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. 20—The Cost of Type

Italian Old Style: A New Type Face from Fred W. Goudy (1924), front cover. Designed by Bruce Rogers.
Another item from the High School of Graphic Communication Arts library is a copy of the famous type specimen that Bruce Rogers designed for Frederic W. Goudy’s Italian Old Style. Italian Old Style: A New Type Face by Fred W. Goudy and Produced by the Lanston Monotype Machine Company of Philadelphia (Philadelphia: The Lanston Monotype Company, 1924) is more than …
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From the Archives no. 19—AIGA Membership 1922–1923

The former High School of Graphic Communication Arts in New York City library continues to yield material that expands our understanding of graphic design history. Even small, seemingly innocuous items are valuable if one looks closely at the contents. One such example is the tiny Year Book of the American Institute of Graphic Arts 1922–1923 which provides a snapshot of the profession as it was in the process of formation. This booklet was published the same year that the first …
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From the Archives no. 17A—Even More on Helvetica in the United States

Raleigh D’Adamo, one of the winners of the 1964 Transit Authority map competition, showed me some old New York City subway maps recently. Although I had seen most of them in person before, there were two I had never looked at in detail: the 1967 map and its 1969 revision. These are the maps that immediately preceded the well-known Vignelli map of 1972. What caught my eye was the typography. Both maps used a mix of Standard, Helvetica and Trade …
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Blue Pencil no. 13 addendum no. 2—Standard Deviations

The Dialogue column (pp. 28–32) in the current issue of Print magazine (65.3 June 2011) is an interview between Steve Heller and Paola Antonelli regarding the Museum of Modern Art’s acquisition of digital fonts for its Architecture and Design Collection. The interview is fairly vague as Antonelli deflects the hard questions that Heller asks about collecting code and the licensing issues that cropped up in the course of acquiring digital typefaces.
Antonelli still has not identified the experts who advised her …
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Book Review—Departures: Five Milestone Font Families by Emigre

Departures: Five Milestone Font Families by Emigre
Rudy VanderLans
Berkeley, California: Emigre, 2011
Designed by Rudy VanderLans. Set in Base 900, designed by Zuzana Licko. Printed by Blurb.
141 pp. 5″x8″. Black and white; illustrated.
$14 or free with purchase of the five Museum of Modern Art “milestone” font families ($164). Visit
This small book has been published, “on the occasion of the acquisition of five of our font families by The Museum of Modern Art, New York in 2011,” …
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Blue Pencil no. 13 Addendum—Standard Deviations

One of the nagging aspects of the Museum of Modern Art’s acquisition of digital fonts for its Architecture and Design collection is the cloaked identity of those that advised Paola Antonelli and the museum. I don’t presume to have an answer to who the advisors were, but I do have a list of those I believe they should have consulted.
Peter Karow, inventor of the Ikarus type design and production software that converted existing typefaces and artwork into …
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Bartolomeo Sanvito: A basic bibliography

This is a simple bibliography regarding Bartolomeo Sanvito for anyone interested in the Paduan calligrapher, whether or not they are able to afford the new book by Albinia de la Mare, Laura Nuvoloni et al. It is in chronological, rather than alphabetical, order so that the evolution of Sanvito scholarship can be traced.
De Kunert, Silvio. “Un padovano ignoto ed un suo memoriale de’ primi anni del Cinquecento (1505–1511),” Bollettino del Museo Civico di Padova 10 (1907), pp. 1–16 and 64–73.
Wardrop, James. …
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Bartolomeo Sanvito: The Life and Work of a Renaissance Scribe

Julius Caesar, Commentaria di Bello Gallico et Civile, fol. 4 c.1465
Bartolomeo Sanvito: The Life and Work of a Renaissance Scribe
(The Handwrting of the Italian Humanists II)
A.C. de la Mare and Laura Nuvoloni
edited by Anthony Hobson and Christopher de Hamel
with contributions from Scott Dickerson, Ellen Cooper Erdreich and Anthony Hobson
Paris: Association Internationale de Bibliophilie, 2009
463 pp., 196 images
Designed by Humphrey Stone
Albinia de la Mare (1932–2001) spent the greater part of her working life as a paleographer investigating the life and …
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Blue Pencil no. 13—Standard Deviations (the exhibition)

Standard Deviations: Type and Families in Contemporary Design
Museum of Modern Art
Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator and Kate Carmody, Curatorial Assistant
The Museum of Modern Art exhibition showcasing its new digital font acquisitions contains a short glossary of type terms. It is not only inadequate but inept. Here are all of the definitions and my comments on some of them.
Bitmap typeface 
A typeface in which the letterforms are composed of pixels, or “bits,” unlike a vector typeface, in which each letterform is rendered as …
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Blue Pencil no. 14—Salon Manicure

Claire Lambrecht of Salon interviewed me on April 5 about my book Helvetica and the New York City Subway System. It was a very cordial interview. She asked me several questions and then let me ramble, uninterrupted before her next question. The whole interview, which took about an hour, was tape recorded, with my permission, on her end. The published interview appeared online on April 11.
I have no major complaint about the interview, just a tiny one. My side of …
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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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