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Letters are ambivalent signs: as images and abstractions, they are the signature of both intuition and mind. Social and technological developments, as well as the critical and ethical consciousness of an era, are reflected aesthetically within the microcosm of type. 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

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Yvonne Schwemer-Scheddin Broken Images: Blackletter between Faith and Mysticism Blackletter: Type and National Identity, 1998

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f all the main classifications of type, Blackletter1 is undoubtably the most politicised. No other group of typefaces has as many contradictory, distinctive interpretations. Blackletter’s rich, turbulent history has created a complicated, inter-related network of political, religious and cultural connotations that is still evolving into the 21st century. A curious anachronism in today’s media landscape is blackletter’s continuing use on newspaper mastheads2. It poses questions about whether the political history of the style still influences its perception and how does this connect with the paper’s political outlook? As a style, it is deeply rooted to its calligraphic origins and as a result, notions of the authenticity in written communication and trust of the printed page. It can connote historical ideas as diverse as Christianity, German national identity, British heritage, Western imperialism and Nazi rule. Then there are more modern associations with heavy metal music, tattoos, hip hop and the general idea of youthful rebellion. Although not always overtly political, these polarities are culturally divisive and create tensions within the various meanings. Paul Shaw and Peter Bain’s introductory essay in Blackletter: Type and National Identity 3 proposes that numerous ideological battles surround the style, creating dichotomies that still remain unresolved today. From its initial development by French scribes who met a demand for a more condensed, efficient style that would aid the spread of information around the continent, it helped to move Europe out of the Middle Ages. This set up an opposition between mediaevalism and modernism; between a system of feudal societies linked by the Christian church towards a more modern, network of nation states built around knowledge and democracy. Gutenberg’s adoption of blackletter, again largely for space-saving reasons, cemented its place at the heart of Christian theology for centuries to come. Yet this new technology also linked it with the new modernist ideals that were sweeping Europe. Printed books encouraged literacy and the development of the first universities, yet academic and governmental institutions quickly started using roman-style lettering after their rediscovery and refinement during the Renaissance in Italy. Even by the start of the 16th century, over 100 years before it was used on a newspaper, blackletter is a style that is immersed in cultural and historical meaning. As roman lettering dominated the rest of Europe, thanks to the popularity of the

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1. Blackletter is the correct term for a type family that is sometimes refered to as Gothic Script, Textura, Fraktur or Old English. _

2. ‘Masthead’ is the popular British term for was is correctly known as the newspaper’s ‘nameplate’ or more traditionally, its ‘title piece’. More accurately, the masthead is the list of credits, usually found on the inside pages. However, for this essay I will use the word in its common form. _

3. Blackletter: Type and National Identity. Edited by Peter Bain and Paul Shaw, Princeton Architectural Press, 1999. _


There are four main varieties of blackletter: Textura (or Textualis) is the original, calligraphic form developed from Carolingian minuscule in northern France. Rotunda originated in Italy shortly in the 13th century. Schwabacher evolved from textualis in Germany and was influenced by Italian Humanist type design. Fraktur is a much later form, developed in the 16th century and most commonly associated with Germany.

Textura

Rotunda

Schwabacher

Fraktur

Above: Example of Textura Quadrata hand, c.1250-1300 Left: Example page from Gutenberg’s original 42 line Bible.

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“…the newspaper publisher did not use blacklister in order to convey the impression of antiquity. The use of blackletter in the seventeenth century has no connexion with the use of a corrupt form of it by newspaper owners today. To the seventeenth-century printers, it was just the blackest letter they had in their cases, and was used as such.” Stanley Morison

