This week felt pretty pivotal. I focused on the typography and immigration threads, and feel like my concept cleared up a lot more.
On the typography side, I read two of the books that were on my list (Type Tells Tales and part of Thinking with Type; skipping the sections more focused on larger bodies of text and grids) and added a few more. Type Tells Tales was a quick read, since it was more a collection of case studies for expressive typography. It was really inspiring on a creative level, even if it didn’t provide a lot of theory itself. Below are some of the projects that spoke to me the most —
The Bald Soprano (pp. 66-7) has a kinetic typography feel to it that I’m really drawn to. The designer mentions it was an “attempt to capture … the dynamism of the theatre with the static confines of a book,” translating the play “to the printed page through the nuances, inflections and tics of the actors” — I find this really in line with what I want to create too.
The Wire Poster Project (pp. 134-5) has a great balance of grittiness/chaos and structure/order to it. It’s described as “the potential synthesis of the vintage/vernacular Globe Poster aesthetic (an institution native to Baltimore), and the Constructivist-inspired, expressive compositions.” I can’t say I know much about Baltimore, but assuming the project is successful, this would also be in line with what I’d like to make; capturing the vernacular aesthetic(s) of a city.
The Traveling Font Salesman (pp. 196-7) displays an incredible diversity of type specimens: “I wanted each spread to be different — colours, expressive layout, text length, type sizes … I pictured each page or spread being its own frameable work of art … [The fonts] are not perfect and grand, but they are charming and endearing in their own way” This contrast and diversity, and the embracing of imperfections, would feel very fitting in a project centered around New York.
On the immigration side, I read five (long) chapters of City of Dreams in preparation for my visit to Ellis Island on Sunday. These chapters spanned from the Civil War up to the early years of Ellis Island (around the 1910s) — covering some very difficult times to say the least: anti-draft and anti-Black riots as well as anti-Irish sentiment in the City, plus the forces that drove new ethnic groups to the US (pogroms in Eastern Europe, and hunger and poverty in Italy). The book was once again very vivid in these descriptions, including the harrowing journey through Ellis Island that millions of people had to endure (long and uncomfortable waits, invasive examinations, and anxiety-inducing questioning; all while knowing you could be turned away at any point and lose everything). My visit to the museum confirmed a lot of what I learned from the book (I recognized a lot of the same pictures displayed in both), so I’m really glad I pushed myself to read all of these chapters before I visited.
Now at the end of the week, I feel a little conflicted — on the one hand, I’m excited about what I’m learning and the ideas simmering under the surface for my project. On the other, my reading list is growing even as I feel like I can’t read any faster than I am right now. I’m counting on most of the remaining books to be faster reads than City of Dreams, or I’m going to have to do some serious prioritizing.