Tag Archive: typography


Literature Art Music

“The publication of Perspectives and its sale at a low price that will make it readily available to students has been made possible through a grant from The Ford Foundation, established by the family of Henry Ford. The Foundation is dedicated to works of philanthropy, social welfare and education throughout the world. It is one of the objectives of The Ford Foundation to further friendship and understanding among the peoples of all countries through the exchange of cultural materials. Perspectives will be devoted chiefly to art, letters, and thought of the United States, but its sponsors are also preparing plans for activities aimed at presenting the cultural achievements of many other lands to American audiences.”

It was a couple of months ago now that I picked up two copies of Perspectives from Tombland Books in Norwich. Being a huge design geek when it comes to anything forgotten and retro, two magazines from the 50s was hardly something I was going to not buy. It’s also an added bonus that one of them, is the first ever issue. Now I’ve never heard of Perspectives, or any other design publications pre-1980 for the matter, but by the looks of things this was pretty groundbreaking stuff. I mean, the copyright year is 1952, so I’d be willing to be that a tri-monthly publication focusing on the arts was quite rare to say the least. They’re not even really magazines per say, at least not by todays standards, as they’re bound and of the same quality stock as your average paperback book. Along with issue 1 I picked up number 13 for it’s Bass-ian style cover:


Their content too, is structured and presented much more like a book, which gives these a pretty intellectual feel. And though the emphasis is firmly on ‘the arts’, they’re very well designed typographically. It may have been the 50s, but decent layout is pretty much timeless. This page below is a good example, retro yet intelligent and articulate.


When it comes to the actual articles, alot of it goes over my head, at times sounding more like a textbook with stuff like an essay by Jacques Barzun titled ‘America’s Romance with Practicality’, but there’s some really cool stuff from then new and exciting artists in America. Here’s a couple of the ones I really dug…


Like so much of the stuff I put on Coffee Stained Papers, these are relics of a part of the creative industry’s past that really shouldn’t be sitting outside a second-hand bookshop for £1 each. They should be preserved, cherished and most importantly appreciated. I think it’s weird that these things appear to have been pretty much forgotten about, as several Google searches only yielded a smattering of info and a couple of designers like myself who randomly came across a copy and dug the covers (like this dude here). Which is a shame, as the combined effort and progressive thinking that went into getting something like this published worldwide in the 1950s is a truly wonderful thing. Which I think is a nice note to sign off on, and I’ll leave you with a double page spread of the people responsible for bringing Perspectives to life (I particularly like the look of Lionel Trilling, what a fantastically 50s looking bloke, cut from the same cloth as the great Rod Serling, cigarette on the go, eat your heart out Don Draper).


For Craftsmen of All Ages

Tombland Books in Norwich is pretty much my favourite shop now. See they have these shelves outside the shopfront, with everything on them £1. The vast majority of my old book collection has come from those shelves, and to make it even better the guy once told me they give the money to chairty. Fucking-A. And to make it even better I had a scope round one of the book sellers in the market, one of the ones that has shelves and shelves of mostly damp crap from the mid-90s, found a couple of cool Pelican’s, and they were selling them for £4… seriously?! Right, off to Tombland then.

I picked up this copy of ‘Hobbies Weekly‘ from 1964, and this thing seems dated even for the 60s. Back then toys were made out of wood, and you could make things out of card and copper tubing. Much like the technical drawings in my last post, the illustrations and diagrams in this are pretty cool, and there’s some awesome old-school type and some vintage ads (“Airfix — Just Like the Real Thing!”). The paper is dirty and faded, and there’s no way in hell someone nowadays would build their own plinth for an aquarium, but I guess people did once upon a time, and this is a cool relic from that age.

Procedure When Making a Drawing

A few days ago I found myself in a charity shop in Diss (exactly why we ended up in Diss is a story for another day) when I spotted this old-looking book from 1957. For the not-too-bad price of £3, I am now the owner of Technical College Series’ ‘Engineering Workshop Drawing‘ Volume One. Like with most things I’ve been buying lately, if it’s old, chances are I’ll think it’s awesome. This book appeals to my design side thanks to the tons of blue-print style diagrams inside, especially the hand-drawn type adorning said diagrams.

The characters are just really cool. Rigid, electronic, retro and stylish, it reminds me of old fridges and televisions from the 50s. The thin weight and wide style looks great, and if I get a chance I may even try and turn it into a font. Like the Letraset catalogue I found last month, this book is another relic from a by-gone era of design, but this time it’s a whole other side of design, one that I haven’t really seen that much of. Engineering and mechanical design.

This akins back to the ‘graphics’ I had to do in high school for technology, which I never really liked and was sarcastic about constantly. Essentially it was just technical drawing, but all I remember doing was drawing inch perfect borders around A3 paper every lesson and very little else. Since getting into real graphic design I haven’t seen or had much to do with this sort of stuff, which is arguably just as big as the logos and adverts my colleagues and I design. The diagrams in this book though, almost seem like pieces of art. The type and precise drawings are really exquisite and look pretty funky, in a hard-working, machine kinda way.