French Enlightenment, blackletter styles continued popularity in Germany. In an ill-defined country with little to connect the overall population, leaders wanted to distill a distinctive identity, separate from their military rivals and neighbours, France and Italy. The use of the new Fraktur style in Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible helped to create Modern High German and so blackletter became intrinsically linked with both the Protestant church and Germanic nationhood. In 16th and 17th century Britain, blackletter gained the epithet of ‘Old English’ but its use was restricted to religious documents and formal announcements. Meanwhile, the concept of newssheets was imported from mainland Europe and the first example in London, the Corante, began circulation in 1621. It used blackletter type for the body copy for the majority of its 7 editions, yet its short life span meant it had little influence over the design of subsequent titles. The 18th century saw the proliferation of daily, bi-weekly and weekly newspapers all over Europe, resulting in competition between titles for both readers and advertising revenue. This was the birth of the newspaper as we know today and in most northern European countries, publishers seemed to favour blackletter for their mastheads. Stanley Morison4 believed that printers chose the largely redundant style because it was the darkest, boldest type they had at their disposal. The Times was founded in 1788 is considered to be the first modern, national newspaper in Britain. After initially using a roman font for its masthead, after three months it introduced an amended Fraktur-based title piece which featured white lines within the letters, giving a more elaborate, decorative feel to the type. This illustrated style became known as Strawberry Hill Gothic 5 and had never been seen before the previous year; yet thanks to the high regard and influence of The Times, it quickly became the default style for British newspapers. Despite regular design changes in the rest of each newspaper, variations of white-lined Fraktur were dominant on British mastheads until well into the 20th century. The lack of alternative bold, attention-grabbing cut fonts and Britain’s vast colonial empire helped to spread this unique style around the world. Traditionally newspapers would echo the views of the ruling elite or the nationalistic views of the country in which it was published, but the 19th century established the idea of overtly politically biased titles. Owners sought to exert their influence, whilst the

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4. Stanley Morison (1889-1969) was a typographer and type designer, most famous for designing Times New Roman. In 1932 he published ‘The English Newspaper, 1622-1932’ which contained extensive research into the history of the masthead. In the same year he oversaw the radical redesign of The Times. _ 5. Gothic architecture spread from France to the UK in a similar way that ‘textura’ calligraphy did, yet it wasn’t until the mid 16th century that both garnered the term ‘gothic’. Renaissance writers coined the pejorative expression as a way of dismissing a culture that they saw as rude and barbaric, in opposition to the refinement. _


Above: Times Mastheads. From top: Original from 1788. Morison’s version from 1932. Redesign from 1953. Neville Brody’s redesign, 2006.

Above: An example of one of the large number of newspapers published in the second half of the 17th century that began the trend for using blackletter on their masthead.

Above: Title page of the first Lutheran Bible, published in 1534.

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Above: The Pall Mall Gazette, one of many newspapers using large headlines during World War 1. (1919) Left: The Mirror moves away from a newsbased page. (1932)

public could read stories which reflected their own views. Soon, newspaper proprietors became incredibly powerful figures who arguably could change the way a nation thinks. The idea of the media bearing a controlling influence on society is now an established, although contested, part of almost every nation on Earth. By association, these views begin to become connected with the typefaces that are chosen to impart them. As the graph shows (right hand page), blackletter mastheads were the norm in the UK until the 1930s. Their sudden fall from favour can be explained by a number of factors. Firstly, German modernist typography begun to influence a new generation of printers and designers, including Stanley Morison. Secondly, the events of World War I forced publishers to reconsider newspaper design. Headlines became larger to reflect the scale and seriousness of unfolding events and many titles adopted condensed, sans-serif grotesque fonts for front-page headlines. Also, some newspapers were moving towards a more populist agenda, reducing cover prices and aiming at a working class audience. The focus away from ‘serious’ news towards entertainment and sport stories required a move from formal, text-heavy traditional layouts of which the blackletter masthead was a key signifier.

