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Subject: Re: "WIRED" Magazine design
From: Tim Conroy <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:TYPO-L Discussion of Type and Typographic Design <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 17 Jun 1996 09:41:50 -0400

text/plain (91 lines)

        Reply to:   RE>>"WIRED" Magazine design (here: back to the future)
James,  a little more information from you to see what you're getting at would
be helpful-"a more enlightened view of history"? I always thought that the
beauty of historical theory, method and practise lay in what individuals
brought to it: imagination, unique perspective, clever theory, etc. And I
don't really see anything wrong with "the way each phase is seen as the result
of something that happened previously...." As Shakespeare put it:"What's past
is prologue" from The Tempest?) There's a reason why those words are chiseled
in stone on the National Archives building in Washington. Sure, it's a fool's
game to predict how the present will live in history, but I doubt that current
typography and design will be judged by obscure, effete European art-speak
journals. What are you reading? I suspect most people on this list include in
their regular readingU&lc, Font & Function, x-height, Matrix (Whittington
Press), AIGA's Journal of Graphic Arts, Emigre, Graphis, CA  (and all its
annuals), etc., and there seems to be lively and engaging, if not endless,
debate on the contemporary type scene, rather than design and typographic
credos. And, if you think the "amazing `classical' happening
under a virtual media blackout," I suggest you trade in your computer for a
cane and a tin cup. Whether one thinks the various revivals successful or not
isn't important. I myself wrote critically of Adobe's version of Centaur in
Bookways, Nos. 15&16, for example, but so what! It is important that Adobe
released "possibly the most beautiful rendering of the roman alphabet in the
20th century" to thousands and thousands of users who would otherwise go
without the benefit of it. Also among their many, many revivals, Adobe has
recently"revived" Jenson. Dave Farey, in vol. 4, no.2 of x-height, wrote an
article entitled "The Birth and Rebirth of Aries," followed by Sebastian
Carter writing about Eric Gill. Emigre's most recent release is Zuzana Licko's
Mrs Eaves, based on the design of Baskerville.  While one could quibble about
the overall character of the italic, it is amazingly beautiful work and a fine
accomplishment. Interestingly, the specimen books for Mrs Eaves are available
in both offset and letterpress versions. P-22 Typefoundry has an entire
program of revival and reinterpretation, most notably their Arts & Crafts and
their Constructivist fonts-the latter is prominently featured in the May 30th
issue of Rolling Stone, and P-22 is included in this year's Graphis type
annual.  By the end of the summer, they are planning to release a revival, or
reinterpretation, of four faces drawn by prominent graphic artists in the
1930s. ....
        But whatever one's prognostications about how the '90s will be rendered in
history, I bet it will be noted that at no time in the history of humankind
has there been so much interest and activity in the typographic arts. At no
other time in history have so many people known what a serif is! And nearly
everyone who has a computer has bought or purloined a typeface that they
thought interesting or elegant, etc.
        Your assertion that "Ten years ago, few would have guessed that typography in
the nineties would be a kind of misogynistic, latter day `Double Crown Club,'
'' could not be further off the mark. With the proliferation of desktop
publishing, the playing field is now even, not restricted by profession or
gender. In a recent paper sample from Cross Pointe entitled "Icons of
Typography," of the ten individuals featured, three were women-Nancy Skolos,
Lucille Tenazas, and Carol Twombly. Zuzanno Likko's work, previously
mentioned, is the most recent in a series of  her typographic successes.
Margaret Richardson is U&lc's editor and not the only woman on the masthead.
x-height's editor is Maryrose Wood. Carima El-Behary, is one of the founders
of P-22 Type Foundry and a remarkable designer. Happily, the list goes on and
on and on. What may have been a male dominated profession, even as recently as
the early 1980s, is certainly not that anymore.
T. J. F. Conroy         [log in to unmask]
Date: 6/13/96 1:52 PM
To: Tim Conroy
From: TYPO-L Discussion of Type and
>can anyone predict how the current age of typography and design
>will seem when it's taught as history?
One of the problems with design history is the way in which each
phase is seen as the result of something that happened previously,
and as the precursor to something that happened next. By the time we
come to teach 'the current age of typography and design' we may have
a more enlightened (or at least a different) view of history.
What is contemporary typography and design? Mostly what the critics
think is important, and what gets a showing in the 'hotter' design
media. Currently, the vogue is for grunge with the intellectual
bolstering of tedious european post-modernist philosophy (Foucault,
Althusser, Baudrillard etc. etc.). Why commercial graphics from the
nineties were so ignored will, indeed, be a question for the
historians - as will be the puzzle of the amazing 'classical' revival
that is happening under a virtual media blackout.
One thing that has struck me is how much of the contemporary type
scene is dominated by 'angry young men'. Wozencroft's Fuse
conferences have been notoriously inept at attracting women - but if
you look at the current crop of 'stars', this is hardly surprising.
Ten years ago, few would have guessed that typography in the nineties
would be a kind of misogynistic, latter day 'Double Crown Club'.

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