Editorial Eye 86
This type special contains several examples of letters that lie some way off the usual typographic map – stencils, Tony Brook’s bespoke identities, Letraset’s wet and dry transfers, fairground painting and public lettering in the books of Alan Bartram.
Stencil letters predate moveable type as a means of printing by many centuries, as Eric Kindel explains in his erudite overview, ‘A tradition with breaks’. Yet in the ‘official’ history of type, in the context of letterpress or digital type, the ‘breaks’ in stencils are stylistic tropes. On the streets, where stencils remain the most effective way of fixing letters on surfaces – such as crates, walls and skips – they demonstrate their timeless utility.
The letters of ‘futuristic’ Fred Fowle also have an arms-length relationship with type history. Their hyped-up swirls almost belong to an alternative future, like the steampunk visual meme, whose origins are explored by John Coulthart in ‘Vapour trails’.
Letraset occupies another parallel universe, a ‘game-changing’ technology that came and went in a generation, but left a cultural impact – and a long-lasting affection for its typefaces – revealed by the turn-out for our recent Type Tuesday evening in London. We look forward to seeing you at our next events.
First published in Eye no. 86 vol. 22 2013
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