Daily Express - 1938 - 1959

News Chronicle - 1940 - 1941

Manchester Guardian - 1881 - 1952

Evening Standard - 1968 - 1969

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Daily Herald - 1938 - 1943


BLACKLETTER MASTHEADS UK 1800

1700

1900

2000

1900

2000

BRITISH | NATIONAL MORNING CHRONICLE MORNING POST MORNING HERALD THE TIMES 1800

1700

THE OBSERVER MANCHESTER GUARDIAN | THE GUARDIAN

BRITISH | NATIONAL

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH MORNING CHRONICLE NEWS CHRONICLE

MORNING POST

THE PEOPLE

MORNING HERALD

FINANCIAL TIMES

THE TIMES

DAILY MAIL

THE OBSERVER

DAILY EXPRESS MANCHESTER GUARDIAN | THE GUARDIAN DAILY MIRROR THE DAILY TELEGRAPH DAILY HERALD NEWS CHRONICLE SUNDAY EXPRESS THE PEOPLE THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

FINANCIAL TIMES

THE SUN

DAILY MAIL

DAILY STAR

DAILY EXPRESS

MAIL ON SUNDAY

DAILY MIRROR

INDEPENDENT

DAILY HERALD

BRITISH | LARGE REGIONAL

SUNDAY EXPRESS THE SCOTSMAN (SCOTLAND)

THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

EVENING STANDARD (LONDON)

THE SUN

THE BELFAST TELEGRAPH (NORTHERN IRELAND)

DAILY STAR

GLASGOW HERALD | THE HERALD (SCOTLAND)MAIL ON SUNDAY DAILY RECORD (SCOTLAND)

BRITISH | LARGE REGIONAL

INDEPENDENT

THE SCOTSMAN (SCOTLAND) EVENING STANDARD (LONDON) THE BELFAST TELEGRAPH (NORTHERN IRELAND) GLASGOW HERALD | THE HERALD (SCOTLAND) DAILY RECORD (SCOTLAND)

POLITICAL BIAS

BLACKLETTER MASTHEAD

INFO

Right Wing / Conservative

Title uses blackletter masthead

Major UK newspapers.

Centre Right

Title continues without blackletter masthead

Political bias assesed using data from: http://www.mondotimes.com http://en.wikipedia.org

Centrist Centre Left / Liberal

Political bias assesed at each title’s most recent history.

Left Wing

Historical data collected from: The Changing Newspaper, Allen Hutt, 1973 http://news.google.com/newspapers/archive http://newspapers11.bl.uk/blcs/

POLITICAL BIAS

BLACKLETTER MASTHEAD

INFO

Right Wing / Conservative

Title uses blackletter masthead

Major UK newspapers.

Centre Right

Title continues without blackletter masthead

Political bias assesed using data from:

Centrist Centre Left / Liberal Left Wing

http://www.mondotimes.com http://en.wikipedia.org

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Another crucial influence on British mastheads in the 20th century was not the politics of the UK but the political ambitions of Germany. By the start of the 20th century, Germany was using a dual-script system, with both blackletter and roman being taught in schools and being widely used by printers. However, during the Nazis period of rule between 1933 and 1945, they introduced the concept of Gleichschaltung which politicised every aspect of German culture. In an effort to try and forge a distinct German identity, Modernism was rejected in favour of a mythical Teutonic aesthetic that mixed the gothic styles of German Expressionism with traditional, rustic craft skills. Blackletter, particularly Fraktur, was declared as the Volksschrift 6 by the Office for the Supervision of the Entire Cultural and Ideological Education and Training because it was viewed as being the most German of all type styles. As with the adoption of the swastika, historical accuracy was ignored and the idea of creating a visual opposition against the enemy’s use of roman type was viewed as being of greater importance.

