i have already expressed my love for handwriting but i have not shared my love for something more expressive: shorthand. specifically, early examples. here are two, one from 1859 and the other from 1852. as a kid i practiced writing backwards, like da vinci. my best friend was left-handed so i also practiced writing that way. i so wanted to be like both of them. i loved writing as a form of expression. not as prose but as calligraphy. in high school my sophomore art teacher, gerald patrick, who i foolishly was unable to appreciate and regret that i did not realize it at the time, expressed that handwriting could have a powerful voice whether in your signature or in your art. “do you know cy twombly?” he opened my eyes to so many things. thank you, mr. patrick, wherever you are. i have never gone to the trouble to have these two letters translated. is that the right term? would deciphered be better? it’s wonderful to see these marks. they are sounds, not letters. i often read the history of esoteric subjects but i have never read much about shorthand. i’ll add it to my list. i’ll keep sharing and i hope you keep visiting.
i have always loved corporate identity. now they call it branding. when i started out, i was the letterhead guy. someone designed the logo and it was given to me and i applied it to everything: letterhead, business card, envelope, brochure, signage. that was my job and i loved it. still do. however it has been a couple of years since i designed a letterhead. that rectangle never bores me. (though i prefer the a4.)
when i was kid, ibm meant the ‘international brotherhood of magicians.’ (i spent most saturday mornings at myers magic shop in downtown birmingham.) but i quickly learned it also stood for something else since my uncle worked for big blue. i collected coins, hot wheels and broken bones (mine). it was not until years later that i discovered my passion for ephemera. while studying graphic design at indiana university, i applied to a design program that was run through kent state (later through yale) in brissago, switzerland. the program’s highlight was to study with armin hoffman and paul rand. i was ready to go but the cost was prohibitive. having become interested in design, i switched from studying art history and had enrolled in a couple of graphic design courses. happily, one of my classmates was the first runner-up for miss usa. a tri-delt that didn’t know i was alive. it was in this class we were given names of individual designers to research. i was given bradbury thompson. i believe this assignment led to my interest in collecting design ephemera. this collection of ibm materials designed by paul rand was bought mostly on ebay. my favorite piece of course is the letterhead for the chairman. international business machines corporation is set in script. the contrast is rich and unexpected. i just love it. i miss you, mr. rand.
i know photograph: the portrait of jazz musicians shot in harlem in 1958. why this photograph? well that was the year i was born and it represents a group of natural treasures. jazz, like pragmatism, is american—both born from the muck of the twentieth century. for a time i was a full-time fashion art director (still have a chance from time to time) and had the opportunity to work with some amazing photographers, but i never gravitated to art kane’s work. when i discovered this letterhead, i spent a bit of time looking into his photography and i came to appreciate it. there is a website of his work and i urge you to take a look. this particular image spoke to me. (you will need to click on editorial to see the flag image i am referring to.) i’m far from patriotic. (i was once visited by bush’s secret service, but that’s another story.) however, i just love the composition.
this letterhead is quintessentially herb lubalin. i have never been a fan of his work. i am too narrow-minded and not as open as i should be. his work speaks to a time and place. you know where you are when you see his typography. just as you do when you see a piece by emil ruder. lubalin had a distinctive voice and it either spoke to you or it didn’t. i guess these two piece spoke to me and so have stayed in my collection.
just in case you missed me this past weekend. that’s my daughter using ichat to pass the time. she sold some wicked chocolate chip cookies.