TYPE DESIGN INFORMATION PAGE last updated on Wed Apr 23 10:09:48 EDT 2014

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John Pistilli



Written by Luc Devroye
McGill University
Montreal, Canada
lucdevroye@gmail.com
http://luc.devroye.org
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Born in 1925, died in 2003. He worked for the advertising agency Sudler & Hennessey. Frances Elfenbein met him first in 1957 at Sudler&Hennessy. She writes: John was the most skilled and creative letterer I had the privilege of knowing. He did the finished lettering for most of the designs Herb Lubalin created [at S&H], always adding refinements to the very rough sketches he received from Herb. In addition he created his own very beautiful roman serif typeface. He was "the Man" for lettering, and each and every art director in the agency sought to have him work on their project...of course Herb came first. When I broke my ankle skiing in 1963, John lettered the word "Love" in script on my cast...he was a sweet guy, and professionally very modest in spite of his formidable talent. Herb started his own design firm in 1964. John did not go with him, preferring to remain at S&H until his retirement. Tony Carnese who had been trained by John inherited his mantle and worked in the same greystone as Herb Lubalin Inc. I worked in the office alongside John in the mid '80's at S&H. He frequently sang as he lettered, always a surprise to people who realized that he stuttered when he spoke. [...] He had an enormous amount of patience. In the late 1950's we still had to use metal (monotype) for large point sizes. Herb hated the letterspacing and line spacing that resulted from the shoulders and leading on individual characters. He achieved the results he wanted (very tightly kerned letters and tightly leaded lines) by having John cut apart each individual letter from clay-coated proofs only to reassemble the letters and lines. This was a monstrous task when the type was 24pt Century Expanded. John did it and never complained, and to tell the truth he agreed that the text did look much better. Thank you Frances for sending me this touching description.

Herb Lubalin made a typeface with him called Pistilli Roman (photocomposition format only, VGC). There are also Bold and Black weights. It is one of the most gorgeous extreme-contrast didone headline faces ever made. A picture of the VGC typeface competition poster.

  • In 1969, Phil Martin made a swashy film font version of Pistilli, called Didoni, which had many new characters.
  • Didoni, without the swashes, was digitized in the 1990s by the infamous Font Company (which closed shop in 2001 to go into the porn business).
  • Font Company had done that digitization through URW, and so, URW started selling URW Didoni.
  • OptiPirogi is similar to Pistilli Roman.
  • Eloquent (Jason Walcott, Jukebox) was made in 2010.
  • In 2011, at the height of the fat didone craze, Claude Pelletier made a free revival, also called Pistilli Roman.
  • There is also Pistiline (2011) by Ink Type Foundry.
  • In 2012, Nick Curtis created Spiffily NF, also in the same style.

Klingspor link. Poster by Michaela Kriener.

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Type designers ⦿ Type designers ⦿ Photo and film type era ⦿ Modern style [Bodoni, Didot, Walbaum, Thorowgood, Computer Modern, etc.] ⦿








file name: Nick Curtis Spiffily N F 2012 after John Pistilli Pistilli Roman 1970s


file name: Jukebox Eloquent


file name: Jason Walcott Eloquent Pro 2010


file name: Jason Walcott Eloquent


file name: Claude Pelletier Pistilli Roman 2011


file name: Phil Martin Didoni U R W D Normal 1969


file name: Didoni Graphic


file name: John Pistilli Pistilli Roman Poster by Herb Lubalin


file name: John Pistilli Pistilli Roman Poster by Michaela Kriener 2014


file name: Pistilli



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