Taiwanese edition of ‘A Clear Dream’ published

The Taiwanes edition of ‘A Clear Dream’ on top of the Dutch edition.

The Taiwanes edition of ‘A Clear Dream’ on top of the Dutch edition.

Two weeks ago the Taiwanese edition of my book ‘A Clear Dream’ (Droom van Helderheid) was published as part of the ‘Source series’. It is surprising to see such an interest in Taiwan in the history of Dutch visual identity, modernism and design agencies.

The ‘Source series” is an imprint of Taiwanese designer Wang Zhi-Hong facilitated by Faces Publications. Luckely the print quality of the book seems better then the Chinese edition published last year. It is fascinating to see how Zhi-Hong uses social media to generate interest: the book has already been seen by over 11.000 people on Behance (featured graphic design), and by many more on Tumbler, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The book features a nice cover and a carefully composed layout that to a large degree is based upon the Dutch edition, that was designed by Piet Gerards Ontwerpers. It is not clear whether Zhi-Hong takes note of this.

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Design Conferences? Find them here!

  • Cumulus (International Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media). It also includes vacancies.
  • Design Journal & Conference Calls. Site maintained by Filippo Salustri.
  • Design Research Society.
  • JISC mailing list for Design PhD’s. With interesting discussions.
  • Icograda (International Council of Communication Design) events. Mainly for design shows, but also some other events.
  • Typeface Caravelle is an airplane

    Caravelle type specimen, 1960s (coll. Bakker)

    Caravelle type specimen, 1960s (coll. Bakker)

    Although the Univers might have been the typeface of the future for France, that did not mean there were no other typefaces to be considered. In the beginning of the nineteen sixties the Fonderie Typographique Française (FTF) for example, also brought out the sans serif typeface ‘Caravelle’, or in plain English the ‘caravel’. Continue reading

    Printing 1770-1970: A good book!

    Michael Twyman, Printing 1770-1970: An illustrated history of its development and uses in England, Eyre & Spottiswoode (Publishers) Ltd., London 1970. ISBN 413-264203-2, 21.5×30.3×2.5 cm, 283 pg

    Used as we are to graphic design histories featuring hero’s like Paul Rand, Wim Crouwel and that German named guy who is into self mutilation, we tempt to forget that there are also other histories possible. Critics originating in the field of visual culture studies have pointed this out frequently. Still they fail to construct an alternative. Which makes sense if deconstruction is your specialty. Continue reading

    French Booklet for aspiring botanists


    Guerard, Les enfans voyageurs, ou les petits botanistes (T. I. & II., 2 ed.), Librairie d’éducation d’Alex, Paris 1826. 13.5×9 cm.

    A lovely booklet originally part of a four volume set. A children’s book series for aspiring botanists. Complete with a frivolous yellow bookmark and dried leafs. From a bookshop in the French village of Crest (Drôme).

    Who held this book in his or her hands? The booklets deliver a pensive image. In the vain of ‘remembrance of a summer day’. What I like most on the title page is it the logotype ‘2nd Edition’. A nice construction.

    There are many images in this book. Lightly printed gravures of plants, very detailed. Some say that engraved texts are at the foundation of Didot types. The engraving process itself facilitating even strokes. True? I don’t know but it is a nice story.



    Best (Old) Printing Industry Dictionary


    Every industry has its own lingo. A typical job advertisement in the IT-industry for example might ask for ‘a front-end developer with experience from UI level (Javascript) to the controller level (Python)’. It is not likely that people outside the industry understand this. It is even harder to decipher sentences like this when the industry in question is that of letter press printing. Except for handful of hobbyists who are on the verge of extinction its gone. Continue reading

    Jean Carrot or how to recognise a stereotype


    Jean Racine, Oeuvres de Jean Racine (Tome Second), De l’imprimerie et de la fonderie stéréotypes de Pierre Didot l’ Aîne, et de Firmin Didot, Paris 1803. 15.7×10.5×2.3 cm.

    Some time ago I bought a small dishevelled book written by the famous French playwright Jean Racine (last name translates as Carrot). I was interested in the printer of the booklet: Pierre Didot, whose beautiful composition of initials ‘PD’ can be seen on the title page.

    The Didot printers are famous for being the inventors of the modern type, a type face that has lost its handwritten character. Its serifs and stems have become mere geometrical stripes. It is regarded as a the first step on route towards sans serifs types. At least in French eyes.

    Italians might detract from Didots achievements by pointing at Giambattista Bodoni, whose typefaces are still used for fashion magazines like Vogue and Harpers Bazar. French will retaliate by saying that the Didot face can be traced back to the ‘Romain du Roi’. Etc.

