It’s here! It’s here! It’s here!

The title of this post could mean a multitude of things, such as: Friday is here! Autumn (my favorite time of year) is here! My birthday is here! (Yes, today is my actual birthday! Hello 27!) In short, the title means all of these things because they are all true. But what’s really here is even bigger!

Let’s take a little trip down memory lane for a moment. Two and a half years ago I met a lovely woman named Gail Anderson at the HOW Conference in Denver, Colorado. Name ring any bells? It should! She has a career that others only dream about, she has authored/co-authored many books, teaches at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, and travels the world speaking on numerous topics. The words “design royalty” come to my mind…

At this particular conference she was presenting on graphic designers and the things we collect. While her collections ranged from bottle caps and salt/pepper shakers, I was running through my own head of the collections I have. We’re creative people, we can’t help ourselves! It’s during her talk that I realized that she was THE Gail Anderson who had co-written New Vintage Type and New Ornamental Type with Steven Heller. Whoa! I had been in love with the covers and content of those books for ages. I had to meet her without a moment to loose!

I waited until the swarm of people had abated and then I approached her. I think I had stopped breathing at that point. I asked her politely if she would mind signing the book (Incidentally I had a well-worn copy of New Vintage Type at home, but I went and bought another copy so that she could sign it! Total nerd moment!) She graciously accepted. As she was signing (I’m still not breathing), I told her that I wanted to design books and then wanted to see them in bookstores. That’s all I wanted to do. She paused and asked me what I did currently. I replied that I worked for a medical device company. Her reaction was one that I had clearly had many times…haha We quickly moved on…

So I asked her if she would be willing to take a look at my website that I had just put up and give me some feedback. She graciously said yes and we exchanged business cards. After that, everything changed. A couple months later Gail approached me about this book she and Steven Heller were working on about modern type. If I decided to work on it, it would be like an internship: little pay and long hours. I believe my response was was polite and concise. However, in the privacy of my own home, I believe I jumped up, yelled out a “yippee” and did a happy dance!

That was several years ago now, but the product of that chance meeting and me mustering up some courage, has finally seen the light of day. Through countless hours, ridiculous amounts of emails, and the hard work of Steve, Gail, Christine (head researcher and all around fantastic person!) and myself, the editors and staff at Thames & Hudson, world-class type designer Bonnie Clas, plus all the work contributed by awesome and amazing designers and studios around the world, we have a completely beautiful book.

I am proud to announce the publication of New Modernist Type by Gail Anderson and Steven Heller.

It’s a heady experience to type that and know that I was part of it. The experiences I had because of this book, the things I learned, the conversations I had, the people I met…Well I will never forget it. I will forever combine my birthday celebrations with the week that “the book” (as my friends and family so fondly called it) was published and was introduced to the world. Thank you to everyone who supported me and kept excited about the prospect of this book. Really, thank you.

This book is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and basically any good bookstore that knows what they’re doing!

I don’t have my official copy yet, but the good photos are coming soon! Plus be sure to check out the acknowledgement’s page…you might just see a name you recognize!

The Typographic Universe: Steven Heller & Gail Anderson

Paper because…

As I was thumbing through my newest installment of National Geographic I came across the most intriguing ad. Being a graphic designer in marketing, I tend to look at the ads, even when I would rather ignore them and get to the good facts about some bizarre island that can’t be found that breeds a type of bird that has never been seen but that likes to sleep upside down. I truly love National Geographic. But I digress. I came across a rather simple, but colorful ad that with two people looking at a map, clearly dressed for the outdoors, with a headline that said, “Paper because a lot of places worth going don’t get a signal, and hopefully never will.” Whoa. That was simply my first reaction. I just couldn’t believe that here was an advertisement that wasn’t directly trying to get a graphic designer or office interested in their paper products and more importantly, it wasn’t in an industry magazine such as HOW, Communication Arts, etc. I was thrown for a happy loop!

