Saturday, 27 September 2008

All Systems Are Go

Luggage… check, friends… check, money… check, flight ticket… check, documents… check, backups… check, emergency phone numbers… (watches in pocket) check. Ready!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Burn Before Reading

Antonio Cavedoni before Reading

I went to see the Cohen brothers’ Burn After Reading yesterday night so I couldn’t resist playing with the title of the film, sorry. I’m pretty much done shopping, I think. Now I “just” need to work my ass off all the week until it’s saturday. To the left you see me, burning in anticipation for next week – or something.

I decided I will leave Italy with my old TiBook. This machine has been beaten to death but as pathetic as it may sound I think I’ll wait until the 14th of October before getting a new one. This situation is of course terrible – I am relying on “rumor” sites in order to make a purchasing decision from a company that has disappointed me so much in the past. Meh. My TiBook barely holds together and is certainly not a very good work machine, so the first few weeks in the UK will be adventurous at best.

Julia has started a new blog where she’ll be writing about typography, MATD, life the universe and everything. I was talking about this to Amélie, another fellow MATD student, and she came up with the idea of putting together a group blog or something. We’ll talk about this all together once we’re in Reading, I think.

So much for my updates, it’s packing time.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Letterpress is not dead

As you can imagine, the last few weeks before leaving are pretty much spent working with a hectic pace, meeting and waving goodbye to friends and relatives, and generally having loads of good food before… the English treatment.

I was around with friends in Modena a couple of days ago, then we went to see Claudio’s workplace. His work is basically in quality control for mechanical parts. He checks that the pieces he’s given from various factories match the expected sizes up to several degrees of precision. One of the things he has to do is to properly label each piece, and I found out he does this by literally striking a punch inside the metal of the mechanic piece with a hammer. Lovely:

letterpress punches

Over the weekend I was back in Varese to hold two more days of workshop on layout and typography. I’ll probably post the slides and some writeup of the whole experience over at the studio blog before the end of the week.

As it happens I started doodling with yet another new idea for a typeface. I tried to keep it neat and clean on paper and sketched a lot, then digitized my drawing by eye. I don’t have the whole lowercase worked out yet; instead of my usual rush to complete the alphabet I’m trying to take it more slowly this time. I also thought I might be better off not showing anything about it until I’ve made up my mind on how the lowercase and uppercase are supposed to look like.

I must now be off renewing my driving license – it’s my first expiration after I got it, in 1998.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Updates before the jump

Some updates before the jump. I’m about to finish a round of visits to various doctors as I wanted to get a proper, thorough check up before leaving. I’m also working to close most of the outstanding works at the studio: of the two major projects I have at hand, one is currently entering maintenance and the other is dormant but hopefully doable in the next two weeks. Two issues remain outstanding but will need to be taken upon once I’m in the UK: one is getting a bank account, the other is getting insurance for my personal belongings.

I also just finished reading a bunch of articles from Gerry’s introductory MATD reading list. These are the ones I went through:

  1. Phil Baines, Face lift: new cuts at the Times.
  2. Emily King, Digital type decade.
  3. Robin Kinross, The digital wave.
  4. Matthew Carter, Galliard: a modern revival of the types of Robert Granjon.
  5. Jack Stauffacher, The Transylvanian Phoenix: the Kis-Janson types in the digital era.
  6. Ladislas Mandel, Developing an awareness of typographic letterforms.

The article by Phil Baines is about the redesign of the Times’ typeface, from Gunnlaugur SE Briem’s Times Millennium to Times Classic – which was redesigned again last year into Times Modern as part of Nevile Brody’s Research Studios redesign. My friend Claudio Piccinini was in correspondence with Times Classic’s designer Dave Farey at the time, so I got a booklet from the Times Classic launch exhibition too, which had some more information. All in all I must say I really enjoyed the different takes on Times New Roman over the years, the motivations for the redesign and all the different implementations. I must also add I found very interesting this TypeRadio presentation by Mike Parker claiming to have uncovered some interesting facts about Times Roman’s past. Apparently he followed up with a talk at the recent TypeCon about the alleged attribution of Times New Roman to Starling Burgess. Font Bureau is also working on a revival of the original drawings, called Starling and to be released soon.

I liked very much the Galliard article: it’s very well written and it let somehow transpire Matthew Carter’s love towards his profession (bonus points for his closing remarks). Stauffacher’s article surprised me with the depth and breadth of Nicolas Kis’ work: I was somewhat aware of his importance in typographic history, but didn’t expected such an engaging story. The man was prodigious, cut his own types and sold them all over Europe.

I also just finished reading Geoffrey Dowding’s Finer Points in the Spacing and Arrangement of Type and Frederic W. Goudy’s Typologia (which where not on the reading list) and Robin Kinross’ Modern Typography and Texts on Type, a miscellanea of writings about type edited by Stephen Heller and Philip B. Meggs (which were).