    Enfin. I wanted to a piece of that history. The interesting thing is that the title page of this booklet also says it is a Fonderie of Stéréotypes (foundry of stereotype). That is right! These are the guys that invented stereotypes!

    With the Didot’s stereotyping was a process in which a paper maché mold was made from a ‘page’ with handset type matter. This paper maché mold could be filled with melted lead. The result was a massive new positive typeset page that could be used for printing.

    The advantage of a paper maché mold was that it was easier to store. For reprinting a book, it was not necessary anymore to store thousands of pounds of lead, or to typeset a book again, a process that was prone to errors. The Didot’s profited from stereotyping and produced many cheap editions.

    In the course of time the expression ‘stereotyping’ became a metaphor. In the mid nineteen hundreds dictionaries defined it as ‘an image perpetuated without change’. In 1922 its was ‘officially’ coined as a metaphor by the American journalist Walter Lippmann while writing an editorial for the magazine Public Opinion.

    In it he stated that the pictures in the press influence people’s perceptions of reality, and consequently, they developed their own stereotypes: ‘Wether right or wrong, our imagination is shaped by these pictures seen. Consequently, they lead to [our own] stereotypes that are hard to shake.’

    Brainwave. What do my old French-Dutch dictionaries say?
    In my 1908 dictionary it is still missing as a Dutch expression, between steranijs (star anise) en sterfbed (deathbed). As a French expression: ‘Stéréotype, with concrete type’, as a process ‘Stéréotyper, printing with concrete type, stereotyping.’

    My 1937 dictionary–unfortunately only French-Dutch–says: ‘Stéréotype, stereographically printed.’ But it also notes it can be used metaphorically.’ Interestingly it also introduces the ‘Stéréotypeur, workman who works with concrete type matter.’ It seems likely that this trade became that of journalism.

    Now the final and politically correct question. How do I recognise a real stereotype? Have I bought a ‘stereotyped’ booklet?




    A well designed French Dictionary


    Kramers’ Nouveau Dictionaire de Poche: Français-Néerlandais et Néerlandais-Français (9e ed.), G. B. van Goor Zonen, Gouda 1908. 16.2×12.5×6.3cm. 1320 pg.
    Frans Handwoordenboek, Eerste Deel, Frans-Nederlands (2e ed.), G.B. van Goor Zonen’s U.M. N.V.,
    Den Haag 1937. 19.5x14x4.3cm. 862 pg.

    A few years ago I acquired these French-Dutch dictionaries, published in respectively 1908 and 1937. They are brilliant and outperform contemporary dictionaries for use with old texts. Also their design is worthwhile.

    The (bold)ly listed names are very convenient for searching. Typically the typeface in which dictionaries are set has a relatively large x-height and low ascenders and descenders. Meaning the publisher can cram in as much lines of text as possible. And it still is a pleasure to read.

    Someone at Whatthefont pointed out to me the name of the typeface: Romana. A great name connecting it with the Romans. Admired because of the monumentality of their Roman capitals which was at the foundation of our contemporary alphabet.

    The typeface seems to have originated around 1900 in the German type foundry of Ludwig Wagner. Remarkably even Linotype, that now produces the digital version of this font does not have much information about it.

    The 1937 dictionary carries an interesting variation on the 1908 edition in that makes use of small pictograms to indicate the category to which a word belongs. For a military term for example two sabres are used, and for thieves slang–‘boeventaal’– gallows are shown. Isotype influence?





    Book names: Modern Man in the Making / Creating the Modern Man


    A study in contrasts? Searching for Neurath’s Modern Man in the Making on Google also brings up Pendergast’s Creating the Modern Man : American Magazines and Consumer Culture : 1900-1950.

    Neuraths title neutrally suggest the development of mankind as shared project. It is clear that in his view modernity-accept for the heavy toll of war–is a positive development, made possible by the progress of science. People are abstract, quantifiable and can be expressed in visual statistics.

    Pendergast writes about the creation of idea’s about masculinity between 1900 and 1950. Interestingly the title Creating (…) suggest a creator. It is tempting to think that Pendergast refers to ‘creation’ of ideas by corporate consumer capitalism. Instead he suggests a process that is positive in nature, in which everybody participates.

    Two ideas of looking at, and studying men, one contemporary, one in retrospect. Both resulting in a similar book title and a very different cover. I am thinking about this. I can’t remember Neurath dealing with cultural issues in his statistics?

    • Thomas D. Pendergast, Creating the Modern Man: American Magazines and Consumer Culture: 1900-1950, University of Missouri Press, Columbia 2000.
    • Otto Neurath, Modern Man in the Making, Alfred A. Knopf, New York 1939.