Every designer, regardless of race, creed or nationality, understands the language of type. A graphic designer who is not fluent is not a graphic designer.
In Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, aliens communicate to humans through mathematics. One could argue that type is the mathematics of graphic design. Designers (who are sometimes considered alien) share their passions through type. Not all designers can understand what is communicated through Roman, Arabic or Cyrillic scripts, but they can embrace all letters in the abstract and intuit intent.
When playing with or caressing type, it is not so much what it says, or in what specific tongue a message is communicated that matters most. An understanding of content and context is essential but, typographically speaking - that is, in terms of the letterforms - beauty, however defined, is key. The beauty of precision, the beauty of expression, the beauty of how one letter conjoins with others on either side of it and above and below, the beauty of how it looks on page or screen. Alas, unlike mathematics, which is presumably the lingua franca of interplanetary life forms, type probably will not translate well on other stars, moons and planets, but it is certainly what joins diverse designers together through common passion.
There are two kinds of type maker (though many more kinds of type user, which is another story). One is the precisionist or functional designer who creates typefaces for quotidian public consumption. The other is the gadfly or expressionist designer who makes - or, rather, illustrates - letters in any shape or form: legible or illegible it doesn't matter, as long as it emotes, In the process of assembling this collection of typographic sketchbooks we sought out both kinds of maker (since all graphic designers are also users, users were not the targeted segment). It was fairly obvious from their responses which individuals did what kind of type design. Even these personal books and scraps that were never meant to be seen in public revealed the discipline, or lack of it, that defines the designers practices.
Masters of functional design, such as Matthew Carter, Erik Spiekermann and James Montalbano, never really let their hair down. They showed their resolute precision even in the most informal contexts. But functional purity is not limited to veteran type designers. Look at Tom Geismars roughs for logos or Oded Ezers Hebrew lettering to find sketches that could easily be used as finishes. Even hand-lettering mavens such as Niels Shoe Meulman are careful not to make a misstep even in sketch form.
Yet sketchbooks are intentionally informal - a place to rehearse, experiment or just play around. The vast majority of pages selected for this book are indeed typographic playgrounds, where anything from doodles to noodles to more ambitious renderings are nurtured and stored. For the most part the type is the main focus, as in Leigh Wells’s notations of vintage signs. But illustrations such as Tom Schamp’s delightful anthropomorphic letters are also included. Sometimes sketchbooks reveal the progress of assignments, as ideas are developed. Others as wonderfully random musings (in print and on printouts from the screen), like Pedro lnoue’s drawn and constructed concoctions. In many instances they are novel approaches that lean more towards fine than applied an, as with Aleksander Maæašev’s Moleskine books filled with a wide array of drawings, paintings and cuttings. Pierre di Sciullo says a sketch can “sometimes be viewed for itself, not like a former step of something else."
The designers here agree that their sketchbooks are aide-mémoires for ideas that would otherwise be forgotten, but we view these type sketchbooks as having one key thing in common: they are personal narratives, not conventional stories but tales about form and content. Through sketched and finished letterforms we see how type designers and typographers address the vessel in which meaning is contained. While many of these alphabets are designed to be neutral, many more are meant to be demonstrative - not only to aid a story but also to fill in the gaps.
As Ovidiu Hrin notes:
These books help me very much with a clear overview and insight into my past self. Every now and then I take one or two days off and take every journal, almost page by page, to see who l was, what l was thinking and how everything relates to this moment I’ve created for myself.
This book contains an insight into the thought processes of over 100 of the world’s leading typographers and graphic designers as they open up their private sketchbooks.
Katie Lombardo’s beautiful letters are in this book, Jonny Hannah has his work here too, along with Tim Girvin. Kevin (six-penny anthems) Cornell and Julian Montague do too. David Pearson from London, Viktor Nübel from Berlin, Austrian Titus Nemeth (now from Paris) Victor Melamed from Moscow and Saed Meshki from Tehran all have work in here. Christina Rüegg, Ina Saltz, Laura Varsky, Tiana Vasiljev, Leigh Wells, are amongst the ladies who have work here. Job Wouters is here as is LETMAN!! Sam Eckersley and Stuart Rogers and seeing RED!! Paul Shaw, Andy Smith, Tom Schamp, and Sumner Stone along with around 100 more typographers and / or graphic designers also have work here in this amazing, one of a kind book.
1st edition, 2nd print 2014, paperback, 368pp, full colour throughout, fully illustrated, 18.5 x 24.3cm