THE COLOSSAL, STUPENDOUS 19TH CENTURY WOOD TYPE EXPLOSION!
Develop a book that covers a specific chapter of typographic history. Write an original manuscript that draws on extensive library research. Using sourced images and illustrations, lay out the book using a consistent design solution that accurately reflects the subject matter.
THE COLOSSAL, STUPENDOUS 19TH CENTURY WOOD TYPE EXPLOSION! is a 48pp design text that inundates the reader with the excessive and expressive style of typography during the Industrial Revolution.
Identity + Mark | Illustration | Editorial Design + Layout | Copy Writing + Editing
Garish display faces of the 1800s are a unique aspect of American graphic design history. No other typographic style so easily evokes a particular time and place--the Wild West. I wanted to trace this lineage, from Fat Faces to Egyptians, Sans Serifs to Clarendons and Ornamentals. Pouring over original specimens in the rare book room of the public library provided insights into the often anonymously parented typefaces of the nineteenth century. Although Rob Roy Kelly’s American Wood Type: 1828-1900, proved indispensable, this is a story that has never been told with the appropriate visual flamboyance.
This project gave me the opportunity to conduct extensive research, distill my findings, and craft a narrative that I felt best fit the material. I chose to rely upon sourced imagery and type specimens, but took great liberties in colorizing and otherwise altering their presentation to liven the design.
I decided straight away that the feel of the book should be overwhelming. History is my greatest passion, and I feel that the reason that many people lack interest in the past is that they’ve become accustomed to the rather drab ways that it’s presented in school.
I reasoned that the best way for the reader to understand the design sensibilities of the age--which were quite excessive and gaudy to say the least--was to inundate them. The layouts are intentionally crowded, with onion layers of type and images screened back beneath the content of every spread.
The type for this piece is, quite naturally, expressive and excessive. Because I used so many original samples (scanned in, redrawn and re-colored) throughout, it was important that the system holding the text together was simple enough and streamlined to keep the reader on track.
Despite the face being a bit large and wide for body copy, Clarendon conveys the material well and provides a warmth and personality often lacking in history texts. The face also pairs well with Jackson Burke’s Trade Gothic, which is used for captions. For the header classes, Joy Redick’s Mesquite for Adobe (which is ornate and highly condensed) is contrasted with Blokland’s Zapata for FontFont (the slab serifs of which sit far wider).
Besides the expected cast of browns, oranges and reds, I added a few cooler colors to round out the palette. Much of the source material was originally greyscale or sepia, so I took the liberty of colorizing select images to liven them up. This also pays tribute to contemporary wood type printers like Hatch Show Press, who use a far wider set of inks than those available in the nineteenth century for their designs. Rather than print on regular paper, I found a parchment stock that felt antiquated without diminishing image and type quality. The result is dusty yet distinguished.