On July 2, 1978 the New York Times made a significant technological leap when they scuttled the last of 60 manually-operated linotype machines to usher in the era of digital and photographic typesetting. When working at 100% efficiency with an experienced operator the Linotype machines could produce 14 lines per minute cast on the spot from hot lead. That number would increase to 1,000 lines per minute the very next day using an array of computers and digital storage.
Typesetter Carl Schlesinger and filmmaker David Loeb Weiss documented the last day of hot metal typesetting in a film called Farewell — ETAOIN SHRDLU (the obscure title is poignantly explained in the film). This amazing behind-the-scenes view not only captures the laborious effort to create a single page of printed type, but also the the emotions and thoughts of several New York Times employees as they candidly discuss their feelings about transitioning to a new technology. One man decides he’s not ready for the digital age and plans to retire on the spot after 49 years, while others seem to transition smoothly into the new methods of production.
This historically significant documentary was digitized in 2015 and made available online in HD from Linotype: The Film, another documentary about linotype printing that includes portions of Farewell. While I’ve always been somewhat familiar with the history of typesetting and printing, I didn’t fully grasp the absurd mechanical complexity and scale required to print a newspaper before the digital age. Each newspaper page was cast in a 40 lb. block of lead!? A huge number of employees were deaf!? If you’re a graphic design or typography professor, here’s a great way to spend 30 minutes.
If you’re super interested, the New York Times TimesMachine has a complete high resolution scan of the final hot metal typeset newspaper made in the film. (via Reddit)
It’s been awhile since we’ve written about Meg Hitchcock‘s work (previously), first covering her practice in 2011 when she spent 135 hours gluing tens of thousands of individuals letters from the Koran to transcribe the Book of Revelation from the Christian New Testament. Hitchcock continues to produce religious-based text works that dissect the word of God, discouraging her audience from a literal reading by ignoring punctuation and spacing in the sentences she forms. Recently her text drawings have become a bit more figural, forming feet, scarves, and niqabs on paper with thousands of sourced letters.
“The labor-intensive aspect of my work is a meditation practice as well as an exploration of the various forms of devotion,” said Hitchcock in an artist statement. “A long history in evangelical Christianity formed my core beliefs about God and transcendence, but I later relinquished the Christian path. I now gravitate toward Eastern Mysticism, and am deeply moved by Islam. My work is a celebration of the diverse experiences of spirituality and the universal need for connection with something greater than oneself. In the end, the holy word of God may be nothing more than a sublime expression of our shared humanity.”
Hitchcock’s work is currently presented in the group exhibition “This is Not a Book” at the San Jose Institute for Contemporary Art through September 11, 2016. (via Booooooom)
In true-crime books and tv shows, there’s always the point where somebody calls the handwriting profiler to do a behavioral analysis on some unknown criminal’s signature or a quick note left on a scrap of paper. Who is this person and what does their haphazard crossing of t’s and slanted letter o’s say about them? Artist Annie Vought is also fascinated by handwriting in connection to identity but in a more emotional and artistic sense.
Working with pieces of paper, the Oakland-based artist cuts sentence after sentence from large sheets of paper turning personal letters into physical objects. Sometimes the pieces are legible, meant to be read letter for letter, while others a chaotic tangle of typography, meant to covey more of a feeling than a message. She shares in an interview with the Art Museum of Sonoma County:
In the penmanship, word choice, and spelling the author is revealed in spite of him/herself. A letter is physical confirmation of who we were at the moment it was written, or all we have left of a person or a period of time. I also think a lot about the relationship between the public and the private, or more specifically about how the private side of ourselves can be made public. I want to be respectful of people, but I recognize that I’m actively exposing them through their written communications. But in the exposure is a vulnerability we all share. I’m interested in human relationships, overall— the ones we have with ourselves and others.
Of particular note in Vought’s work over the last few years is a mammoth piece titled “Gosh I’ve been here before,” a 41″ x 53″ cut paper sculpture of words and patterns that spirals like the rings of a tree. You can explore it up close and inquire about it over on Artspace. You can see a bit more of her work on Instagram and through Jack Fischer Gallery.
Artist Mathieu Tremblin recently took to the streets of France on a rather quixotic mission to improve the legibility of ugly graffiti. Mimicking the scale, color, and layering of each tag, Tremblin created his own replica in a perfectly crisp font. It’s hard to say if either version is more aesthetically pleasing, but he definitely gets an ‘A’ for effort. (via Design You Trust, thnx Nikki!)
For a recent promotional campaign, German creative firm Deepblue Networks collaborated with illustrator and graphic designer Florian Schommer of Kjosk Collective to create a series of animated buildings using the letters of their logo. The 8 illustrations turn each letter of the logo into a multi-story building and imagines the staff working inside. You can see the full presentation here. Creative direction by Burkhard Müller. (via Behance)
Turkish graphic designer and electrical engineer Tolga Girgin continues to experiment with calligraphy that seems to jump off the page. Girgin uses shading, shadows, and different forms of perspective to create three-dimensional letters that float, stand, drip, and slant. You can see more on Instagram and over on Behance. (via Lustik)