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Old 03-25-2007, 02:19 PM   #1
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Default Wim Crouwel’s eccentric letters

Wim Crouwel: Alphabets — This delightful book shows a selection of Wim Crouwel’s letter designs in a chronological sequence, beginning in 1955 and ending with his Dutch postage stamps, begun in 1976 and running through 2000.

Each logo, poster, cover, or other piece is accompanied by an interview in which the designer recollects what he was trying to do. These comments are illuminating — they really helped me appreciate his work, which was not always true in the past, even though I have long been attracted to it.

Crouwel was younger than Bayer, Tschichold, and the other radicals of the 1920s (he was born in 1933), but you might try to compare his work with theirs. Crouwel’s letters were simplified like Bayer’s and Tschichold’s. But he was focused on design, not reform for its own sake.

Crouwel’s display type is usually constructed according to a strict pattern or grid. After he saw an early digitizing system, his idea was to make letters that really could be enlarged or reduced without damage, so they were based on vertical, horizontal and 45° diagonal lines, no curves. For these letters, he ignored typographic conventions (though he sometimes seems puzzled in the interviews as he tries to remember why he did something a particular way). His work is very attractive, but it does take a little getting used to. And by the way — his text type is conventionally set; this adherence to pattern in the display types is deliberate, not the result of typographic ignorance.

David Quay of Foundry Types created several fonts in collaboration with Crouwel a few years ago (to see the others from that link you need to change the URL; there is no Back button — look for the Architype collections). They are interesting. This book was set in Foundry Gridnik.
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