6. Volksschrift, meaning ‘lettering of the German people, was part of Hitler’s attempt to create a unified German culture, as were consumer goods like the Volksempfänger (people’s radio) and the Volkswagen (people’s car). _

Despite years spent adhering to this uniform typographic identity, in 1941 Martin Bormann, Hitler’s private secretary, issued a letter banning blackletter’s use. The letter declared that blackletter was a Jewish script, labelling it as another type of Judenlettern, along with modernist sans-serifs. The real reason for the edict was probably more practical: roman text was thought to be a more flexible method of communicating with the inhabitants of its occupied territories. When viewed retrospectively, such extreme political views suits such an extreme type style. The spikes of blackletter can be viewed as gesturally aggressive, giving a visual embodiment to Nazi practices. Shaw and Bain describe blackletter as when “the darkness of the characters over-powers the whiteness of the page”, again echoing one of the darkest periods of modern history. The particular type of Fraktur favoured by the Nazis, known as schaftstiefelgrotesk7 is rigid and authoritarian when compared with other varieties. This is one of the most obvious examples of how a typeface’s shape can define it. Blackletter’s angular forms can resemble spikes, flames, scythes and aggressive architecture like fences or castles. Despite the fact it was rarely used after 1942, blackletter has become one of the key signifiers of the Third Reich. Despite being tarnished and disgraced, in post-war Germany blackletter is still used, although largely limited to use within the sphere of heritage or gastronomy. Meanwhile, Allied propaganda and

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7. Schaftstiefelgrotesk, literally meaning ‘jackbook grotesk’ is a pejorative, slang term for the preferred type style of the Nazi party. It bears the same relationship to traditional German blackletters that sans serif types do to serifed Latin type. _


This page: Various example of ‘Schaftstiefelgrotesk’, 1932-1943.

Right: Title cards from the movie ‘Where Eagles Dare’ (1968), and TV-series ‘Colditz’ (1972).

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subsequent graphic stereotyping (in war movies and books for example) gave blackletter a heightened level of meaning around the world. This lead to another curious dichotomy, in Britain blackletter type could connote both traditional English values and the evil empire it has defeated. As the number of newspapers in the UK that used blackletter on their masthead slowly declined in the second half of the 20th century, it developed a wealth of new cultural interpretations. Instead, youth movements started using it to express rebellious individuality. AC/DC and MotĂśrhead (both pioneers of a new, heavy form of rock music) both started using blackletter on their artwork in 1977. These bands deliberately chose to provoke conservative society visually as well as sonically. Over the last 35 years, various subcultures have gone on to adopt Fraktur as their identifying form of visual language. From heavy metal in the 1970s to hip hop in the 80s, blackletter is used by youth cults that feel they need a unique sense of identity. When a cultural artefact is left alone for enough time, as blackletter was after WW2, it becomes open to interpretation again, able to create a new visual rhetoric. Whether used by a latino gang to express territory in the form of graffiti, on a flyer for a neo-Nazi group, or on the arm of a Premiership footballer, blackletter is now seen as a powerful form of self-expression and is viewed as a fashionable alternative to the mainstream. For those within the subculture, irrespective of whether it was a conscious choice of typeface, it is a deeply political statement against the bland, commercialised visual culture of conventional society. Unsurprisingly, in the 1990s brands started to adopt these outsider aesthetics to sell products to a wider youth audience. By the late 1990s blackletter could be considered ‘cool’. A raft of new blackletter fonts were developed, which fitted in with the postmodern graphic design movement which liberally borrowed from all eras of typographic history. Inherently orthodox in nature, newspaper designers have only recently begun to embrace these new connotations. More liberal and urban in outlook, both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times have made prominent use of blackletter on their non-news pages over recent years. Even the notoriously conservative Daily Telegraph has started to use its own masthead type in a more contemporary manner for some of its glossy supplements.

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1: Reebok ‘I Am What I Am Campaign’, 2005 2: Flyer for neo-Nazi event, USA, 2005

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8: New York Times Style magazine, 2006 11: LA Magazine, LA Times, 2010

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10.

