Posted tagged ‘typography’

Playing With Titles

May 12, 2015

Planning is ongoing for future projects, and so is the play-time associated with the design of the titles. Here are three examples; which one do you like?

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I’m thinking the above works, but it begs the question: what is so important about the big E.S. (other than it fits in the middle and end)


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Not bad, again it looks cool, but comprehension is somewhat lacking. Then again, if you don’t know Ecclesiastes from the first 3 or 4 letters, there’s another comprehension problem. This model at least begs for a long, thin engraving on the reverse page, as you can see the spread is shaping out.Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 6.42.41 PMAnd this works as well, in that at least the change in direction does not follow in a “mid-word” crossover, like crossword puzzles. It opens the option for an illustration in the white space, or some text play, or just white space!


Measure twice, print once

December 13, 2013

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There is always the temptation to just throw the type down and print. But for the last few days, I’ve been setting and dissing type on the zombie book, working out the letter and word length for the fully justified columns of text. No ink involved at all. It’s important because there is no way this time that I will be able to set the entire text with the limited type that I have; page one on the press may face page four, so working out all problems in advance is the way to go. Also, setting and dissing the odd paragraph in different sizes helps me get reacquainted with the medium — it has been awhile since I did much creative work on the press (year round-up report coming later in the month). The good news is that I seem to have worked out most of the typographic spacing issues, and that’s thanks in part to using Adobe software (Indesign) to create my page layout and dummy. It allows me to parse the type to match very closely the metal type and thus, if the moon and stars align, it becomes a simple way to impose and paginate the text. It should work; I’ll keep you posted!

Zombies at Greyweathers Press

December 8, 2013

Laser printed layout dummy for the first page. The square beneath the drop cap shows spacing for a long, narrow illustration.

And so production begins on The Necromancer and the Seventh Daughter, the sequel to the popular Vampire & the Seventh Daughter that we printed a few years ago. I didn’t start the press for vanity purposes, but once in a while it is satisfying to watch one’s own words roll of the press. These “Gothick Trifles” as I call them harken back to my reading and viewing roots in sci fi, horror and fantasy literature so I consider these works more than most personal projects.


This was the title page for the first book. In it, we are introduced to Septima who, being a 7th daughter of a 7th daughter, has some extraordinary powers, and a particular brand of pugnacious courage that is a particular nuisance and foil to baddies. The baddy in that story was the vampire princess who was eating through her serving staff, and for some reason her father the king didn’t seem all that alarmed. Enter Septima and, well, it’s a fable so I’m hardly spoiling it to say that things go poorly for the vampire. This is often the case.

The second Gothick Trifle is longer, about 2,000 words and a bit more complex. I wanted to play with the story of the golem, but also work in some kind of environmental comment, and zombies, because, well, you know, zombies are hot.It may have been a bit too many devices for once very short fable, but there you go. The first draft was about 3,500 words. Even after crunching it down and taking out all the stuff I really liked, it still took about about 700 words of back story before Septima even got mentioned, so I rewrote the whole so that she came in at the beginning, and a little sooner in the story.

The first one had four pretty simple linocuts. This one will have perhaps eight wood engravings, or so that is my intention now.  I’ve doubled the paper (it will be sixteen pages as opposed to the previous eight) but I still thought I’d have to set in 10 point, but as it turns out, a little more judicious editing (the first draft was 3,500 words) and cutting a couple of illustrations means 12 point will work, which makes the setting job easier. Naturally, it will be hand set lead type, our house face, Italian Oldstyle. While I work on the type and engravings and printing, I’ll be pondering the binding, which I may do the same as the last one, or try something different entirely. I’m hoping for an edition of 75.



MONDO GRAPHICA at Studio 22 in Kingston

September 22, 2013


Years ago I went to Kingston to a show at a newish gallery in Kingston, located right downtown behind the domed city hall, adjacent the market square. They were holding a paper show; I think it was actually called ‘The Paper Show’ and I thought: “Well, this is different…. a fine art gallery that loves type and design.” That sensibility comes from Hersh and Ally Jacob. Hersh is a designer and book enthusiast who loves art and expression, and Ally has an incredible design sense when it comes to space and working out the intricate puzzle of how an exhibit fits together and still works. Together they run Studio 22, one of the coolest galleries I know.

