New tunes on old strings

Type design / New tunes on old strings

One man’s gift to the world

Adding ooze to existing typefaces is not much of a challenge. And the demand for them is severely limited. But creation is its own reward: hundreds are available for free download. A few are actually pretty good. Mike Larsson’s 1999 ‘Bodybag’ design combines lettershapes evenly distorted and bold expression. In the ‘dripping blood’ category it is among the best.

Fresh start

In the long ago John Dreyfus, typographic advisor to Monotype, and I sat through a London gathering of sales teams and computer geeks. Flanked by Charles Geschke and Liz Bond, John Warnock announced in triumph that IBM had adopted PostScript, a new page description language. Big BLUE!

That evening was my introduction to Bézier curves; it was love at first sight.

After a run of only thirty years photocomposition was obsolete. Hot metal typesetting had locked customers into proprietary machinery and the type libraries that came with them. It was ingenious metal bashing of great complexity. But the engineers who took decisions thought providing a wider range of typefaces than necessary was a nuisance.

‘Device-independence’ was a death sentence for esteemed companies. PostScript-enabled computers could instruct any output device that had a PostScript interpreter.

Mighty contraptions were sold for scrap. Type libraries were the only asset worth anything. Hasty autotraces from scans in the crisis years are now collectors’ items. And suddenly anybody with a home computer and an idea could design typefaces.

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, as Wordsworth said of the French revolution.