A few more scores in now. The patterns are beautiful but every time I pick one of these up I marvel at the exquisite typography. Can't remember if it was Tschichold who was responsible for these – or maybe it was Hans Schmoller – but when I see them I see that photo of Jan in my head. This one.
I've found myself, in recent times, drawing for a living. Not good drawing really but now that I'm an interpretive designer and what I design has changed, the need to capture ideas quickly has become more pertinent. At first, I was a little reluctant; nervous at my ability; rusty. But needs must and two things surprised me: the first was that I wasn't awful and the second thing was that I enjoyed it.
Over the last eighteen months I've used a pencil to design sculptural lectern panels for an ancient fort, I've scoped out interior spaces for a derelict textiles mill and I've conceived physical interactive installations. With a pencil.
Back in the day, when I worked in England, I art directed an old-school marker visualiser to do this kind of thing. Boy could Jeremy draw. I'd poorly scribble an idea in front of him and he'd go away and perform magic with his markers. It was by far the best way to capture an idea – unhindered by the toil and tyranny of so called 'Mac visuals'.
I don't know how much value is given to the ability to draw these days in the world of graphic design. That's not a rhetorical statement, for all I know it's still prized like it used to be. My view of the world is distorted, what with my field of endeavour, being a bit out of touch and being blessed by working with a number of illustrators that can draw the crap out of me. And then there's the tech. Ever new ways to manipulate and originate an image – all those apps!
This all sprang to mind as I pondered why I'm obsessed with making these images on my phone. They couldn't be easier but I'm often surprised by the results. Mere mirrored images take on forms I was not expecting and with hardly a thought – serendipitous dark bits become alien eyes. Sticky out bits become limbs.
I use Diptic and make them quickly in batches once I stumble across source material. These are made from the annual debris found in our greenhouse. The realism of the original stuff, even after it's been abstracted, retains a foot in the real world and adds to the strangeness.
What's this got to do with drawing? Maybe not much but maybe a bit. Perhaps in the future we'll hark back to these days and lament the demise of Diptic or Brushes or, dare I suggest, Photoshop – because we'll be originating and manipulating images in all sorts of new ways. And it occurred to me that we're just using a tool to make an image. You might choose a pencil, you might choose a stylus. Messing about with a photo and Diptic is a bit like doodling with a pencil. It's fun, uses little brain power and can reap surprising results. It's not unlike what Alan Fletcher used to do, only he used scraps of print.
Popped into my favourite secondhand bookshop this morning.
Who knows what you might find?!
Shelves of partly thumbed, half read chick-lit and abandoned Harry Potters. Classical vinyl and the same reference books that were there one, two, four, eight years back. Series' on popular art and travel books for everywhere except where you want to go.
Back in 2012 American film director Errol Morris posted a quiz online in The New York Times. On the surface it appeared to be testing whether the participant was an optimist or a pessimist but really Morris was testing typefaces. He was toying with an idea: does the choice of typeface influence the credibility of a statement. Well of course it does. Anyone half interested in typography knows it does but Morris approached the task anew and concluded, rather precisely, that the most 'believable' typeface is the one from Birmingham, my home town.
I've always liked Baskerville. Not because it's from the city of my youth, but because of those lovely wide capitals, those round C's, O's and G's; the forthright stroke contrast; and those cheeky italics. Maybe, unknowingly, it's because of the authority that comes built into the design.
Fuelled by his findings, in the Pentagram Paper version, Morris dwells on Mr B. In Chapter 4 he takes a spin around the life and times of the man who, it turns out, was not too popular in his day. Baskerville had made his money in japanning and spent his spare time on his more calligraphic yearnings. Shacked up in his mansion with Mrs Eaves, JB indulges his love of the printed page while outside his reputation was being sullied. His republican views were not popular, nor was his atheism or his sleeping arrangements. As Morris reports, even after his death, "Baskerville stands accused of most everything: priggishness, arrogance, immorality, even illiteracy." – apparently the badly dressed man's correspondents were grammatical disasters.
Baskerville died in 1775 and his house was left to Sarah Eaves. After her death it passed into new hands and in 1791 it was destroyed by what seems to have been slightly ungracious party goers who got totally pissed in the wine cellar and set fire to the place. Several singed bodies were found in the remains.
The story continues, as does the cursed connected bad luck but I'll stop there because I need to take our hound for a walk.
It's a most interesting account with Ben Franklin, Voltaire and Beaumarchais all playing their parts perfectly. Although it occurred to me, right at the end, that the whole thing might be Morris taking his test to a whole new level. Perhaps the PentaPaper was just 76 pages of bullshit, beautifully typeset in Baskerville to see if anyone would respond to it all, say in a blog post for example, convinced of its validity.
