Examples of media
Image 1 shows a collage made of items of media related to the post. I hadn’t realised what a variety of patterns manufacturers use in the lining of ‘secretive’ envelopes. It’s very difficult to find postage stamps in use in Australia these days – largely because so much personal communication is electronic but also because commercial entities tend to use franking machines. Australia Post’s stamp designs were never as attractive as the Royal Mail. The predominant colours in this collection are the gold of the kraft paper envelope and the blue of the envelope linings and these do appeal so I’ll go with them for my colour scheme – perhaps a more Prussian blue, as well as the neutral colour of the brown paper and corrugated cardboard, and maybe some metallic gold.
Here is another example of an envelope lining (image 2) – I never dreamed until I took one apart that Tax Office envelopes contained what I take to be a representation of the Rainbow Serpent – a sacred ancestral being for many Aboriginal nations and language groups. What a pity the cultural appropriation has extended to chopping windows through the serpent’s head!
Items of stationery
Image 3 shows a photograph of some items of stationery I collected. Items which might bear further exploration in the context of this module include the concertina file in which I keep interesting papers; the portfolio thingy on the right of the photograph; the box of pens which is a repurposed soap box; the box of notelets next to the sticky tape and the folder of notelets on the left. Between the box and folder of notelets is a book with a woven spine I made in a workshop with Glenys Mann. I’m interested in book binding so am looking forward to exploring book forms later in this module. Image 4 shows some further ideas – magazine boxes holding textile magazines, and lever arch files where I store my completed module notes and printed feedback, and web resources which are useful enough to print and file (mostly from TextileArtist.org).
I made a couple of collages showing examples of different types and styles of lettering (images 5 and 6) – the first is composed predominantly of text from packaging (paper bags, labels, soap and food packaging) and the second, from cuttings from magazines and newspapers. What I found on the whole was that the styles of typography used tended to be more conservative than I was expecting. I suppose the designers are aiming primarily for legibility, in the context of whatever character or image they are aiming for for their particular product. The bookshop packaging, then tends to appear cultured and literate (serif fonts – I like Berkelouw’s B an W bookends); David Jones aims for a stylish vibe; Reid Cycles uses an italic sans font to convey speed and the City to Surf fun run is – well, about fun. I think the Jackman & McRoss, ‘artisan goods’, Annie Sloan and ‘amazing experiences’ probably have the greatest promise in terms of pattern and rhythm.
In the early 1970s, when my mother was in her mid-40s, she went to Sydney ‘Tech’ College for three years to retrain as a Showcard and Ticket Writer – a vocation which, sadly, has passed into history. When we were clearing out her house recently, we found an exercise book in which she had done a very similar exercise. I’ve reproduced a few of the pages in image 7.
I don’t know whether Mum was using different sources to the ones I referred to but on the whole I’d have to say that the 1970s examples are more flamboyant, more varied, more exuberant, more … wacky. It’s evidence, I suppose, of the way that text for advertising and editorial purposes is as much a fashion item as any other design element.
On the subject of packaging, I’ve collected a lot of tissue paper used in packing mainly clothing and fragile purchases and collaged them, just for fun (image 8). No lettering but an interesting variety of colours.
The beauty of different scripts most certainly is more obvious in scripts one cannot read. Image 9 shows some antique Japanese papers from Wafu Works in Tasmania which I bought for collages. I gather these are from account books and similarly quotidian sources – I shouldn’t be amazed just how stylistically different each of the examples is – the free and flowing script, the careful hand printing …
Also apparent are the differences between the various typefaces used in these cuttings from a Nepalese newspaper (image 10). The letter forms are very beautiful – my favourites are the ones which I suppose would be stylistically analogous to our serif fonts (especially the second one up from the bottom), with thick and thin letter elements
The letter shapes in the example in image 11 are also beautiful – Hebrew alphabet, as one might imagine, but not Hebrew text – it’s a translation of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky into Yiddish.
Images 12 and 13 show sections of old maps which have been reproduced as gift wrapping paper. I love the way the lettering has been integrated with the graphical elements of the maps to form a whole which is far greater than the sum of its parts.
The large-format postcard in image 14 is another item rescued from Mum’s house. It has special significance for me because it’s where I come from originally, but it’s also a really fine example of the beauty of the letter forms used and the way in which the text and the graphics have been integrated.
One of the things I found when I started to think about this chapter is the way in which designers have adapted ‘vintage’ style lettering and images for packaging. The paper bags in image 15 are good examples.
And, as images 16 and 17 show, the lettering is sometimes inseparable from one’s perception of the institution it represents.
Another really interesting thing we found at Mum’s (which promises to be useful for this Module) is her 1965 vintage Speedball Textbook (and a cache of Speedball nibs and pen holders and a steel brush which I will try out in Chapter 2). Images 18 to 21 show a selection of double page spreads which I think are particularly beautiful – both the alphabets presented and the examples of calligraphy: the early musical notation, sonnet and particularly the Arabic text from the Quran and the Italian illuminated manuscript.
Finally, and apropos the comments I made about text-as-fashion, I bought a beautiful book a while ago called Greetings from Retro Design which is a history of graphic design through the twentieth century. Images 22 to 24, from that book, show three rather remarkable examples of lettering used as a principal element in graphic design – first, from 1928 (by Paul Renner), then from 1967 (by Wes Wilson) and lastly, from 1979 but referencing an earlier style (by Paula Scher).