Here's а В that is about as
inside the box as you can
get, because it's inside a
box. And though there will
be many who would claim
that the way the stroke of
the top bowl narrows as it
hits the bottom bowl is just
the way the brush or chisel
naturally forms the stroke,
in my opinion this aspect of
the Trajan Column B, as
interpreted by Frederic
Goudy in a woodcut from
his 1936 book, Capitals
from the Trajan Column
at Rome, is just sublime.
Out of the Box Before There Was a Box
DV the time several thousand years
UI have come and gone, there's pretty
much nothing left to try that hasn't already
been tried by somebody. That goes for spear¬
head designs as well as alphabets.
But cultural boxes develop that stifle cre¬
ativity through nonverbal agreement and
millennial myopia that says, "Here's a style
we all accept and if you don't follow it,
nobody'll buy your stuff." So we all go from A
to B, and maybe to C, but access to D is denied
because our minds seem to be capable of tak¬
ing only baby steps toward the future. That's
why computers go from 300MHz to 466MHz
to 700MH.Z instead of leaping from 300MHz
to 1GHz. Those who do dare to leap ahead
may be stoned (either connotation works).
Then, too, styles of design, like styles of
thought, are subject to whether the moon is
in Pisces this millennium or if Mercury is
casting a dark cloud over everything relating
to communication, publishing and clip art.
That's why in the 1980s everybody went red-
and-black "Eurostyle," sniffed coke and
bought real estate. Here, in any event, is a
gallery of letters and designs that, if not quite
representing leaps from A to D, still surprised
me when first I came across them.
As everybody knows, life through reincar¬
nation is an everlasting continuum. I've
noticed that a little bell seems to go off in my
mind every time I do something that perhaps
I've never done before in all my past incarna¬
tions. It's the same feeling I get the first time
I see something new in lettering. Some of you
may not get the same kick I got from these
examples; you may have seen them before.
Nevertheless, they are presented here with
captions describing just what I found unique
about each one.
The lettering above came from the book Lettera by Armin Haab and Alex Stocker. It was published
in Switzerland in 1954, yet it contains some of the most exciting, unusual and creative lettering
I've seen. Did the authors presage the psychedelic and 1960s type revolution by twelve years, or
was the book simply used by later designers to steal from? Both suppositions are undoubtedly true.
In any event, these and other amazing examples in the book were definitely cutting-edge.