Sunday, 12 June 2022

A unique look at the wartime world...5/5

Richard Harrison created these unique maps in the early nineteen-forties to give readers an idea of what the world looked like from the perspective of the countries involved in World War Two. His fresh approach to map-making started by photographing a large globe from different angles which allowed all the maps to show the curvature of the earth. I thought the maps (or should that be accurate illustrations?) looked very convincing because mountain ranges are shown in dark colors creating a dimensional effect on each spread.

The first map in the book 'One world, one war' was used in Fortune magazine and drawn showing the Soviet Union, in black, as part of the Axis powers, the book version shows the Soviet Union in red as it was now part of the Allies. The first few pages, printed in black and sepia, show countries outward from the US and Europe. these are followed by the colored map pages. These produce interesting spreads like Europe from the east, USSR from the south, Japan from Alaska or Japan from Siberia. They throw up countries that have changed their names, like French Indo-China, Netherlands Borneo, East Prussia. The last map spread shows 'Great circle airways' and breaks away from the book's map format and reveals airline routes as straight lines between cities. it seems it was possible to fly from New York to Chungking in China. There is an eleven-page index in the back pages with about 3400 places.

I read about Harrison's book and found a couple of maps on the net and it intrigued me enough to find a copy. Luckily my copy was in good condition but minus the cover jacket. It seems copies are really scarce now, it was initially published in 1944.


Saturday, 11 June 2022

One man's big book of design whimsy 1/5

This is really a 230-page book of nicely printed (with a 175 screen) eye candy. Published in 2007 and designed a bit before that so now the pages look quite dated. From the Contents page onwards it's a visual explosion on every spread.

Any book on design will be heavy on typography, chapter XXII (who uses Latin in this digital age) has a Chronology of Fonts over thirty-two pages and printed a separate paper to the rest of the book. An impressive selection of mostly unreadable faces is revealed as display alphabets and also set in definitely unreadable text settings. I wonder if the use of these faces could be classed as visual pollution?

No part of the book has been left untouched by design. For example, the pages numbers start out as centred on the bottom margin, then as 22&23 on the left-hand side of spreads, from 43 changing to individual numbers per page on the left and right, centred again on the page margin from 68 (ten pages before this have no numbers). The chapter on Damian Hirst changes to 092+093 top left of each spread. Chapter XVII reverts to 112 and 113 on a spread. 236 to 246 have no numbers. This is tedious nonsense devoted just to the page numbers.

I was recently reading another designer's 'bible', The Vignelli Canon (ISBN 978-3037782255) published in 2010 and in just 112 pages world-famous designer Massimo Vignelli packs in a ton of design theory and practical information and all the page numbers are in the same place, too. Vignelli makes an interesting point about types, he uses a basic six and no more than twelve standard faces that have been around for decades.

The BB is very reflective of British popular graphic design at the turn of this century but I thought looking so dated now. Incidentally, I found my copy on the net at just under a fiver (free postage, too) so look around if you want a copy.

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

Just your type 5/5

The Page type specimen book seems to have generated some awesome praise, especially from non-professional typographers. But from the embossed front cover to the last page this really is an impressive bit of marketing by a wood letter manufacturer.

Type makers need to offer their wares to printers with printed samplers showing a few arbitrary words in the various point sizes but William Page took it a step further showing his one and two-color type (in capitals only) centered inside one of the company decorative borders on each page and obviously two-color type needs to be just that: printed in two colors.

I'm assuming that the book's pages are more or less the same size as Page's sampler, the generous margins, color borders and type all come together to create a visual masterpiece (and several pages almost worth framing). The types are all named with their line-height and cost, likewise with borders which are sold in foot lengths. Page ten in the book shows the price list and classification for the number of letters in each alphabet: 2A has three cap Es and two As, 5A has six Es and five As. Oddly none of the fonts offer a dollar sign.

The book is a handsome production, printed with a 175 screen on a smooth matt art paper. Esther Smith's essay says that Page printed a thousand copies of the specimen book, incredibly few are known to exist (in past decades what printer would bother to keep a type sampler?) but this book will allow a wider readership to enjoy the art of wood type.