Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Having spent most of my design career in the world of publications, I am no stranger to illustrators. In fact, one of the best parts of working on magazines was researching and hiring the right illustrators for particular articles. And if you were lucky, they would send you the original to grace the walls of the office.
My days of shutting down the office at 3am, showing up on Sundays, and wondering why editors take so long to get copy to the design department are long over. But I still love spending time researching illustrators and admiring the work they do. I often wish I could hire them to do some personal work with the hopes of receiving the original for my living room walls instead of the office.
In the last few weeks, I have become (mildly) obsessed with Julia Rothman. Obsessed in a way that I wish she lived next door to me, and came over for tea and a chat every day. Can you imagine having this illustrator covering your entire wall? I can, and it's quite wonderful.
Monday, March 16, 2009
There is something about hand done type that seems to outdo Garamond and Univers, and yes, even Burgues. It feels intimate and unique in a way that no font in my library can fake, no matter how hard it tries. I have always admired those that can so beautifully craft with their hands what I need a computer for. In a not-s0-recent interview between Steven Heller and master calligrapher Bernard Maisner (aptly titled: The Hand is Mightier Than the Font), Maisner states: "Calligraphy has the potential to be alive in a way that typesetting can never be." Words that are alive. A perfect way to describe this craft.
When designing wedding invitations, I always use calligraphers to create the names of the bride and groom—as well as other key words or phrases—in order to capture that intimacy. After all, it's a wedding, it should feel personal. The words would always arrive, sometimes by post (which I love) and others by email, like a birthday present that I couldn't wait to open. I spent so much time looking over other's calligraphy, that I began to wonder why I didn't just do it myself.
So with great determination and excitement, I signed up for a beginner's calligraphy class at a local university. I spent over an hour in the art store, drooling over the beautiful tools I would need and envisioning all the wonderful work I would do. My new skill would look exactly like the type I had seen in the most recent issue of Martha Stewart. I would learn to do this so well, that designers would be hiring me to give life to their words. I would have to turn away work I would be so busy.
Not so much.
I left each 3 hour session with a terribly cramped hand and dry, blurry eyes. My letters—which were not even in the font I had imagined them in—were misshapen, irregular blobs of ink. Counters were inconsistent. Various letters dipped below the baseline and rose above it like tiny waves, leaving unsightly white spaces that would make even the worst of designers shudder. I was not good. It didn't take me long to call on my faithful calligraphers again. My opinion of them has multiplied, if that's even possible. And I see the masters of this art with an even greater appreciation.
I will go back and learn this again because I know that great skill requires hard work. And with the same enthusiasm, I hope to do it well. But not now. For the time being, I am content to just look and appreciate these beautiful words that others have made alive.