& Assorted Other Tools ot the Trade
"Ci\e Qravcr or'Bwúlf
Thomas Cleland drew
this little diagram
comparing the flexible
pen and the nonyielding
graver to show how the
tool affects the
form of the letter.
' ery few designers today are adept at wielding brush or pen. Most
have never even attempted to do so. Abundant and accessible fonts have
largely obviated lettering, and most of us who endeavor to create origi¬
nal fonts and logos generally favor logically geometric styles that are so read¬
ily constructed in computer drawing programs. Lettering historian Oscar Ogg
observed that at a point, type became its own animal, unconcerned with how
the old tools, like the chisel, pen and brush, might have affected its forms.
Still, many of us admire these earlier lettering styles deftly drawn by stead¬
ier hands than ours. We try to replicate them in outline drawings and with
our bezier curves, expanding an entire alphabet from an old logo. Naturally,
the result is clumsy, but we are reluctant to get out a brush to discover what
the strokes of the missing letters might really look like, partly because we are
arrogant, partly lazy and probably mostly because we fear we won't do it well.
Calligrapher Rick Cusick laughed when I admitted I never could
stand calligraphy. "Yeah," he said, "there's always been a division between the 'built-up' let¬
tering guys and the calligraphers—with exceptions, of course. I never did understand it. They
both design with letters." To me, built-up (mechanically drawn, not single-stroke) lettering is
like a carefully honed studio recording. Calligraphy, however, can seem like a live concert
recording with a shallow, raw sound and awkward "accidentals." But calligraphy has grown on
me, and a distinction must be made between the calligraphy of high school diplomas and that
of experts whose work is often breathtakingly beautiful. To look at the work of old masters like
Rudolf Koch and Warren Chappell, or newer ones like Rick Cusick, Jill Bell, Michael Clark or
Paul Shaw, is to admire a skill, confidence and coordination comparable to champion gymnasts.
This section looks at traditional lettering tools, as well as some unusual ones, to under¬
stand how each informs the outcome of our letters. Ogg explains, "The reason that the letter-
forms of many early designers are superior to their modern counterparts is that the modern
letterers have attempted to arrive at the conclusions of the early designers without first
having become acquainted with the sources of their results."
EXERCISE From an art supply store, purchase a few Speedball "C" series flat-edged pen
points and/or a sign-painting brush. Practice drawing letters without a mouse. Try not to judge
your results harshly; the point is not to do perfect brush lettering, but to gain an understanding
of why, for instance, roman lettering naturally alternates between thick and thin strokes.
LOGO, FONT S LETTERING BIBLE
Albrecht Dürer knew a
thing or two about
drawing and also drawing
letters. He left us this
proportional guide to the
schrifts of the "German
school." Illustration from
Types de Lettres, pub¬
lished in Paris, 1895.