
Paragraphs in the book are not indented but set apart by line spaces. This makes reading the text very choppy. fi ligatures are not used, although they are available in Monotype Bulmer, the typeface used to set the text. For a book about a designer who was extremely fussy about typography such lapses are …
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From the Bookcase no. 1—French Renaissance Printing Types

This is the first in a new series of posts. These are not Blue Pencil autopsies of books nor are they conventional book reviews. Instead, these are reports on what I have learned from reading books. These notes will either encourage followers of Blue Pencil to buy and read a book or save them the trouble and expense of doing so.

French Renaissance Printing Types: A Conspectus
Hendrik D.L. VervlietNew Castle, Delaware: The Bibliographical Society, The Printing Historical Society and Oak …
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