Tutorials

Tutorials are instructive comments on various aspects of the practice of calligraphy, lettering and typography. They are based on my experiences as a designer and as a teacher.

Tutorial no. 2 addendum no. 2—Castle William and A Sure Faust



Here are two examples of lettering that I came across recently that illustrate good and bad flourishing. The bad example is from Fort William on Governor’s Island, the former Coast Guard facility that is now open to ordinary New Yorkers. The good example (A Sure Faust) is from a storefront near Raffetto’s on West Houston Street in Manhattan.
The Fort William inscription—unfortunately poorly painted—has crude curves and a tailpiece whose spiral …
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Tutorial no. 4—Designing with Lettering

When I began teaching calligraphy in the evening program at the School of Visual Arts in 1980 I found my students feared and loathed type. Their attitude was shared by many designers. This stemmed from the way in which typography was taught at the time in design schools. Metal type and letterpress printing equipment had been chucked out of most American design schools in the late 1960s as part of the transformation of the profession from its roots in commercial …
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Tutorial no. 3—Roundhand

In Tutorial no. 1 I mentioned the names of a number of individuals who were adept at Spencerian lettering. One of those was Jean Larcher, who lives in a suburb of Paris and has been doing lettering and calligraphy of all kinds since the early 1970s. James Mosley, retired librarian at the famous St. Bride Printing Library in London, noticed my reference and sent me the two images that are posted here. These are details from an envelope sent to …
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Addendum to Tutorial no. 2—Steinberg and Steinweiss

“The work I did for Saks is one of the very few pieces of lettering I’ve done that approaches calligraphic formality … and yet, no, that was not its intent. My direction from my clients, Michael Bierut at Pentagram, and Saks was to find a midway between the very formal Spencerian script of the Saks logo, and the energy of Saul Steinberg’s scrawl. It was meant to be vector smooth, but casual with an over-the-top freneticism of ‘wanting it.’ A …
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Tutorial no. 2—Marian Bantjes

Tutorial no. 1 was not meant to be a showdown between Tony DiSpigna and Marian Bantjes or a referendum on the entire body of work of either individual. My goal was to use single pieces by each of them to explain what I see as the hallmarks of a good piece of lettering. The tutorial is part of an ongoing discussion I have been having with calligraphers, letterers and type designers for over twenty years about the concept of good …
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Tutorial no. 1—Spencerian Script

In Lettercentric, my blog for printmag.com, I recently complained about the rise of the “squigglists”, young designers who have discovered the joys of handlettering but lack the experience and knowledge of the masters of the past. I compared the work of Marian Bantjes for Saks Fifth Avenue (art directed by Michael Bierut of Pentagram) http://www.bantjes.com/index.php?id=221 to that of Tony DiSpigna, former member of Lubalin, Smith & Carnase. Unfortunately, printmag.com was not the place for an extended explanation of why Bantjes’ …
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Second Addendum to Tutorial no. 2—Hermann Ihlenburg

In Tutorial no. 2 I compared Marian Bantjes’ American Preview piece for Details magazine to brownstone decorations and 19th c. fancy types and artistic ornaments. Here are a few examples of these Victorian designs.
The first photograph is of a brownstone ornament in Hunters Point (Queens). The second is of an ornamented door on a Brooklyn Heights brownstone. And the third is from a brownstone in Park Slope (Brooklyn).

Below are two examples of Ihlenburg’s typographic work as reproduced in MacKellar, Smiths …
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