SPEEDBALL TEXT BOOK 14TH EDITION Part 8

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Images © Ross F. George estate and/or Hunt Manufacturing Co.

Continuing my commentary on this 1941 lettering and design handbook. Previous chapters can be found under the “Lettering/Fonts” category tag on the right side of this blog page.

Ross F. George was a master with the Speedball pens he helped design, and this alphabet is full of appealing bounce and humor. It also looks quite old-fashioned to me now, though in 1941 it was probably right up to date. I particularly like the capital S.

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A more formal but just as appealing alphabet with a white inline that gives the letters depth. There are very few straight lines here.

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On the left we see the kind of experimentation and exploration of styles that go into the creation of new lettering styles and fonts. The last one might have come from a comic book. On the right is what, to Ross, was recent history, the “Gay Nineties,” a style we now associate with the old west and/or circus posters, and perhaps New Orleans and riverboats too.

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More variations on a theme, though none of these are what I (and most designers) would call Roman. Some of them are certainly Art Deco.

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Ross takes time out from alphabets to lecture on spacing. His comments are still correct and relevant, but most people don’t run into this kind of spacing problem because they’re using fonts with kerning (individual spacing allotted to particular pairs of letters) that eliminate at least the most obvious spacing problems. When one is creating fonts, though, this is crucial knowledge.

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More wise words about letter spacing, and methods of approaching it, good and bad. The more you work with letters, the more obvious correct spacing becomes. You know it when you see it, it looks right. The fact that there are fonts out there with bad spacing means one of two things. Either the person creating the font hasn’t learned to see correct spacing, or he (she) doesn’t want to put the extra work into adding kerning information for all the letter combinations that will make it look right.

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Moving on to page design using large display lettering and blocks of type. My favorite thing here is the one at bottom center. Today’s page designer works most often with color, and that leads to other kinds of design decisions, but for plain black and white design, these are excellent examples.

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Good words on balance in page design. The one at upper right could apply to comics, and when the lettering was laid out on the page by the penciller while designing a comics page, the pictures and text worked together better in many cases. The only artist I know of that still does this today is P. Craig Russell. His pages are all beautifully designed.

More next time.

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