Last night, on one of the wettest nights in a very wet year, they opened the doors on Mondo Graphica, an group exhibition featuring design houses instead of individuals. Holly and I went in together as The Studio at Greyweathers, one of the very few times we’ve exhibited under our actual business and partnership name. What a refreshing and interesting show! Hersh and Ally brought in some veteran designers and some new young talent as well, showing what strong design talent exists in the region.


Hersh Jacobs’ own work under The Idea Manufactory moniker – fantastic books and broadsides!


One view of our display at Studio 22’s Mondo Graphica.

It was great to see Holly's calligraphic designs out on show and available again.

It was great to see Holly’s calligraphic designs out on show and available again.

If I were beefed up a bit more I'd look like the  bodyguard for some nefarious kingpin. But dressing black is easy; really I'm just happy to be there and seeing all the cool design work.

If I were beefed up a bit more I’d look like the bodyguard for some nefarious kingpin. But dressing black is easy; really I’m just happy to be there, seeing all the cool design work.




Exhibition opens at the General in Almonte

September 3, 2013

If it’s autumn, then it’s the season for shows and exhibits. Holly and I have our work at The General in Almonte, Ontario for the duration of an exhibition called “Text Me!” The theme is right up our alley. It is a beautiful shop/gallery. The opening is this coming Friday, September 6th.

For more information on the General, click HERE.

The General Storefront in Almonte, Ontario

The General storefront in Almonte, Ontario. How a village in rural 19th century Ontario came to be named for General Juan Almonte is a bit of a story, but the store in named in honour of him as well. There is a extraordinary glass etching of Almonte over the door.




The Book Beautiful

June 27, 2013

A few weeks ago, a very kind man, in the midst of down-sizing, came into the studio and gave me book titled Notes: Critical & Biographical by R.B. Gruelle. Collection of W.T. Walters“, published and edited by J.M. Bowles in 1895, Indianaoplis and printed by Carlon and Hollenbeck. More significantly for me, the book was designed by a young Bruce Rogers, pretty obviously in the thrall of the style of Morris’ Kelmscott Press. Rogers would go on to become a renown book designer typographer, designing the  Centaur typeface, based on type he saw in Nicholas Jenson’s 1470 printing of a work by Eusebius.

Notes: Critical and Biographical was published in a “limited” edition of 975 copies. Walters’ collection became the foundation to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore; both he and his son both had an insatiable desire for art and exuberant facial hair.

Title page of "Notes: Critical and Biographical," designed by Rogers

Title page of “Notes: Critical and Biographical,” designed by Rogers


Page spread of the same book. Rogers designed the decorated initials and headbands as well.

Page spread of the same book (slightly clipped by my scanner, so imagine marginally more generous margins). Rogers designed the decorated initials and headbands as well. The typeface is not his; it is either Antique Oldstyle or Stratford Oldstyle, both predecessors of Bookman, which can be found on most computers today.


A sampling of Rogers' beautiful Centaur type from "The Centaur"

A sampling of Rogers’ beautiful Centaur type from “The Centaur”


Centaur used again for the Oxford Lectern Bible.


This is what happens when you give blackletter type to Italians during the Renaissance: Clarity. Jenson’s new-fangled “Roman” typeface circa 1475. It inspired Rogers to create a widely respected modern equivalent with Centaur.

W. Walters & son H. Walters, distinguished collectors of art and well-groomed facial hair.

W. Walters & son H. Walters, distinguished collectors of art and get a load of those ‘staches!





Choosing a typeface

November 21, 2012

When choosing a typeface for any particular job, I like to roll them out in a display of some sort. Books offer plenty of opportunity for typographic exploration, but let’s face it, the idea with a book (generally) is not to bedazzle or snap attention, but communicate the words clearly. So I work with a very small number of trusted faces – Garamond, Italian Oldstyle, Centaur, Caslon, Palatino, and two or three other fairly conservative and traditional choices. Clients like it because they almost always want a book that “looks like a real book.” I shy away from faces that are boringly ubiquitous – yes, I’m talking about you, Times New Roman. Everyone is aware of Helvetica now, thanks to Helvetica: The Movie; it is a utilitarian face with rabid detractors and equally ferocious cheerleaders. So it goes, in our ever-diverging binary world. Myself, I can take it or leave it.

