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Preview of Century: 100 Years of Type in Design with Dan Rhatigan of Monotype | DesignNotes by Michael Surtees
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Preview of Century: 100 Years of Type in Design with Dan Rhatigan of Monotype

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I was fortunate enough to preview Century: 100 Years of Type in Design with Dan Rhatigan, Type Director of Monotype who walked me through the exhibition. The Exhibition bills itself as an opportunity to explore the past, present and future of type in design as part of AIGA’s Centennial Celebration. I was immediately drawn to the periods (all unique) on all the walls and floor of the entire space. It sort of felt like I was in a typographic snow globe. The periods also help give structure to the displays. Thankfully Dan was able to guide be through the assortment of typographic collection.

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Talking with Dan I was curious to hear what surprised him as the exhibition was taking shape. One of the surprising themes that emerged was of color. When we think of typefaces we tend to think in a black and white abstract way. The color story from Strathmore paper from the 1930’s was very aspirational. In terms of other discoveries looking at the Condé Nast materials it was revealed that they had an entire production center in Connecticut. They were one of the premier printers for color production of that era. They pioneered a number of color production techniques. On a different front, with the commissions of Alan Kitching took color in a different direction. It all ties into a re-exploration of what color in typography could be.

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As they began looking at the archive materials of their partners that they have worked with and realized the limitations of time and resources made for a true comprehensive educational look back. But by looking at some representative collections they could look at a number of different typographic expressions of graphic design and look back at the background of the type that contributed. It wasn’t just about individual typefaces like Bodoni, Caslon, Didot, Helvetica but also multitalented designers popping up such as William Addison Dwiggins, an AIGA Medialist whom designed the typefaces Metro and Electro which were big typefaces and did work for Strathmore. Bruce Roger’s is another who designed Centaur but also did work for Strathmore and was involved with the AIGA. It’s nice to see how the nodes started to emerge through the collections.

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Pentagram’s contribution is notable for their custom typography that they have commissioned for projects. Its a different side of the story about typography and graphic design to get things just right and bespoke. It’s nice to see examples of people taking something that already exists and taking it another step for their own projects.

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There’s a broad cross section of industries represented in the exhibition such as public works, transportation, medical advertising, and association work. Monotype and Linotype originally built on newspaper, book and magazine publishing because of what they brought to terms of speed of production and explosion of literacy that you get from typesetting and eventually branched out to all types of design.

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Pentagram has down some work showing what is possible with typefaces as software these days, which is really scratching the surface of all the places where typefaces show up digitally at this point. Again it comes back to the notion that we can show a taste of what’s possible not just in the past but currently. There’s so many ways that digital typefaces are used on the web, apps, typefaces embedded in ui’s but it is tricky to get a cross-section of those in a small exhibition because it almost becomes a device show rather than a design show. For instance Pentagram has done some animations displayed on the above wall showing what is possible with typefaces as data by going deep into the breadth of the library. They’re cycling through a number of typefaces. A second one dynamically cycles through the periods which is live code. This is showing what is possible with access to an entire library.

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Condé Nast is showing on the other side of digital with their online platforms. They’ve chosen to display Wired and the New Yorker in all their formats. Part of the project is to digitize their entire content which is made possible with web fonts to get the right clarity and scaleability. This is where we are bringing this all forward showing what can be done digitally building off of a digital heritage.

These among many other examples will be on display from May 1 to June 18, 2014 at the AIGA National Design Center in New York City. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

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Gallery hours
Monday through Wednesday: 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Friday: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
*Please note: The gallery will be available by reservation only on Thursdays from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. for guided tours.
Thursday: 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
*Reserve your space on a guided tour through EventBrite Tours take place every hour on the hour.

Opening Reception:
AIGA members and the public are invited to view the exhibition at a reception in conjunction with NYCxDesign on Wednesday, May 14, 2014, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the AIGA National Design Center.

Additional info at Monotype and Pentagram to Present “Century: 100 Years of Type in Design” in New York City http://www.prweb.com/releases/Century/exhibition/prweb11798682.htm and CENTURY: 100 YEARS OF TYPE IN DESIGN http://www.aiga.org/century-exhibition/.

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