Bib. Package 08 (8 March)

Citation / Annotation:

Constructs 9, no. 2 (2007).

Cotton, Charlotte, and Alex Klein, eds. Words without Pictures. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2010.

Giampietro, Rob. “Typographic Research.”

Reinfurt, David. Untitled portfolio.

The first thing I noticed about Words without Pictures (one could say Charlotte Cotton and Alex Klein’s Words without Pictures, but the list of contributors runs twenty-seven pages, albeit in fairly large type) was the odd capital R in the title. The capital C was obviously Helvetica, and a rabbit hole was entered. The only mention of Helvetica in the book is in reference to the repeated title set in that font on the cover of Ursula Meyer’s book Conceptual Art, but examining the properties of the PDF, one finds embedded font subsets not only for Helvetica Neue but also for something called Helvetica Neue R. The designer of Words without Pictures is listed as David Reinfurt, O-R-G inc.; both are the same person. David Reinfurt’s portfolio is set in the same modified Helvetica, but although its 256 pages contain many interesting projects and approaches—often attributed to another overlapping identity, Dexter Sinister—it does not contain any reference to the typeface. Reinfurt was also the designer of the Yale publication Constructs, which is where one does find the beginning of an answer. Tucked into the masthead of the issue cited here, “A Note on the Type: Helvetica Neue R” reads: “The intention of this project is to render a type family by using the language and functions of software. Instead of bold, medium, italic, etc., it should now be possible to involve other dimensions (time) or qualities (the ability to move, grow, hide, read) in the production and use of digital typography. Variations on a typeface emphasize different modes of production for the headlines of Constructs. This issue introduces Helvetica Neue R Bacon by Derek Barnett, with programming by Steven Brekelmans. The typeface implements Francis Bacon’s biliteral cipher to encode a message through all of the display typography in Constructs. A key is included on the back cover, with which the careful reader may decipher its secret writing.” A URL follows which, like most of the URLs I encountered along this path, no longer works.*

It seems that Helvetica Neue R is the ubiquitous typeface with a modified capital R (which, probably coincidentally, bears a resemblance to the muddied capital R on the cover of Meyer’s Conceptual Art), while Helvetica Neue R Bacon introduces the algorithm-based weight variation. Interestingly I recently redrew Helvetica’s normal capital R and inserted it into another typeface whose capital R, which normally has a straight leg, is one of the few things that clearly differentiate it from Helvetica. I had previously altered the same typeface’s dash, and have recently been thinking about how to use Opentype features and rulesets to introduce successively longer dashes into a text via the font.

One of the few places this search successfully led to is the page for a course called Typographic Research on the website (the “filing cabinet on the internet”) of Rob Giampietro—the interviewer from my first entry in this bibliography. The first assignment is Helvetica Modified: “Make a new weight of Helvetica that is not simply a bold or italic, extended or condensed. Your weight should add to, complicate, or personalize Helvetica in some way.” The project was “inspired by David Reinfurt’s Helvetica Neue R project for Constructs magazine.”

Reinfurt, meanwhile, designed the identity for the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts. According to the annotation in his portfolio, “the Wattis identity, as much as anything, is translated as a manner of speaking in complete sentences where excessive punctuation provides the graphic framework. Based on a previous working editorial relationship, the written voice was developed in close collaboration with the director as he was reinventing the institution. The graphics followed. Its setting in the Bay Area provided some cues for how to reconsider an art institution in the face of electronic networks, and the design uses programmatic idiosyncrasies to generate its forms. However, the identity relies on a specific tone of writing at least as much as it does on its graphic formats.” He also designed the ubiquitous interface for the New York City subway system’s Metrocard machines, connecting him with my recent explorations of punctuation, typeface (re)design, unpredictable processes, and vernacular typography. (He also worked on Dot Dot Dot, the publication in which the image for my second bibliography entry appeared.)

* One such URL is meant to lead to the defunct firm Project Projects, who apparently designed additional weights of Helvetica Neue R and whose website now directs you to the two offices that the members of that one have become. As it happens one of these is IN-FO.CO, the office responsible for the last couple of books I’ve proofread—in the most recent of which, oddly, their respect for punctuation was such that they had to be asked to please set ellipses correctly.

Citation / Annotation:

Kane, John. A Type Primer, 2nd ed. Boston: Prentice Hall, 2011.

On the first page of the introduction, John Kane notes that “this is a practical book” and, speaking of his own training as typographer and author, “this is an autodidact’s book” (viii)—happy assurances for the practical autodidact reader; on the last page before the back matter, one finds the caveat “Be wary of ‘creativity’” (226)—an excellent warning that Kane himself unfortunately ignores on the book’s cover and title page.

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