Thursday, February 15, 2007

Collier’s Type

We’ve had posts here and here about designing type and designing with it. Today, Steve Collier, a former Houston designer/illustrator now living in Seattle, is guest-posting about the same subject. He began with this quote from classic type designer Giambattista Bodoni: “The letters don’t get their true delight, when done in haste & discomfort, nor merely done with diligence & pain, but first when they are created with love and passion.” Here’s Steve’s own words.

My first encounter with type was during my graphics training years at the University of Southwestern Louisiana through a staff professor who was just absolutely incredible, John Sniffen. He worked in New York for a number of years in the advertising profession and for reasons I am not certain, he signed on as a professor in the Commercial Art department teaching lettering. From the old school of crafting type with tools of the trade, brushes, chalks, pencils, sticks, etc., his hands moved with precision, balance and design to form the most beautiful typography I had ever seen or experienced. It was truly an amazing act to witness, unbelievable.

Through four years of college, then working in graphic design for many years, I was fortunate to have encountered numerous other professionals who specialized in typography, crafting and mastering the art such as Herb Lubalin (a founder of ITC, editor of its magazine U&lc. In 1984 he was posthumously awarded the TDC Medal, the Type Directors Club award), Tom Carnase and Michael Doret, to name a few.

Conservatively, there are about 1894 people working in type design; 191 working in the field of typography listed on the Internet; and I would be afraid to quote how many designers who daily overlook the necessity of good typography. There is a need to devote the time and effort in making good typography an essential part of executing any design project. The Herb Lubalins, Tom Carnases and Michael Dorets are people whom I have been inspired by and learned from through the years. To this day they and others contribute to my growing and learning.

With all this in mind, I have taken on personal projects involving type, like the alphabet series (see “Airplane,” above). It was originally created for the Corbis web site, which I have been associated with for several years. The alphabet series was designed with its intent to be used as posters, book illustrations, learning aids or whatever suitable applications the imagination of designers could conceive. It was an exercise that allowed me to project back to the basics of the alphabet integrating visuals and color in exploring the possibilities of incorporating type with graphics.

I experimented with the three elements that make up most projects: letterforms, colors and graphics. It was one of the more interesting and “fun” projects I have completed. I recommend reaching back into the past, forgetting about computers that demand too much of our attention and time, forgetting about deadlines and revisit the art of typography in the privacy of our creative minds and knowledge banks. Good typography is an art that demands attention to detail and dedication in seeing the letters in relationship to each other, space and form. A few tips may be in order (compare these to Susan Kirkland’s tips):

- Don’t mix more than three type styles in one page

- Use sans serif in titles and serif in body text

- Use italics sparingly

- Create contrast

- Don’t use display fonts or too many colors in body copy

- Don’t forget typography is supposed to make the text easier to read

- Use light colored backgrounds with black text for best readability.

Herb Lubalin said, “You can do a good ad without good typography, but you can’t do a great ad without good typography.” ­ From Seattle, my best to all in Houston and watch the kerning….Steve.

Thanks to Steve, now Senior Designer of GalleryPlayer, Inc. The company offers to the public high-resolution art and photography for big screens: rear projection, plasmas and LCDs. Currently, he is designing the packaging for the DVD, SD products and support materials for GalleryPlayer partners like The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; MoMA; and The de Young in San Francisco. He’s still involved in the Houston market with several of his original clients, and with good friends who enjoy his gumbo extravagantly.


S. Reeves said...


I fell in love with Herb Lubalin as a junior at the University of Texas in the 70's studying Graphic design under Professor Triggs and Ad design under Dr. Leonard Ruben. My favorite font was Bodoni. I used it for beautiful one or two word titles. Ahhhh.

P.S. love the airplane piece of Steve's.

Steve Collier said...

Just wanted to thank you for the publishing and opportunity to appear in your great blog. Looks like it turned out nice and thank you again. Keep up the great work and give everyone my best.

Mike Dean said...

Yo, Richard: Thanks for keeping me in the loop. Good to see what the ol' coona$$ is up to.