Picture overload I know, but there’s so many understated, beautiful looking pictures I want to show as many as possible. The book itself if pretty worn, and looks like it’s spent quite a while sitting on some shelf in a workshop adorned with sawdust and insanely sharp pencils, which is rather nice I think. I’m not even sure if this sort of stuff is still practised anymore, as I would guess like my kind of graphics, it too, has become predominantly digital now. A shame, but at least we have books like this as a constant reminder of the talent and hard work put into things as simple as hinge brackets and limit gauges.

The Print Area is Indicated on This Page

Just a quick one today folks. I went back to uni last week to help sort out the studios for the start of the academic year, and as an entire room has been taken away from the course, we had to go through massive piles of stuff that’s been accumulating over the last 30 years or so. Most of it was rusty tool-box junk, useless admin forms and old cardboard, but amidst all the fail I found an old Letraset catalogue which, being the typography and design aficionado that I am, couldn’t help but really dig. During some down time I snapped a few photos on my phone, annoyingly I didn’t note what year it came out, but I’m guessing early to mid 80s.

Much like the stuff I found ‘From the Store Room’ and the ‘BS 5261C’ form, this is a cool relic from a time when the design industry was very different. Letraset is probably the best example of how things ‘used to be’, in particular their type transfer sheets that illustrate just how drastically things have changed. The typefaces, symbols and all the other various print-related stuff you could order has been arranged and set quite nicely, almost reminiscent of the modern infographic craze that has been sweeping the design world. With any luck there are loads of these catalogues still around somewhere, as this stuff needs to preserved, it’s just too cool to let disappear.

Happy Birthday to Me

Last week it was my 21st birthday, and after visiting a friend of mine who recently started working in Dubai, I was back in the UK less than 24 hours before heading  up to Blackpool with my closest friends to celebrate. The morning we left I received some awesome presents in the form of 7 old Penguin books, picked up from a charity shop. Now my friends know we very well, but it was still a lovely surprise. The exact present consisted of the books below (one is missing as I forgot to scan it in), one bottle of Asahi and two bottles of Tsingtao, which I drank copious amounts of in China, so thanks again, Ethan. On a side note, the Asahi website has some really cool Japanese style illustrations and graphics that I wouldn’t have seen unless I linked to their site, well worth a look.

These first two are nothing to shout about if I’m totally honest. The illustration on  ‘In a Free State’ , by Tony Scott, is rather surreal and to me the African tribe guys on the front kinda look like how your face goes after watching that tape from ‘The Ring’. Crayon illustration seems a rather unusual for a book cover, but that’s just because I’ve grown up in the age of computers and Paint Shop Pro. I much prefer the watercolour painting by David Gentleman on the other book. It’s rather plain, but has a ‘My wife paints in her spare time’ kinda quality, which I think is pretty charming. In fact, as I’m looking at it now, it’s really cool and refreshing to see a book cover that isn’t shouting at you for your attention, it’s a lovely, laid back little painting.

I quite like just how incredibly 60’s the cover for ‘Honey for the Bears’ is. Designed by Peter Bentley, the fat, rounded type and large-lined illustration, it could be right out of a BBC kids series, or a Woodstock flyer. After reading the blurb on the back though it appears he’s just translated the book’s title into a cartoon, where I think the actual story allows for some really imaginative design: “‘Honey for Bears’ is an Anglo-Russian comedy, which takes one, via laughter, into the heart of the Cold War world of mutual love-hate comprehension.” But then, what do I know? The cartoon could have already existed, or that could actually be a scene right out of the book, I’m just making massive assumptions so don’t take any criticism too serious if you’re reading this Mr. Bentley.

The back of ‘My Friend Says It’s Bullet-Proof’ (which I think is a great title for a book by the way) says ‘Cover design by Minale / Tattersfield / Provinciali’. I think it’s safe to assume at least one of those surnames is behind the great pencil sketch. If I had to guess I’d say one did the drawing, one did the hand-written title, and the other one just positioned them onto the cover. I really dig that drawing, as well as the blue title, and how it doesn’t fill up all the space available simply because it’s there. A good visual hierarchy too.

These last two are my favourites. ‘The Ginger Man’ above, designed by Henry Wilcock, looks great because of all the scratches and tears the plain black cover has endured since it was published in 1979. If it weren’t for the white imperfections, it would be, and still is obviously, an interesting cover design, thanks to the clashing typefaces. It’s weird and I’m not sure I like it all that much. The Impact-like font used for the authors name is the kind I’d expect to see (and usually do) on thrillers or spy novels, and the title font reminds me of the album cover for ‘The Sound of Bread‘, which my folks had when I was a kid. Also, why whack the author’s name centred at the top of the page when the Penguin logo occupies the upper-right corner? You’ve left tons of negative space, how’s about moving it down, or doing something to un-cramp that top line?

The one I can’t help but really like. Just look at how cheesy it is, the prim, distinguished looking Hornblower and that fancy, bold type. It’s not amazing, but I really dig it. The awesome illustration is by Kenneth Wynn (a very apt name as this book cover has WIN written all over it), and reminds me of the illustrated history books I’d often see years ago, very cool stuff. I’ve always envied people that can draw faces and have them look like real faces. Tat type too, very Herb Lubalin-esque and doesn’t quite seem right when it says it was printed in 1987. ’77 maybe, but that’s beside the point.

What cool presents, I now have even more wonderfully retro old books to add to my collection. Even more after our trip to Blackpool, but that will have to be its own post. Much love everybody.