Thirteen years ago we honeymooned near to Cortona, in the Italian province of Arezzo. We were staying near the top of an adjacent hill and most evenings would drive down from our love nest and up into the birth place of Futurist artist Gino Severini. Cortona was also the setting for Frances Mayes' 1998 International Best Seller Under The Tuscan Sun which was adapted into the damn awful film of the same same. Mayes must have been raging. I didn't read the book but I did eat the peach tart that Karen made from Mayes' recipe and it was excellent.
About four weeks ago we went back.
Cortona was and still is a beautiful hill top Tuscan town. It's busier than it was thirteen years ago, maybe a little more highfalutin, café prices a little higher. The main street has a few new shops including a fascinating den of objet d'art and ephemera. Mostly way out of our price range but I did fork out a handful of euros for two maps, neither of which featured Cortona but nevertheless held cartographic delights amongst their folds.
Both from the Touring Club Italiano, I can't find a print date on the older sheet but the younger espresso-stained sheet is from 1967 and comes complete with a pre-Pentagram Alan Fletcher designed Pirelli ad on the back. The ad was first seen in 1962 when Fletcher brought his tyre company client back to the UK as he joined up with Forbes and Gill.
I don't really go in for Penguin's Peregrine series. The books are too high-brow for the likes of comprehensive school educated me and I've never really felt that the cover designs hang together or stand out that well, unlike their aviary-mates. But Graham Bishop's cover for Y4 (Shakespeare's History Plays), first published by Peregrine in 1962, caught my eye and makes me think further investigations might change my mind. '62 was the year Peregrine's were first published, The Penguin Collectors' Society's Penguin Companion describes them as, "uncompromisingly academic", AKA "a bit dull". To start off with they were all about literary and historical criticism then in the '70s, the focus turned to more sociological matters, AKA "still a bit dull".
OK, "dull" is probably quite unfair but what definitely isn't dull is that lovely mark by the masterful Hans Schleger. If you're quick you could pick up a used copy of Pat Schleger's book on Hans for a ridiculous 98p on Amazon.
They said it couldn’t be done. They said, it was impossible. They said that 'The Thing' could not ‘travel’ to 'The Place'; that it could not happen. It was impossible.
Even now, some claim that it did not happen. They claim that it could not have happened. But let me tell you, with complete certainty, that it did happen. I know. I was there. I saw it.
Yes…the postman really did post a commemorative 45” single from 1969 through our letterbox. A letterbox, notably, not big enough for this vintage News of the World give-away. A letterbox that measures less than the requisite 7” across, at its widest point.
So how did he do it? I here you ask. HTF? (As the younger generation might abbreviate). How was it possible to bend the laws of physics, to pervert known science – to make something so big, fit through something so not big? How?
By bending it. By fecking bending it.
But this was no flexidisc, oh no. This disc did not flex. Or bend. It did not bend and it did not flex. It did not fold and it did not contort. It did, what it had to do. All that it could do.
It fecking broke.
We can send a man to the moon. We can record the account of that journey and we can press that account into a disc of plastic to be played back using a turny thing and a needle. We can package that disc of plastic inside a printed account of the remarkable happenings of that time. We can slip both disc and leaflet into a printed space map depicting the journey made all those years ago. And we can stick all that stuff into a specially manufactured glossy card sleeve with a moon boot on the front.
But we can’t post all that shit through a hole smaller than it without something happening that is not supposed to happen. It's a scientific fact.
For the last lots of months I’ve been immersed in the wild and wind-sweaped world of the Irish lighthouse. It’s been a challenging project, to say the least, and has involved many varied interesting things and not much time.
During the research period, I got my hands of a copy of Brown’s Signal Reminder – essential seafaring documentation. Now I can semaphore, code like a Morse, run alphabetical flags up my rigging whenever I feel like it and, crucially, harmonize my system of buoyage.
Well, it's Friday so why not – the last FTF was way back in January 2014. As Ms. Fili knows much better than I, Italia is awash with typographic joy. If you follow me on Instagram you'll have seen these and more, but I think they're worthy of another showing.
In Umbria €3, after a little accidental haggling, gets you a Nurse/Nun's vintage Red Cross ID card at the local flee-sized flee market that you accidentally pass on your way to buy your hungry family breakfast. Printed interestingness aside, the photo adds a whole other dimension to the ephemeric provocation: Who was this Nun/Nurse/Nurse-Nun? I don't know. But I do know my family is hungry so I'd better get a move on before they twig I'm taking too long.