Wednesday, 3 September 2008

How I got to Reading

Yesterday night I was chatting at the bar downstairs with Federica and Linda, one fresh master graduate from Siena and the other about to graduate in London, and Linda asked me how I got to pick Reading. I thought I might as well post it here, since it’s where I am supposed to document all the hows and whys about the MATD.

After many months reading, drawing and generally daydreaming about type design, I felt the desire to concentrate a bit more on it and not just in my free time. I wanted to have some time to properly learn some things like spacing, kerning, typeface production. As I was reading about Type]Media in Den Haag and MATD in Reading, last August, I thought a master would have been the perfect thing for me. A full year of nothing but type, fun!

So I started mulling over the idea and thinking about possible scenarios. As I’m a partner in a design studio I knew it wouldn’t have been easy to “just” leave for a year, so I tried to put it the best possible way to my partners. In september I went to ATypI in Brighton, and spoke briefly about it with Joe, Luc(as), Elena and other people. I even met Gerry one night, together with former MATD graduates, and talked to them about it as well. After thinking about it for a while, in late October I became committed to the idea and decided to start investigating about how to get in the two courses. I hadn’t yet decided on which one yet, I just knew I really wanted to do it.

After emailing former graduates of either the two courses I was even more confused, especially – as expected – since each one was recommending the master they’d taken. I didn’t feel I had enough arguments to differentiate too much or prefer one vs. the other. So I looked a bit to the Web sites, read some information, then decided to write to the course directors.

Towards the end of October I emailed Gerry Leonidas (MATD), who promptly replied with a series of things I needed to consider and to outline the admission program. After a couple of weeks I also emailed Jan Willem Stas (Type]Media). I must have been caught in the spam filter or something, but I never got a reply back.

December came, work was pretty hectic in those days so I didn’t focus too much on my application as there was plenty of time (I thought). Right after Christmas I decided to tell my partners about this, before starting the application procedure. They had a right to oppose and I thought it was fair to not rush it too much. After all, the health of the studio was more important in the short term than my personal satisfaction, since there’s six of us involved, and I didn’t want to damage it in any way. They where of course concerned about what would happen, but recognised it was something I really wanted to do, so in the end they where pretty supportive of me.

This is the bit where it gets weird: January came, and work restarted in the usual, hectic way. I still hadn’t heard from Stas so I thought I should have sent a followup email, but as I thought there was no rush and I wasn’t aware of any deadlines, I happily worked away, working on my portfolio every now and then. In mid-february I went to Milan for work and went and met Marta Bernstein at her studio since I was interested in her thesis about italian typographic history in the 19th century. One of her partners in the studio – and co-writer of the thesis – is Emanuela Conidi, who was attending (and still is) the MATD in Reading at the time so I figured I was going to ask her about it. Once we got to the subject of Reading, I told her I kept meaning to apply to Type]Media as well. That’s when I knew the applications for this year had been closed at the end of january – because she had just applied for it, and had been offered a place.

Thinking back to it I kicked myself for not getting back to Jan Willem Stas earlier on. Type]Media, I learnt, was much different from MATD. Apart from being based in the Netherlands, where I never lived, the kind of learning programme is very different too: apart from the usual history and drawing classes, one is studying calligraphy, stone carving and other approaches to type making. MATD is more focused on history, research and non-latin typeface development as far as I can tell, but I’ll know more for sure after I’ve been through it. This is a very superficial comparison of course (they do non-latin in Den Haag, too, for eample), but I don’t think I’m in a position to really compare the two at the moment. Besides, a full comparison of the two courses would beyond the scope of this post, really.

So Reading was my only choice. I’m not saying it was my second choice: in retrospect I think it somehow suits me better since I’m already doing many of the things you do there, like research. It will help me sharpen my skills in the areas I would have been doing anyway in my rushed, unprofessional kind of way. I also already lived in the UK so I’m more used to the English way of life. To be honest, Reading feels more comfortable to me. But I don’t know what I would have done if I had had the chance to get a position in both universities. Does it matter now? Hardly.

Anyway, I sent my portfolio and application forms on the 28th of February and got a reply from Gerry on the 3rd of April. Success!

So this is how I got to Reading.

To somehow close on the matter, for poor souls like me: if you’re considering either one of the courses (or others, although I’m not aware of any other postgraduate studies quite like these two in Europe at the moment) make sure you ask about the application procedure as soon as the very idea of applying to either course crosses your mind. And if you get no reply, or you’re stupid like me and can’t find any information on the Web site of the course, phone, mail, insist until you have an answer. Don’t forget to be polite while doing this, it’s not like the world has to stop because of you. But be determinate!