As the shock finally wore off, I saw the logo in the bottom right hand corner. The ad was for Domtar Paper (here). Admittedly not my favorite paper company, but dang it, if this ad wasn’t turning my thoughts around. So as usual, I donned my research hat and starting poking around trying to find out more and Domtar was completely prepared. The ad I saw was only one advertisement of a whole campaign to battle the “go paperless” statement that seems to appear on anything paper or that could appear on paper, such as emails or bills. Well, no wonder. The “go paperless” campaign has been put forth by technology based companies to push their products, so it was only fair that the paper companies have the same chance to fight for their products. I applaud them, especially with something so creative. They have made Paper an entity on their site. There is even a letter from Paper to the audience, reminding them about how many great times they’ve had together and that they’ve been together for so very long. All very true statements.

Their website goes even further than just helping their audience fall back in love with paper. They have made some very poignant and rather socially pointed ads (see here) showing how leaving paper behind and going completely forth with technology based forms of communication might indeed be hurtful to society, both socially, historically, financially, and environmentally. Then, making sure that they’re not getting too serious with their cause, they have made some very funny short videos (see here) likening paper to drugs, what would actually happen if paper was rationed, and then taking it even further that is the world goes completely “paperless” what would you use to…um…take care of things in the bathroom.

Here is one of my favorite videos…

It is no secret that I love paper. For years now I have been collecting everything printed ephemera from books, menus, postcards, gift tags, signs, and just sheets of paper from around the world. It’s a fascinating concept to me that something that is so seemingly fragile can last for a thousand years. I recently heard a startling fact that the Library of Congress put forth. They stated that in 100 years all of the current, digital archives that they have will be corrupt and no longer useable. Say what? Yet the Gutenberg Bible, which is not even the oldest form of paper in archive currently is 562 years old (give or take a decade) and is still in near perfect condition. Hello people??? I’m not sure we need much more proof than that that paper is not something we should be getting rid of anytime soon. How are people, 500 years from now going to know what life was like during this time if there is nothing to find? I’m just not entirely sure we’re completely thinking to our future with this “go paperless” concept.

Now before I get an onslaught of comments about being environmentally friendly, and recycling, and not wasting, I completely agree. We as society need to be responsible paper users. Do you always need to print that email? Probably not. If a child makes one small mark on a paper, should they just throw it away and start over? Nope, just turn it over or heaven forbid you erase the mark with an eraser. On a pencil. Remember those? Anyways, that’s a whole other irk of mine. There are ways to continue to use paper and trees and be responsible about it.

So in a world where the pressures to completely forget about paper, I truly applaud Domtar Paper for attempting to inform, raise questions, and entertain me with their new campaign. They can count one more among their supporters. My name is Abigail Steinem and I’m a paper lover. Hail paper!

The communications we take for granted…

This whole post developed this week because my car radio/cd player has died. I currently don’t have the money to replace it and the songs on my iphone were getting a little old. At first I didn’t like the silence. It bothered me. But as the days passed and I got more used to it, I started to notice more things around me, such as the traffic signs. The speed limit signs, the exit signs, the no turn right signs, etc.

Of course my curious mind started wondering where the font had come from, why that particular one had been chosen, who had designed it, and then I started wondering how we had even started using road signs (I do love my history!). So I got to researching and found out some interesting history!

As you could have guessed, road signs used to be extremely simple. The earliest road signs with actual wording on them date back to the Romans, when they would place stones throughout their empire simply stating how far away Rome was from that point. These stones were known as milestones. Stones to mark the miles. They were a bit ego-centric, but the monolith stones did the trick. No one ever got lost going to Rome.

During the Middle Ages, after Rome had fallen, the directional signage expanded. Now at intersections, there were multi-directional signs showing the path to several hamlets, towns, and cities. Just as the world was increasing in size, so was the need for their signs to be more specific and offer more options of destinations.

For the longest of time, the first two options worked, with no real need to change them or expand upon them. They actually worked all the way up until the invention of the bicycle of the 1870s. This was no ordinary bicycle: it had an extremely large front wheel and a rather small back wheel. For the first time, other than a horse and carriage, people were moving relatively quick, compared to walking from place to place, which was still a major mode of transportation. It is due to this new invention that cycling organizations started to erect signs that were more specific than just distance or directions to a location. These signs included information about upcoming steep hills, loose gravel, and a myriad of other things, warning these cyclists of possible dangers. Here we have the birth of the modern road/traffic sign.

