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Peter Bain: Film Type

Peter Bain surveys the era of photo-typography. His introduction: In the 20th century photo-typography fully displaced a 500-year-old tradition of metal type, only to be superseded itself shortly thereafter. Yet most appraisals of type technology and histories of proprietary typefounding still favor type for text instead of eye-catching display. One characteristic feature of 20th century typography was the great effort devoted to ephemera and advertising. This survey is a local view of a half-century, concentrating on display type in New York City. Since New Yorkers have been said to believe they are at the center of the planet, it is fascinating to find a time when it could appear nearly so, typographically. He goes on to explain why and how New york became the typographic center of the globe: The city in the first half of the 20th century was an established communications center for a burgeoning national market. There is ample evidence of local interest in unique letterforms. Sometime Queens-borough resident and typeface designer Frederic Goudy received a commission from retailer Saks Fifth Avenue. The successful New York illustrator and letterer Fred G. Cooper had his distinctive forms included in the same publications that featured an unrelated Windy City designer, Oswald Cooper. Architect H. Van Buren Magonigle and industrial designer Walter Dorwin Teague had both skillfully rendered capitals for print, while their Manhattan offices pursued projects in three dimensions. One of the more curious examples of this fluency in letterforms was a 1943 booklet issued by the Brooklyn-based Higgins Ink Co. The largest portion was a portfolio of thirty-two script alphabets and fictitious signatures by Charles Bluemlein, each accompanied by a handwriting experts interpretation of the admittedly invented specimens. The requirements of publicity and publishing helped drive the demand for handlettering. By 1955, one knowledgeable estimate placed over 300 professional lettering artists working in New York at both comprehensive (layout) and finished levels. It was in a landscape of album covers and bookjackets, magazine and newspaper advertising, trademarks and slogans, store signatures and letterheads, billboards and signs (created by sign artists, not usually graphic designers) that display phototype was emerging in sharp focus. This may have been the peak of market demand for lettering.

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INTERNAL LINKS
Photo and film type era ⦿ Typography ⦿ History of type ⦿ Type scene in New York ⦿ Frederic William Goudy ⦿













Luc Devroye ⦿ School of Computer Science ⦿ McGill University Montreal, Canada H3A 2K6 ⦿ lucdevroye@gmail.com ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org/fonts.html