3: Motörhead single, 1977

4: Cypress Hill album, 2000

5: AC/DC album, 1981

6: Snoop Dogg album, 2006

9: Spinal Tap video cover, 1984

7: David Beckham tattoo, 1999 10: Fernando Torres tattoo, 2008

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The Telegraph is one of only two (or four if you include their sister Sunday titles) of the 20 major UK newspapers that still use blackletter on their masthead. Although aiming at different target markets, both are right wing in their political outlook. They both promote traditionalist, conservative values and so using a type style that is seen to be characteristically English fits the worldview of the title and its readers. Its current masthead, designed by Seb Lester (see interview on page 18) is actually very Germanic in origin, its features based on the solid, geometric forms of Fraktur. This is a perfect example of how context shapes meaning. Newspapers are a high profile product that tend to be bought in repetitive patterns, generating a long history of both personal and societal connotations. These associations act as a form of anchorage that causes the reader to understand some signifiers, whilst ignoring others. Thus the readers of the Mail and Telegraph unconsciously disregard blackletter’s potential links with, for example, National Socialism or heavy metal. Instead, blackletter is read as an antiquated symbol of British heritage, linked with swinging pub signs and Olde Tea Shoppes. For the Mail, the power of these arbitrary interpretations is especially useful because of its support for fascist organisations in the 1930s8. Above:

Additional anchorage comes from The Daily Mail’s prominent use of the Royal crest acts as an additional sign, helping to anchor its monarchist, nationalistic viewpoint. The lexicon of newspaper names is also important. Words like Telegraph and Mail connect to a time when these titles were in their infancy. These physical methods of news gathering are now ignored by readers, instead they act as a index of heritage in an industry where a long linage is viewed as important. The 1980s and 1990s saw most local newspapers in the UK bought by small number of powerful media conglomerates, removing both distinct political views and the chance for unique design. This makes it difficult to assess any meaningful correlation between political bias in the UK press and the use of blackletter. In his history of the British newspaper Allen Hutt writes: “Since its revival as a daily in 1919, the Herald had followed the old roman title tradition of radical and left wing newspapers”. So historically, there was a tendency for more progressivepapers to avoid blackletter. My research suggests this trend is still visible, although there are now far fewer politically biased titles to sample from. This pattern is far more distinct with newspapers from around the world, with the exception of the United States. Out of those

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Proprietor of the Daily Mail, Lord Rothermere, meeting with Hitler in 1932. _ 8. In 1933 Rothermere wrote “The minor misdeeds of individual Nazis would be submerged by the immense benefits the new regime is already bestowing on Germany”. The Mail also sympathetic editorials to Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists. In 1934 Rothermere himself famously wrote an article entitled “Hurrah for the Blackshirts”, praising Mosley for his “sound, commonsense, Conservative doctrine”. The paper’s support for National Socialism and the BUF ended before the start of WW2. _


This page: Various examples of ‘Old English’ blackletter used to indicate British heritage.

Left: Daily Worker was the predecessor to the Morning Star. This copy from 1954, an example of the left-wing tradition for non-blackletter mastheads.

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surveyed, only one (Le Monde) has a left-wing bias. In the US, with its unique form of politics, newspapers are seen as being a libertarian form of media. It’s certainly true that most of the broadsheet titles formed at an early stage in the country’s history have a liberal stance. Most of these have retained their traditional look and feel, whilst the majority of the right wing press has abandoned blackletter in favour of populist tabloid design. There are plenty of practical reasons for blackletter’s use on mastheads, its unique characteristics are instantly identifiable, helping to draw attention and act as a mark of distinction from its competitors. It also helps to visually differentiate between the commercial, inherently-biased medium and the message: the supposedly ‘pure’, untainted crystal goblet of news within. Both language and typography have inbuilt political meaning, yet their use within newspapers is much more overt. The myriad of potential readings is constantly mediated by world events, other forms of culture, technology and historical revisionism. At the heart of issue is blackletter’s connection to the birth of the printed page and therefore to the beginning of mass communication. In a digital age, it is a link back to a time when newspapers were the only source of news, a mythical era when they were revered and trusted, rather than viewed with suspicion.

Left: The Occupied Times, London (2011). An example of blackletter’s continued association with printed news, here in a contemporary, anti-establishment context.

