A couple of weekends ago we dropped in at the Bloomsbury Ephemera, Postcard and Book Fair, and picked up this wonderful little piece of print: The ‘Wellcome’ Photographic Exposure Calculator – Handbook and Diary 1939.
It’s a wallet sized handbook packed full of information for photographers. It’s divided into three sections – up front there’s a section on developing and printing your photographs (using Wellcome’s branded chemicals of course) - this is followed by a notebook and diary section, and then there’s a final section which details the specifics of getting the right exposure using the exposure calculator inside the back cover.
It’s quite a treasure-trove.
There’s a great bit advising budding photographers on how to sell their prints:
There’s also a page detailing the full kit needed for a photographic tour:
The notebook section is just delicious, printed on a now-yellowed glassine-style paper:
Just lovely stuff.
The diary section of course has added poignancy given that 1939 was the year that war broke out in Europe.
The inside back cover features the exposure calculator (as well as a great promotional tag for Tabloid / Rytol developer tablets, glued around a printed ribbon). The preceding pages of light tables are perforated so that you can tear them off at the end of each month – keeping the most up-to-date information easily to hand. Brilliant.
The talk was about the threat of development that currently looms over Norton Folgate, a conservation area that forms the heart of Spitalfields, centred on the stunning Elder Street, most of which dates back to the 18th century.
In the evocative surroundings of St Leonard’s, Cruikshank detailed British Land’s plans (on behalf of the freeholder, the City of London Corporation) to redevelop the area, demolishing or gutting many of the historic buildings, leaving just a few facades intact. Behind those facades they’ll create huge office developments, entirely out of keeping with the architectural history of the area, and fundamentally changing its unique character. Watch the video above to get a sense of what Cruikshank had to say.
Incredibly, British Land tried to demolish portions of Elder Street back in the 70s, and were only stopped by the then newly formed Spitalfields Trust, co-founded by Dan Cruikshank.
A little bit of history repeating it seems.
The new proposal is astonishing in its potential to harm one of the most beautiful parts of London. The Spitalfields Trust is determined to stop the proposal though. They have even commissioned an alternative scheme of their own from architect John Burrell at Burrell, Foley, Fischer, which is far better suited to this wonderful area.
The shop, established in 1818, provides bespoke and everyday items for the living, dead and undead. (And also happens to give all its proceeds to the Ministry of Stories, the young people’s writing and mentoring centre which dwells somewhere behind its shelves.)
The shop’s old website, developed a few years back, didn’t work too well on mobile devices, so we took the chance to give it a complete overhaul.
We’re particularly pleased with a (much requested) translation feature:
The site is the result of a huge amount of work from a whole heap of talented folk giving their time, energy and skills for free. It was designed by the brilliant Fox twins, Gavin & Jason. They’re creative directors (at Framestore) who ‘specialise in storytelling in many mediums including theatre, video, VR, social media and of course websites’. They also do some amazing things for Secret Cinema, and a whole host of other incredible stuff. Jen Williams, Head of UX at Poke, made sure the user experience was just right. It was built (with remarkable patience) by the wonderful Jamie Ingram, Technical Director at Poke. Copywriter James North crafted the text on the site expertly, perfectly catching the flavour of the shop.
We provided art direction, mainly by getting in the way and being overly pernickety about typographic stylings.
The products themselves look fantastic too, thanks to some brilliant photography by Darryl Stoodley.
It showcases Alan Kitching’s extensive wood-letter fount collection, which he’s amassed and restored over years in his south London print workshop.
The book is divided up alphabetically, with each chapter featuring a single letter shown in up to thirty nine different founts. The chapters are divided up by spreads which each feature an additional full alphabet (so the one above, preceding the A chapter, is Latin Old Style).
This trick of separating out single founts across the whole book prompts you to examine each letterform on its own, and in contrast to the neighbouring designs of the same letter. We have a sneaking suspicion that it might also have been done to discourage people from just scanning in entire alphabets for their own use, rather than, say, going to an actual printer to have something set in actual type.
The book is beautifully printed in five spot colours, onto quite a bulky uncoated stock, giving it a lovely feel in the hand. These images make it look quite large, but actually its roughly A5 size (just a bit squatter).
Last night print guru Daniel Mason gave a brilliant talk at the Wynkyn de Worde Society about his work researching, developing and manufacturing facsimile record sleeves for Joy Division, including their album Unknown Pleasures. We’re working as the honorary designers for the society this year, and created the piece above as a memento of the talk.
Unknown Pleasures was Joy Division’s debut album, and featured Peter Saville’s fantastic and iconic sleeve design:
Famously, the illustration used on the cover came from The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Astronomy, and represents successive pulses from CP1919, the first ever discovered pulsar. More recently, Jen Christiansen, art director of information graphics at Scientific American, did a bit of detective work, and found out that the image was originally created by Harold Craft for his PhD thesis.
