The Power of Letterforms by Rosemary Sassoon

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The Power of Letterforms by Rosemary Sassoon

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Publisher’s Synopsis:
This book is an extensive account of the numerous ways in which letterforms affect our everyday lives, exploring the many different types of letterform, such as handwriting, packaging and advertising design, logo and book design, typography and engraved letterforms.

Throughout this book, Rosemary Sassoon considers the way in which these different letterforms have a profound and persuasive affect on all of us, many of which we are distinctly unaware. For example, the ways in which our handwriting is the reflection of ourselves on paper, and the importance of typography and layout for the atmosphere of a design and how that influences the experience of the reader.

Letterforms find their way into everyday life, thus this is a fascinating book for all readers. An essential read for those who are in the creative industry, and a useful guide to those with a career involving letterforms.


About the author:
Born in 1931, Rosemary Sassoon has spent a life in design and letterforms. She is an internationally acclaimed expert on handwriting, particularly that of children. She is the creator of the Sassoon series of typefaces, which have been used across children's educational publishing for over four decades.

Her previous books (all still in print and available from www.calligraphity.com) include: The Practical Guide to Calligraphy, Creating Letterforms, Computers and Typography, Handwriting of the Twentieth Century, and The Art and Science of Handwriting.


The introduction to the book by the author:
Those of US whose interest and careers are in letterforms are a relatively small group of individuals. Whether scribes or less formal letterers, typographers, type designers or letter cutters or even those interested in handwriting, we can communicate with each other. We form firm friendships even though we may disagree about some things, sometimes. Outside our field we meet with total incomprehension, even incredulity, that we can fill our lives in such a way.

Someone may just have made an extravagant purchase that they can ill afford, seduced by the elegantly designed box that it was displayed in. Another person may have purchased a packet of biscuits or chocolate bar without really considering the contents, because of the delicious feeling that the packaging promoted. They will have discarded that box and those wrappers without a single thought, not realizing how they had been manipulated by the lettering and design.

When it comes to handwriting, people do not realize how their attitudes have been formed by how they were taught – whether it was a pleasurable experience or a misery. They deserve to understand how this may have affected their creativity, their careers and even their health You may not notice the difference that the typeface of a book makes to your ease of reading, but the way the instructions are laid out on pamphlet that comes with your chemists prescription makes all the difference to how you understand its contents - or even bother to read it.

Let me explain the sequence of skills involved. Handwriting is everyone's skill. We can either consciously or unconsciously affect its forms, adapting it to our needs, but essentially it is the reflection of our self on paper, the natural trace of our own hand.

Formal writing, pen lettering or calligraphy, whatever you choose to call it, is to a certain extent affected by the implement used. The broad-edged nib controls your hand and forms the basic letters. Once having perfected the model, and learned to control the spacing you can forget about the actual production of letterforms and be more creative, but this takes time. Tension and hesitation may still be evident early on. There is the worry of how to deal with spacing when you get to the end of a line and fear of spelling mistakes always at the back of your mind. It is not easy to explain how you can be affected by the content of your subject in a way that the emotion that the text evokes in you shows through your letterforms. Eventually the purpose of whatever job you are undertaking will govern its atmosphere and it will be evident through your Work, leaving you to be more creative if demanded.

Next comes freely drawn, painted and designed letters such as those needed in imaginative advertising, packaging, and for designing book covers, logos, etc. Once this would have been considered comparatively was, but not today. It should be relatively simple to use your imagination to reflect the image you want to project, but l suppose you need a repertoire of forms in your mind to be free enough to reject pre-designed models and just go for it. This is now the kind of lettering I enjoy teaching, releasing the designer's imagination to flow freely and react to any circumstance.

Next might come typography and type design. Each letter of a typeface must be perfect in itself, and fit well with every other letter in the alphabet irrespective of whether it is being designed for a certain purpose or to be a creative or commercial enterprise. It is a highly skilled profession, no longer involving casting in metal but, once designed, involving many hours of work in perfecting and digitizing. Last of all comes letter cutting in stone, slate or wood. It is a traditional, essential and serious craft taking many years to perfect. Designing a meaningful and beautiful memorial in discussion with the bereaved, or fitting a plaque or integral message in with the architecture of a national monument, their work has to stand the test of time. Many of the exponents of these differing areas of expertise first learned about formal letterforms through calligraphy. Their work impinges on all our lives.


Booksellers comments:
This is a fascinating little book and is organised into five subject areas:
  • Understanding the Affects of Handwriting;
  • Calligraphy and Lettering;
  • Packaging, Advertising, Logos, Book Jackets, etc;
  • Type Design; and
  • Carved, Cut and Engraved Letters.
It is very well illustrated with pieces of work from the likes of Ewan Clayton, Michael Harvey, Martin Wenham, Rachel Yallop, David Kindersley, Lida Cardozo Kindersley, Patricia Lovett, Izzy Pludwinski, Herman Zapf, Ann Camp, Eric Gill, Gaynor Goffe, Paul Antonio, and many, many more. Very interesting, very informative.


1st edition, 2015, hardback, 120 pages, very well illustrated manly in full colour, 15 x 21 cm



The Power of Letterforms by Rosemary Sassoon
£12.99 EUR 16.01