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BLACKLETTER MASTHEADS WORLDWIDE 1700 1700

1800 1800

1900 1900

2000 2000

WORLDWIDE WORLDWIDE HILDESHEIMER HILDESHEIMER ALLGEMEINE ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG ZEITUNG (GERMANY) (GERMANY) HANAUER HANAUER ANZEIGER ANZEIGER (GERMANY) (GERMANY) BERLINGSKE BERLINGSKE TIDENDE TIDENDE (DENMARK) (DENMARK) NORRKÖPINGS NORRKÖPINGS TIDNINGAR TIDNINGAR (SWEDEN) (SWEDEN) SAARBRÜCKER SAARBRÜCKER ZEITUNG ZEITUNG (GERMANY) (GERMANY) SYDNEY SYDNEY MORNING MORNING HERALD HERALD (AUSTRALIA) (AUSTRALIA) GLOBE GLOBE AND AND MAIL MAIL (CANADA) (CANADA) CAPE CAPE ARGUS ARGUS (SOUTH (SOUTH AFRICA) AFRICA) AFTENPOSTEN AFTENPOSTEN (NORWAY) (NORWAY) THE THE NEW NEW ZEALAND ZEALAND HERALD HERALD (NEW (NEW ZEALAND) ZEALAND) DE DE TELEGRAAF TELEGRAAF (NETHERLANDS) (NETHERLANDS) LE LE MONDE MONDE (FRANCE) (FRANCE) FRANKFURTER FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG ZEITUNG (GERMANY) (GERMANY) KUWAIT KUWAIT TIMES TIMES (KUWAIT) (KUWAIT)

UNITED UNITED STATES STATES THE THE HARTFORD HARTFORD COURANT COURANT LOS LOS ANGELES ANGELES TIMES TIMES DETROIT DETROIT FREE FREE PRESS PRESS THE THE PHILADELPHIA PHILADELPHIA ENQUIRER ENQUIRER CHICAGO CHICAGO TRIBUNE TRIBUNE THE THE NEW NEW YORK YORK TIMES TIMES SAN SAN FRANCISCO FRANCISCO CHRONICLE CHRONICLE SAN SAN FRANCISCO FRANCISCO EXAMINER EXAMINER THE THE VIRGINIAN VIRGINIAN PILOT PILOT SAN SAN DIEGO DIEGO UNION UNION || UT UT SAN SAN DIEGO DIEGO BOSTON BOSTON GLOBE GLOBE THE THE WASHINGTON WASHINGTON POST POST SAN SAN JOSE JOSE MERCURY MERCURY NEWS NEWS DALLAS DALLAS MORNING MORNING NEWS NEWS THE THE CHARLOTTE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER OBSERVER ST. ST. PETERSBURG PETERSBURG TIMES TIMES || TAMPA TAMPA BAY BAY TIMES TIMES STATEN STATEN ISLAND ISLAND ADVANCE ADVANCE THE THE SEATTLE SEATTLE TIMES TIMES THE THE EVENING EVENING POST POST || THE THE POST POST AND AND COURIER COURIER MIAMI MIAMI HERALD HERALD THE THE WASHINGTON WASHINGTON TIMES TIMES

POLITICAL POLITICALBIAS BIAS Right RightWing Wing//Conservative Conservative

BLACKLETTER BLACKLETTERMASTHEAD MASTHEAD Title Titleuses usesblackletter blacklettermasthead masthead

INFO INFO Selected Selectedmajor majornewspapers newspapersstill stillusing usingblackletter blackletteron ontheir theirmasthead masthead(2012). (2012).

Centre CentreLeft Left//Liberal Liberal

Political Politicalbias biasassesed assesedusing usingdata datafrom: from: http://www.mondotimes.com http://www.mondotimes.com http://en.wikipedia.org http://en.wikipedia.org http://www.economics.mit.edu/files/1218 http://www.economics.mit.edu/files/1218

Left LeftWing Wing

Political Politicalbias biasassesed assesedat ateach eachtitle’s title’smost mostrecent recenthistory. history.

