Cooper Union Typography

All about Typography, well, mostly about Typography.

Peter Nencini — Make Do Image Making & Hand Werk

 Great Q&A with Peter Nencini on the Walker Art Center design blog. Really worth reading. 


Filed under: Designers

Adam & Eve

I received an email a few days ago with this great image. It is from a project by the graphic designers Richard Niessen & Esther de Vries. I really like their use of Bifur and hope to see it used more often by other designers.

This is what they write about it: “Niessen & de Vries designed a special box for the drawing and the etching of Adam and Eve by Rembrandt van Rijn (1638). It was made in collaboration with Raf Snippe for the Prentenkabinet of the University of Leiden. The box brings together the forestudy and the etching in which Rembrandt depicts Adam and Eve in an unorthodox way. The designers focussed on the mirroring image of the etching technique and the ambiguous scene using the two-part typeface Bifur (1929) by A.M. Cassandre in contrary relief, with parts in apple wood. The box with the art works is now shown in a small exhibition in University of Leiden.”

Filed under: Designers, Links, Typefaces, Typography

Baseline interview with Tony Di Spigna

Tony Di Spigna was born in Italy but was brought up and educated in the USA. He graduated from New York City Community College and Pratt Institute. After a number of unsatisfactory jobs he arrived at Bonder & Carnase, Inc., where he was to work closely with Tom Carnase. ‘That was the job I wanted’, he remembers ‘the salary wasn’t important, it was the working atmosphere that counted.’ Shortly afterwards, in 1969, he moved with Carnase to the newly formed Lubalin Smith Carnase, Inc., where he continued to expand his talents as a lettering designer and typographer.

He opened his own New York design studio in 1973 and worked as a partner with Herb Lubalin in the late seventies before Herb’s death. Today he runs Tony Di Spigna Inc. from Irving Palace in New York. Tony likes working with his hands and derives great satisfaction from creating pleasing letterforms. A large part of his output is cursive and calligraphic in nature but his work covers the whole spectrum of type and logo forms. He is at pains to point out that his ‘calligraphic’ work is not simply calligraphy. ‘A lot of people misdescribe my work as calligraphy’ he retorts ‘but I see what I do as creating an overall image rather than producing calligraphic lettering. Take the Roberta Flack design I did for Atlantic Records, for instance. Sure, it employs calligraphy but I feel that the end result is more of a logo or complete image than simply a piece of calligraphic lettering.’

For all his protestations, Di Spigna’s calligraphic talents are undeniable. He is a purist and would never use a French curve, for instance, although he knows plenty of people who do. His working method is very precise. He’ll begin with five or six progressive roughs or tracings. Then when he’s reasonably happy with the form he’ll use a 4B pencil to produce a presentation visual for the client. He takes this to a high level of finish, not only to help the client understand the idea, but also to work from when he receives approval. Once he is given the go-ahead he uses the visual as the original and traces from it onto a sheet of vellum stock. He uses a pen holder with a crow quill point and etches along the lines in ink. Where necessary he cleans up with white tempera and a brush.

As for briefing, Di Spigna is a realist, ‘Absolute freedom is non-existent,’ he states ‘unless you have a terrific rapport with your client. My main job is problem solving. I try to get as much information from them as possible and then apply my type solutions. I’m in the business of communication.’ He is amused by some clients who try to employ him on a sort of ‘piecework’ basis. If they have paid a certain price for, say, a four-word headline and they later commission him to produce a two-word logo they will sometimes say ‘But Tony, shouldn’t it be half the price. After all, it’s only two words.’ ‘These people miss the point.’ says Di Spigna ‘it’s not the amount of words I’m charging for, it’s the complete image.’

As if to reinforce his point about communication he devotes quite a bit of his time to teaching. The Pratt Institute, the School of Visual Arts and New York Institute of Technology are all educational establishments that benefit from his regular sessions. Not only can he pass on his expertise to the student but he also brings to their attention the realities of commercial life such as deadlines and budgets – something that a person teaching all the time probably isn’t aware of.

Tony Di Spigna works for a large number of ‘blue-chip’ clients and more and more of his work is moving towards the area of corporate graphics. But whatever type of brief his clients give him, he is always trying to refine his work to the point of ‘perfect solutions’ to communication problems. 

This article was transcribed from an old Baseline Magazine. The date that it was published is unknown.

Thanks to Jeremy Pettis who posted the scanned article on his Flickr and So Much Pileup for the post. 

Filed under: Calligraphy, Designers, Lettering, Lubalin, Typography

Aldo Novarese

Aldo Novarese is someone I meant to post about some time ago, as his incredibly prolific type-design career spanned over 50 years (into the 1990’s) and produced over 70 typefaces (over 200 if we count the various weights & styles). His typefaces helped shape the visual landscape of the 1950s and beyond, with such classic faces as Eurostile, Stop, and ITC Novarese. The Microgramma/Eurostile typeface has become synonymous with Mid-Century Modernism. Much like his contemporary Roger Excoffon (in charge of the Fonderie Olive type foundry) Novarese led the prominent Italian foundry Nebiolo and left a similar mark on the world of typography.
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Filed under: Designers, People, Reference, Typefaces, Typography

Stephen Farrell


Almost every semester I mention to my students the designer Stephen Farrell as someone whose work they should look at. I have always admired his approach to typography, as well as his small but eclectic set of typefaces he designed. Unfortunately his work is scattered across the web, in small bits. Obviously his work is meant to be seen in real life, to be handled, interacted with, experienced. Still, I decided to pull together everything I could find online to make it easier for students and other people to see his work. Hopefully this will also provide leads to finding his printed work for those interested.

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Filed under: Designers, People, Typography Feed

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