I’m designing a book now featuring a lace collection. The owner of the collection is Dutch, so I felt it was time to do justice to the work with a decent European san serif face. The book is dominated by powerful black and white photos, so any san serif could not be too dainty, light or delicate.

I quickly lay out some san serifs, this time in 8 pt, more or less randomly from our Mac’s vast font of fonts. This is what it looks like:

Which to use? Which to use?

Clicking on the image will give you a close-up of various san serif faces. I scanned this sheet immediately after selecting three faces to be ousted, but prior to sending them off the island, so to speak. Three more iterations of this page left me with Gill, the dark horse Charlotte, Lucida, Optima and and old standard, Univers. Seeing those five against each other, I quickly brought it down to Gill and Optima, the chose Gill Sans.

Really, all of the five finalists are contenders and would have done a fine job. Ultimately, type faces are about personal taste and I dare say, mood; today I like Gill Sans. And I hate agonizing over a type face – I try to make the decision as quickly as possible, from the resources I have at hand and with as little sound and fury as possible.

A Sampling of Type for the Ottawa Press Gang

August 17, 2012

From the poster sized type sampler printed earlier in the year.

I’m my own worst enemy. I have ages to work on the most recent Ottawa Press Gang project. In this, participating members of the Gang supply a comprehensive sampling of types from their cabinets. My original goal was to do have the work done on this sampler form the foundation of a stand-alone type specimen of all the types in the studio – a kind of record before I send some of the display types off to other homes. But time has had its way, and now I have to rush, the deadline being one week hence.

I love these Press Gang projects; they keep the lead flowing. But I don’t like rushing to a deadline, even though I am utterly hard-wired that way. Having run through all of the 35 trays of type in my possession, and having set in some manner or another the type therein, I know my OPG contribution will be a bit compromised.

I had done the poster-sized sampler last year and learned a few lessons about setting up type specimens, and a few incongruities in the composition of several of my trays of type. Somewhere I described the trays of type that I have acquired from other sources as “quixotic” and I have no intent of changing the description. Having delved more or less exhaustively into all the cabinets, I have found some very intriguing variations on the lay of the California case.

Page layout for my Ottawa Press Gang (OPG) contribution.

Lord Tennyson, the shop foreman, is not pleased with my work. Or my working when he wants his dinner.

For this new project, even after planning the layout, I realized that some of the larger faces (e.g. 60 pt Cloister Black) would have trouble fitting into the prescribed format: 4.25″ wide x 11″ tall, or an 8.5×11 sheet folder lengthwise. So when I say this is a sampler, I really mean a sample – several samples do not include the complete font. Many of the smaller faces will be presented in their full glory, but constraint was necessary. Even thus restrained, my dummy rang in at 16 pages.

Garamond, set and ready to print.

In ideal circumstances, with oodles of time, I’d like to do a specimen with a little more scope. A consistent order. Careful selection of characters, with all of them represented. Spread out, give the layout room to breath, upper case, lower case, figures and small caps on their own lines, and the caps letterspaced. Perhaps opposite, in lieu of illustrations, designs created with the appropriate type. Get some colour into the mix. Well, food for thought, and probably a project down the road. Another thing I like about OPG projects is that they stand as a kind of think-piece or dry run for more ambitious future projects.

(Almost) everything I’ve got.

This week, I’ve been churning through spacing material, leading and quads, filling up half a dozen galley trays with 60+ uppercase and lowercase type. And not done yet: title page, two pages using the type in a design, and a colophon (and my weekend is toast!). I own adequate spacing material for 10, 12, 14 and 24 pt, with barely enough to get by on in 18 pt. Sure enough, eight faces had to be set in that size, and the larger faces – 30, 36, 42, & 60 – require 18 pt spacers in combination with other sizes (e.g. 18 pt + 12 pt spacers works for 30 pt type etc.). And I burned through my supply of 20 pica leading – at least a couple hundred lines, then. I’ll have to cut some more.

Next week: morning, noon, and night on the press.

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