Centre CentreRight Right Centrist Centrist

Historical Historicaldata datacollected collectedfrom: from: The TheChanging ChangingNewspaper, Newspaper,Allen AllenHutt, Hutt,1973 1973 http://news.google.com/newspapers/archive http://news.google.com/newspapers/archive http://newspapers11.bl.uk/blcs/ http://newspapers11.bl.uk/blcs/

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SEB LESTER INTERVIEW Can you summarise the brief that you received from the Daily Telegraph?

Seb Lester is a type designer, illustrator and artist working in London.

The brief was to modernise the masthead, without alienating the Telegraph’s existing readership, many of whom are older generation traditionalists. All newspapers are worried about aging and dwindling readerships, which would have driven this decision to try to freshen things up.

He has created typefaces and type illustrations for the likes of Apple, Nike, Intel and The New York Times.

Obviously modernising these forms is a very difficult and some might say futile thing to attempt. Blackletter looks fundamentally ‘olde’ because it’s strongly associated with the medieval period by even the most visually illiterate of consumers. ‘Modernising’ the forms resulted in simplifying them, which could be said to be a relatively modern idea. Can you explain the thought process you went through when designing the new Telegraph masthead and the typeface that followed? What issues did you have to consider? It was a collaborative effort, as these things always are, between myself and the designers at The Telegraph. The issues considered included were the same ones we’d have designing a non blackletter logo or masthead. Looking at various alternative forms for some of the letters, brand differentiation – assessing how the masthead sat with other international news papers using blackletter. _

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Previously a Senior Type Designer at Monotype Imaging, he developed custom typefaces for clients including British Airways, Waitrose, The Daily Telegraph, H&M and Barclays. _ This interview was conducted via email in March 2012. _ www.seblester.co.uk


Left: Redesigned Telegraph mastheads and typeface, 2006. Below Left: Custom Telegraph typeface, 2006.

Legibility at small sizes in print and on screen. We developed section headers to tie everything together. The Telegraph then decided they wanted a full alphabet to cover them for the future, new section headers and so on. So many newspapers have dropped blackletter nameplates over the years, do you believe that the styles’ recent resurgence in popular culture has helped to halt this process? Have traditional titles like the Daily Telegraph embraced this new found sense of ‘cool’? I don’t know whether they’ve embraced any notion of coolness around blackletter because I don’t read the paper. There is something cool about blackletter at the moment, but it still has a limited range. I’ve certainly seen some companies and brands targeting youth markets — sports, fashion, energy drinks, skate, surf, BMX, Mixed Martial Arts etc — have indeed picked up on it’s edginess, i.e. mainly it’s association with gang culture and rap music.

Above: Daily Telegraph Saturday supplement, 2010. Daily Telegraph Fashion supplement, 2012.

It’s an extreme letter style in many senses. Aesthetically very rich, it can be very beautiful, heavy and dense. To modern eyes a little goes a long way. It can have an aggressive, stylishly ‘punky’ attitude which appeals to a certain kind of (generally) young male. So clearly Blackletter can be ultra-establishment and conversely anti-establishment, depending on the context in which it is applied.

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JIM PARKINSON INTERVIEW Is there a typical brief that newspapers approach you with when they want to update their blackletter nameplate? Not really. When they finally come to me, their nameplate has fallen as low as it can go. Managers at newspapers seem to think that anyone who is not a manager can be a lettering artist, so, over years, dozens of hapless staff artists at newspapers are ordered to “fix” the nameplate. It’s not their fault. It’s ignorance in high places. I always ask for a ‘logo history’ so I can see the various logos over the years. Then I can see where it started and what changes have been good about it and what have been bad. Then I pick the best elements of all the logos and combine them into one. Blackletter has so many different cultural interpretations, do you have to consider whether the letterforms might misinterpreted by the public?