From here traffic signs went the way of most communications on a large scale: standardization. With the invention of the automobile, it became even more clear that signs were needed. In the early days, when automobiles were mixing with carriages and bicycles on roads, it was often disastrous. There were no speed limits, no lanes of traffic. It was a bit of a nightmare. At this point signs had gone from being made from wood and stone, to cast iron that were then painted. This made them more durable and easier to write on with the new set of standard alphabets put forth by the FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) in 1945.

The pamphlet published was called Standard Alphabets for Traffic-Control Devices. It broke the acceptable and useable fonts into the follow: Series A, B, C, D, E, E(M), and F. Font Series A is the narrowest and Series F is the widest. Series E(M) is exactly like “E” but is slightly modified (thicker strokes) to allow for infusing reflector disks for high visibility at night. In 2004, lowercase letters were added to all Series A-F, allowing for easier visual legibility.

At this point I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “How could their possibly be this much information on one seemingly small topic?” Simple answer: I am a research hound. I love digging up information on topics you might not even think twice about, but also because there is a story to everything. I didn’t even drill down into the use of colors on signs and signage in other parts of the world, where words often aren’t even used so that they have a more universal usability. The writings on signage is endless and one that I will probably continue to research, even after this post is done.

Perhaps I piqued your interest in signs? Taschen, a German book publisher was also intrigued by signs from around the world and created the book 1,000 Signs which can be purchased from Barnes & Nobles.. This book is filled with signs from everywhere ranging from cows being abducted by aliens, to simply what a stop sign in another country looks like.

So check it out and enjoy!

The Great Gatsby

When I write these blog posts, I usually try to bring light to something most people might never have seen or known before. I really enjoy understanding a process or to work backwards from the solution to discover that process. Just because you think you might know the whole story, there is usually more to discover. This post is no different.

I want to dig a little deeper into a book, and it’s cover, that I’m sure most of you have seen; The Great Gatsby. It’s fairly well known, but if you haven’t, you should definitely read it (synopsis to follow). From hearing designers like Chip Kidd speak and talking with other designers, book covers are usually made after the manuscript have been completed. That is what makes this book cover different and therefore far more interesting.

The Great Gatsby was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1925. The novel chronicles Nick Carroway in 1922 as he returns from war and is looking to restart his life. He meets a number of characters, including Gatsby (his neighbor), Daisy (the woman Gatsby has been in love with for years), and a number of other characters who create a tangled web of dishonesty, betrayal, and bewilderment amongst the glittery back drop of the luxurious 1920s. It really is a good read.

The book cover was commissioned to Francis Cugat in 1924 while the book was still unpublished. At the time, Fitzgerald was still pondering titles for the book, including Among the Ash Heaps and Millionaires, On the Road to West Egg, and Gold-Hatted Gatsby. Cugat created this painting under the title of Celestial Eyes, not really knowing what direction Fitzgerald would eventually head. To Cugat’s surprise, Fitzgerald loved the painting so much that he went back and worked aspects of it into the story, including the green light (which appears on Daisy’s dock), and the large eyes in the sky (they appear physically on the side of a building, but act as much, much more to the story). Fitzgerald even went as for to state to the publisher, “For Christs sake don’t give anyone that jacket you’re saving for me. I’ve written it into the book.”

Much can be taken from knowing the back story of one of the most famous books/covers in the world. The first being, as a designer, illustrator, creative, do what you think is best. Put your best idea forward and see where it might go. The client might even change their project just to enable more of your idea. Secondly, there is always more to the story. You might have already heard the story, think you know all the components, but there is always more. Perhaps this comes from my journalism days, but the more you know, the more you can learn, glean, and eventually grow.

Below is the original book cover and then subsequent covers for the novel.

Original Cover by Francis Cugat

Cover by Alvin Lustig

Cover by Aled Lewis