We wanted to make a piece for Daniel’s talk that referenced the source material, reuniting the graphic with its caption, so we did a bit of digging around and found a copy of the Encyclopaedia for sale on AbeBooks. A few days later we had the book open on page 111, and there was the original image:
We scanned the page, vectorised the image, and reset the type from the caption (using Elsner+Flake’s Modern Extended) so that we could create a foiling die.
We worked with Benwells and Mason to create the finished piece, which uses a holographic foil on Colorplan Ebony Black, all set at the same size as the original. The holographic foil picks up the light brilliantly against the black:
Find out more about the Wynkyn de Worde Society here.
For those of you not familiar with it, The Prisoner is one of the most iconic TV shows to have come out of the 60s.
It ran on ATV from September 1967 to February 1968. While any TV programme is obviously the work of a huge team of people, this show had one powerful force at its core: it was co-created, directed, and produced by Patrick McGoohan, who also starred in the lead role of No.6.
McGoohan had made his name in the black and white spy show Danger Man, and had even been asked to be the first Bond on the back of his work on that. He turned down Bond, but after more than 80 episodes, had grown bored of working on Danger Man. He proposed a new show to Lew Grade (the cigar chomping head of ATV) – The Prisoner.
The plot revolves around No.6 - we know little about him, not even his name. The fantastic opening credits (above) show him resigning from some sort of governmental position, and then being abducted, and waking up in The Village – a mysterious community in an unknown location. Over the course of the series, his captors use any means necessary to find out what he knows, and why he resigned. It’s a psychological battle of wills in each episode, as each new No.2 tries and fails to break him. It’s an incredible show, well worth checking out.
But what’s particularly of interest from a graphic design point of view, is the rich use of a single typeface, Albertus, during the show.
Used far more extensively than just on the credits, the typeface appears on props and signs throughout the series. It represents the Village as much as the sets, the costumes or the characters.
Sometimes the lettering was very professionally rendered, other times slightly less so:
Occasionally another typeface sneaks in, but often this just highlights the ubiquity of Albertus everywhere else. Futura shows up a couple of times for example (decades before Wes Anderson made it his own):
The typeface was designed by Berthold Wolpe. Born in Germany, Wolpe had apprenticed at a metalworkers, becoming proficient at engraving in gold, copper and silver. He travelled to England in 1932, where he met Stanley Morison. Morison saw some photographs of a set of Wolpe’s bronze inscriptions, and asked him to create a typeface for Monotype based on the lettering. So in 1935, Monotype Series No. 324 was born: Albertus Titling.
As you can see, it’s a beautiful typeface, somewhere between a serif and a sans-serif, with a few rather tasty alternate characters, and a frankly wonderful number 2. (Oddly, it doesn’t seem as if the Titling set has ever been digitised. What’s that all about?)
The marketing material of the time described it as follows:
“It is obviously a cut, and not a drawn letter, and possesses that squareness which in Roman inscriptions so notably serves legibility; but while true to the orthodox proportions, displays a marked individuality in the treatment of detail. The main strokes so terminate that the alphabet stands midway between the classical inscriptional letter and the modern sans serif.”
Albertus Titling was uppercase only, but a lowercase set followed in 1937, with bold and light versions arriving shortly afterwards in 1940.
We’ve not been able to find any direct statements from the McGoohan or any of the other creators of the show about why Albertus was chosen. It has a strong flavour to it, which will have helped to define the Village as somewhere out of the ordinary, and perhaps its duality fits well with the feeling of the setting as somewhere both old and new.
At the time the series was made, people would mainly have been aware of the typeface thanks to Wolpe’s vast number of book covers at Faber & Faber, where he used it extensively:
But we should perhaps look a bit closer at the way Albertus was used within the show. As with all things in The Prisoner, first appearances can be deceptive.
In the opening credits, the typeface is tweaked here and there. In the instance above, the ‘G’ of McGoohan has an extended stem that drops below the baseline.
The programme’s title was carefully adapted too:
The dot of the ‘i’ has been removed, but most distinctly of all, the lowercase ‘e’ has been attacked! The right hand side of the bowl has been lopped off, so that it resembles a sort of epsilon (the fifth letter of the Greek alphabet).
This adaptation was extended across nearly all appearances of Albertus in the programme. We’ve hunted high and low for information about why this was done, but as yet we haven’t discovered any facts. Obviously it makes the typeface feel much more bespoke, but we’d love to know if there was any reason beyond that. Was it perhaps done to instil a feeling of discord?