Jim is renowed for designing custom fonts for newspapers and magazines, as well as typefaces and other typographic logos. His fonts have been published by Adobe, Monotype, FontShop, Font Bureau, and ITC. His typographic logos appear on the covers of many magazines and newspapers, including Rolling Stone, Newsweek, Esquire, InStyle, El Graphico, The Montreal Gazette, The Orange County Register and the National Post. _ This interview was conducted via email in March 2012. _ www.typedesign.com

I generally avoid going too Germanic. One has to be careful when designing for other countries, whether it be newspaper nameplates or anything else. Typographics have many subtle nationalistic nuances and unless you are aware of them, it’s best to aim right down the middle. The earliest blackletter nameplate I have read about is a Strawberry Hill Gothic by John Bell for The Times of London in 1788. Many newspapers in Britain, driven out by whatever, moved to America and brought their Blackletter tradition with them. Proclamations and Legal documents often sport Blackletter titles, even today. Many people perceive Blackletter as a symbol of authority, trust and traditional. So many newspapers have dropped blackletter nameplates over the years, do you believe that the style’s recent resurgence

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Left: Mastheads designed or re-designed by Jim Parkinson between 1990-2011.

in popular culture has helped to slow this process? Newspapers are always asking if there is a way to make Blackletter look modern. Blackletter is ancient. Trying to make it look modern only ruins it. Some newspapers are bright enough to notice this and switch over to more modern styles. I rarely see a paper switching from something to Blackletter. Do you have any thoughts on why blackletter nameplates hold such an enduring appeal? Tradition and all the other things that Blackletter represents to people. I think readers generally like their paper the way it is, so if you try to change it‌especially the title, the readers will raise a ruckus.

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VISUAL DEVELOPMENT

Visual experiements exploring how important context, language and design is to interpreting blackletter typography. _

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

Books

Magazine Articles

Blackletter: Type and National Identity Peter Bain, Paul Shaw (Editors) The Cooper Union, 1998

Gothic Horror Steven Heller Eye Magazine, Issue 62, 2006

The Changing Newspaper Allen Hutt Gordon Fraser Publishers, 1973

Online

Newspaper Design Allen Hutt Oxford University Press, 1960 The English Newspaper 1622-1932 Stanley Morison Cambridge University Press, 1932 Contemporary Newspaper Design John D. Berry (Editor) Mark Batty Publisher, 2004 ‘More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Nameplates’ Jim Parkinson The News Aesthetic Lawrence Mirsky, Silvana Tropea (Editors) The Cooper Union, 1995 ‘Newspapers as Twentieth Century Texture’ Kevin Barnhurst Seeing the Newspaper Kevin G. Barnhurst St. Martin’s Press, 1994 Uncorporate Identity Marina Vishmidt, Metahaven Lars Müller Publishers, 2010 Politics and Script Stanley Morison and Nicolas Barker Oxford University Press, 1972

Black Letter and the Broadside Ballad Gerald Egan http://ebba.english.ucsb.edu/page/black-letter Mail Supremacy Lauren Collins http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/04/02/120402fa_fact_ collins#ixzz1rZzp6zi8 List of oldest newspapers still in circulation World Association of Newspapers http://www.wan-press.org/article2823.html Font Designer – Stanley Morison Linotype http://www.linotype.com/510/stanleymorison.html Newspaper Archives British Library Online http://newspapers11.bl.uk/blcs/ British Library Online http://news.google.com/newspapers/archive Mondo Times - Worldwide News Media Guide http://www.mondotimes.com The Guardian Archives http://archive.guardian.co.uk/

Design Literacy: Understanding Graphic Design Steven Heller, Karen Pomeroy Allworth Press, 1997

UNIT 1.2

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Research Methods

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Profile for Nick Lovegrove

Blackletter, Politics & Media Bias  

Part of my MA, this essay explores the modern political ambiguity of blackletter type. As well as it’s traditional use on newspaper masthead...

Blackletter, Politics & Media Bias  

Part of my MA, this essay explores the modern political ambiguity of blackletter type. As well as it’s traditional use on newspaper masthead...

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