glamorous collection of font sets and graphic designs
This is a follow-up to the excellent 130 Alphabets and Other Signs – a fascinating collection of font sets, alphabet design, and attractively printed designs from the early part of the last century. The sources of this new collection are wonderfully assorted. There are plenty of straight font sets, but also monograms, letter headings, packaging labels, posters, shop signs, opticians’ eye test charts, book jackets, film posters, technical manuals, propaganda leaflets, magazine covers, and dingbats. The selection reflects mainly European modernism, and Art Deco – though there are also novelties from Mexican graffiti art and Asian medicine labels.
The materials are the products of the main centres of modernist design in the first third of the last century: largely French, German, Czech, and Russian. The selection of material comes from private collections in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, New York, and Mexico City.
Many of the designs appear here for the first time since their first use. Some of the examples, such as Karel Tiegel’s photo-balletic alphabet of 1926 and a Spanish civil war manual for illiterate soldiers, have never been reproduced before since they first appeared.
I was slightly disappointed that there’s so little explanation or comment on the materials – except for some rather cryptic notes on sources in the index. This seems to have been done to keep the display area free of any visual clutter.
Each large page is striking in its muted, silkscreened colours, and the book itself is beautiful, with rounded corners, pre-faded yellow edges, and green splotchy endpapers.
It has to be said that the main charm of this book is its unashamed retro feel; but I would defy anyone not to be pleased with the result. It is beautifully designed and produced, well printed (in Hong Kong) and altogether a must-have for anybody interested in typography, design, or attractive books.
© Roy Johnson 2004
Julian Rothenstein and Mel Gooding, A B Z: More Alphabets and Other Signs, London: Redstone Press, 2003, pp.221, ISBN: 1870003330