Here’s a look at the difference between a regular setting of Albertus, and a Prisoner style setting:
We created those two slides for this post, but here’s how it looked in the show itself:
As you can see, the sign is hand-rendered, and the ‘e’s have been given their own little flared terminals. A little bit bonkers. By contrast, in the credits, the ‘e’s have clean sharp ends:
Here the ‘e’ has a distinctly even stroke, and a vertical terminal at the top:
And in fact, the lettering changes constantly throughout the show, presumably depending upon who created each piece, and how much time they had to work on it:
Check out this heavyweight version:
And what’s going on here?
That poor ‘e’ looks a little bit stretched out.
And sometimes, the customised ‘e’ was forgotten about entirely:
You can picture the scene on set when that was produced:
Art dept guy: ‘So here’s the map you asked for.’
McGoohan: ‘Great, that’s looking really… Wait. What. Is. This?’
Art dept guy: ‘Um, is something…’
McGoohan: ‘What is this ‘e’? What the hell is this ‘e’? What the bloody hell is this ‘e’ doing here? Answer me that. I want information. Information.’
And it happened more than once:
Sometimes they even got it right and wrong at exactly the same time:
Regardless of any inconsistencies though, The Prisoner is a fantastic example of using typography as a key part of the creation of a fictional world.
We’d love to know more about the specifics of why the typeface was chosen, why it was adapted, and who actually created all the props and signs. So if you know anyone involved with the show, do get in touch.
Oh, and if you’d like to play around with making your own Prisoner bits and bobs, there’s a downloadable font called Village, created by Mark Heiman in 1994 in homage to the show, which features the lopped off ‘e’, and which also has ‘i’s and ‘j’s with their dots removed.
And remember – you are not a number.
This post is an adapted version of a talk given by Alistair Hall at Grafik’s Letterform Live event on 25 February 2015. Larger images are available on Alistair’s Flickr set.
So this year We Made This is 10 years old. Getting on a bit right? I mean, not quite a teenager, but heading in that direction (so expect some tantrums, angst, and questionable fashion decisions over the next few years).
To celebrate our birthday, we decided to make a book, 10×10, featuring 10 short stories all about the number 10. We produced the book in a limited edition of 100, with 10 different colour covers, of which there are 10 copies each.
The book is 10″ x 10″ square, and each of the stories is just 10 lines long, and set in 10pt type. Each story title is a single word which ends in the letters ‘t’, ‘e’, and ‘n’. Here are the spreads for the stories Brighten, Heighten, and Often:
To give you the flavour of it, here’s the first of the stories, BITTEN:
She was the last.
She hadn’t been anyone special before it all began.
She wasn’t sure how she’d survived so long, but she had.
She’d thought that was a good thing, but now… it seemed more like a curse.
She’d watched as everyone around her had fallen to the sickness.
She remembered how it began with the dogs and cats, their terrible eyes and bloody mouths.
She remembered how it spread to the people, their eyes just as terrible, mouths just as bloody.
She’d hoped for a cure, they all had, but that hope seemed stupid now.
She’d finally been bitten that morning, while searching for water.
She was ten.
The books were beautifully printed by our friends at Benwells, using just a single spot colour - metallic silver (Pantone 877 U). The text was printed on 170gsm Munken Pure Rough, and the covers were printed onto 350gsm Colorplan with a cord emboss. Both stocks are from the good folks at G·F Smith.
We’ve sent the book out as a thank you to all the people who helped us get this far. Here’s to the next 10.
If you know a young writer, maybe they could come up with the ending? If they send their story to firstname.lastname@example.org by 31 December 2014 they’ll be entered into a prize draw to win 30 bars of Milk Tooth Chocolate (enough for a whole class of little monsters!)
We nipped over to Tate Britain over the weekend to check out the Late Turner exhibition, which is more than worth the trip if you have time. His use of colour and light is quite extraordinary, and it’s incredible to think that he was painting his stunning, almost abstract canvases in the 1840s, a good sixty years before Monet started doing the same.
But, what really caught our eye was the separate show, upstairs in the Clore Gallery, of colour experiments by Olafur Eliasson, based on J.M.W. Turner’s work.
The colour experiments are part of an ongoing series of oil paintings by Eliasson, working with a chemist to mix paint colours for each nanometre of light in the visible spectrum. The seven on show at the Tate are direct responses to seven of Turner’s paintings, some of which are on in the Late Turner show, including The Burning of the House of Lords and Commons:
Over on the Tate site, Eliasson has this to say about them:
‘For each of his paintings, I bring the colours and light into a schematic system which is then transferred to a round canvas without a centre. This shape generates a feeling of endlessness and allows the viewer to take in the artwork in a decentralised, meandering way. The fading colours in each sequence deter the viewer’s eye from resting on a single line or spot. Instead, the eye must negotiate its way around the work, which creates a sense of personal narrative.’
Eliasson’s canvases are truly beautiful – unfortunately there’s not much indication of how they are produced, just that they’re oil on canvas. Though this studio shot over on Eliasson’s Facebook page is rather lovely:
This short Tate film explains more about the project: