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Old 04-30-2006, 01:12 PM   #1
ktinkel
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Default Book on American type designers

Another interesting and useful book: American Type Design & Designers, by David Consuegra (ISBN 1-58115-320-1).

This appears to be a brain dump from someone who has loved and studied type for many decades. The author shows font examples, but also includes information about the people who make and use type. It is “essentially a book on people, an account of a great deal of work done silently,” as the author explains it. He also says it is not comprehensive and hopes “this research may attract many other people … to complement my achievements.”

The book is huge (320 9 X 11-inch pages), printed in News Gothic Light at 9 point. It contains enough information — and ranges through enough topics — for three or four books.

The 7-page introduction is a thumbnail history of type; it could easily be expanded into a book of its own.

This is followed by an annotated chronological listing of type-related events (24 pages) and a comparison of American and European font releases (4 pages). After that is a two-page alphabetical table of contents listing all the typefaces covered in the main body of the book, designer name, and page number.

The main section is alphabetical by designer. Each of these includes a snapshot of the designer (if none, then a grey rectangle), and a biography. These are printed in one of the designer’s typefaces, if available — sometimes disastrously: Garrett Boge’s write-up was in Spring, a pretty script never intended for long text; Rea Irvin’s in Irvin, The New Yorker signature display face; Richard Isbell’s in his unreadable Americana; Gerry Powell in Stencil; and several others in scripts that should not have been used). This is followed by several pages (usually) with type specimens and/or examples of the type in use, all annotated.

This section is, of course, the meat and potatoes of the book. It has a few curious lapses. For example, Sumner Stone is represented only by his original Stone family, none of his even more interesting fonts (including the ITC Bodoni family and the Cycles, Arepo, Stone Print, and SFPL collection). Omitting Matthew Carter’s Miller collection as well as his screen font work for Microsoft (Tahoma, Verdana, and Georgia). And there are way too many examples of 19th-century woodtype font makers.

That section is rounded off with one-page “biographies” of eight major font manufacturers. The end of the book has a glossary (quite a hodge-podge of terms, too), a bibliography, and a detailed index. Whew.


A few disappointments

This book could use a serious fact-checking and proofreading. It contains typos, but worse, there are real errors: Conflating the IBM Selectric with its typesetter, the Selectric Composer; confusing the the Apple II with the Macintosh (describing the former as having pull-down menus and a mouse); and confusing the title of Marshall McLuhan’s second book, The Medium Is the Massage with the famous punchline of his first, “the medium is the message,” to mention a few that hit my eye. A knowledgeable copy editor would have caught those and other errors.

It is hard to read — the large format, thin paper, and tiny, light, sans serif type all contributing to that.


Bottom line

Despite its problems, American Type Design & Designers really ought to be in the library of anyone who uses or loves type. It complements other must-haves, including McGrew’s American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century and the Encyclopedia of Type Faces.

And, as the author suggests, it offers a roadmap for others who may want to continue to document the great saga of type.

   
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Old 05-01-2006, 05:37 AM   #2
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Well, technically there was an Apple II that did have pull down menus and a mouse. The IIc did, if I remember correctly. It was the last of the line, and introduced _after_ the Mac.

Also, why do publishers of typography books (and art books in general) think that a sans serif face is a requirement?
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Old 05-01-2006, 06:42 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by donmcc
Well, technically there was an Apple II that did have pull down menus and a mouse. The IIc did, if I remember correctly. It was the last of the line, and introduced _after_ the Mac.
Okay, but it was not, as the author implied, the beginning of that sort of computer. (In fact, the Mac wasn’t either — the Xerox Star was ahead of it, and so, of course, was the Lisa.) The Apple II was an old-fashioned thing, generally.

Quote:
Originally Posted by donmcc
Also, why do publishers of typography books (and art books in general) think that a sans serif face is a requirement?
You got me. Possibly because it is recessive and thus somewhat classy-looking. That is okay in a picture book, used for captioning. But it is a bear for text, particularly when it is small, light, tightly leaded, and on big pages with small margins.

In this case, I bet the text would have run 700 pages in a more conventional format, so the publisher gave an ultimatum: Cut half the copy or squeeze it in somehow, and the author chose to squeeze. (Just guessing, of course.)

   
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Old 05-07-2006, 07:45 PM   #4
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Boy
My version of that book would be slim!
Just one giant chapter on Benton.
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Old 05-08-2006, 06:05 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Norman Hathaway
My version of that book would be slim!
Just one giant chapter on Benton.
Not too useful, though, for people who want context. Or who think there may be a few other good type designers from America!

He is very high on Benton, too. In fact, he says he set the text in News Gothic in homage to Benton. Do wish he had chosen some other method to mark his respect, however.

So: No regard for Goudy? (That I can understand, actually.) None for Carter, Stone, Berlow, and other living designers? No room for Bruce Rogers, Middleton, Sol Hess, Cooper, Dwiggins, and some others from the last century?

You are tough! Do you restrict your work to Benton typefaces?

   
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Old 05-08-2006, 06:22 AM   #6
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Let's see,
None for Goudy.
I appreciate Carter's technical skills, but not his aesthetics.
Stone is very intelligent, but I feel he would be a complete unknown, if not for his relationship with Adobe.
Berlow - nope.
I respect Dwiggins and Cooper, but wouldn't use their faces unless I was doing some sort of pastiche.

I don't use Benton faces but have in the past. I guess I use more Dutch faces than anything else. All the faces by the people in your list seem to have a slightly dated feel to them in my opinion. Having said that, I'm not a trendy or finger on the pulse typographer either. Dutch faces seem more humble, or blue collar to me. Less precious.
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Old 05-08-2006, 06:42 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Norman Hathaway
I guess I use more Dutch faces than anything else. All the faces by the people in your list seem to have a slightly dated feel to them in my opinion. Having said that, I'm not a trendy or finger on the pulse typographer either. Dutch faces seem more humble, or blue collar to me. Less precious.
There are fabulous Dutch designers. I think a lot of Gerard Unger’s work, in particular. And of some of that by Gerritt Noordzij and his followers. Not sure with I think of Frank Blokland’s designs (but I wish he drew a better S!).

Do you have Jan Middendorp’s Dutch Type? Gorgeous book. Nothing in that makes me think of humbleness, particularly!

   
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Old 05-08-2006, 07:30 AM   #8
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No!
I don't have it! But will probably end up falling for it.
Unger, Smeijers, Majoor and Blokland are wonderful.

Hmmm. The S huh?
I like the Documenta S actually. That face is like a better version of Gil Sans for me. Less clunky. His numerals and spacing are right on the money.
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Old 05-08-2006, 01:43 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Norman Hathaway
Hmmm. The S huh?
I like the Documenta S actually. That face is like a better version of Gil Sans for me. Less clunky. His numerals and spacing are right on the money.
I don’t have Documenta Sans, so have no experience of setting it. But the s looks to my eye to be slightly canted to the left; and top-heavy. I also dislike that Centaur-ish R; gets tangled up too often (and isn’t graceful to my eye).

There is only the one weight (though I see there are also a small caps set, which is nice).

What do you think of Caspari? It has several weights, even including small caps in each weight. I haven’t used this either, but if I were shopping at DTL I think Caspari would more likely be on my list.

   
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Old 05-08-2006, 02:04 PM   #10
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Caspari is too spicy for me, but obviously still a very good face. It veers too closely to Kabel world. I use Haarlemer Sans though. I bet you like Prokyon (but I could be mistaken - it happens now and then). I think what attracts me to all their faces, is that you can still see the 'pen'. Argo has messed with my mind for quite a while now. Doesn't look v good as a specimen, but works very well when set, and is extremely readable. I look a the lower case m and n, and am completey confused.
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