Recent Acquisitions - Digital Typography

Recent Acquisitions: Digital Typography

"Recent Acquisitions: Digital Typography," an installation highlighting five graphic works exploring post-modernist trends in typography, will be on view from Sept. 3 through fall 2010 at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Organized by Gail Davidson, curator and head of the Drawings, Prints and Graphic Design department, the installation includes expressive typographic work developed by graphic designers as a response to modernism's rigid and impersonal sans serif type.

This movement toward new fonts can be seen as early as the 1960s, and the introduction of new desktop-design technologies in the early 1980s, especially the Apple Macintosh machine and subsequent software programs, including Fontographer (1986), QuarkXPress (1986), Adobe Illustrator (1986-87), galvanized this trend by allowing graphic designers more freedom to engage directly with letterforms in a new way and to invent lively, vernacular typefaces.

Digital Typography

The works on view in the installation are:

- Dutch designer Wim Crouwel's 1969 lithograph "Visuele Communicatie Nederland, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam." Crouwel experimented in the late 1960s, even before desktop technologies existed, with new fonts after considering the technical limitations of the first computer-controlled typesetting machines only permitting dot-matrix printing. The optical tension in this work, created by the florescent colors, the 3-1-3 spacing of the grey vertical bar coding and the experimental font make this an unusual and compelling poster.

- The influential Emigre magazine, published from 1984 through 2005 by Emigre graphic designers' Rudy VanderLans and Zuzana Licko, elevated typography to an art form. Among the earliest journals designed on Macintosh computers, this avant-garde magazine showcased the firm's fonts together with other unconventional typography in eye-catching, bold-contoured forms. The installation includes the 1994 issue, which featured the work of Ian Anderson of The Designers Republic (1986-2009) whose career segued from designing provocative album covers for English punk electronic bands to producing playful, anti-establishment graphics appropriating Japanese gaming typography and corporate logos to make subversive comments on global consumerism.

- The striking poster "Game Over," created for a 1999 interactive exhibition on computer games, featuring two different typefaces generated from the various technologies used in computer gaming. Designed by Cornel Windlin and Gilles Gavillet, the work incorporates the fonts LLVectrex and the faceted LL Liquid Crystal, which dramatically highlights the word "Over."

- The 2007 "HorseProjectSpace Presents: Ritual Tendencies" poster by Dutch designer Michiel Schuurman, which manipulates typographical content digitally so as to camouflage letters in a web of decorative and textural pattern.

- A two-page spread from Marian Bantjes' "Fox River Promotion Booklet," produced with a combination of digital technology and hand drawing. Commissioned for the designer Stefan Sagmeister and Details magazine, the images were initially developed by hand and refined on the computer, with lace muscle cars and musclemen hand-drawn in ink. Bantjes' work shows a recent trend in contemporary design which re-examines decorative ornament as a counterpoint to the traditional clarity of modernism.

Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum