BPS Logo

 

Publishing Group Annual 2016
Outrageous Fonts

PG Annual 2014

Introduction to the Publishing Group Annual: Outrageous Fonts by Rachel Marsh

The topic of the 2016 Publishing Group Annual was ‘Outrageous Fonts’ – a subject that has the potential to raise the hackles of typography purists. Fortunately, Publishing Group members are a broad-minded and eclectic bunch and the subject was interpreted in the broadest possible manner and with a certain mischievous relish. In what other publication would it be possible to find various egregious typefaces, alongside swastika borders and baptismal fonts?

When my copy of the PG Annual Outrageous Fonts arrived I read it from cover to cover with a broad grin on my face. It wasn’t just the humour, (though Katherine Anteney’s Harold set me off laughing on the very first page, as did Anke Ueberberg’s neon pink outrage towards the end) but it was wonderful to see that the topic had inspired many members to print more long-form text contributions than usual. Some explained their choice of ‘Outrageous’ font (Chris Brinson’s love letter to a happy discovery at St Bride’s springs to mind), others described the woes of eBay (Alan Brignull and Paul Hatcher), then there are the Figgins Ornamented Initial Fragments, allowing Victorian printers to ‘create his own typographic horrors’ (I want some!) plus fascinating insights on Pouchée and other delights from St Bride Library (Bob Richardson).

Many contributions point out that outrageousness is in the eye of the beholder, and that tastes change over time (Ron Prosser and John Easson). In fact I rather like Mike Perry’s ‘Ugly Face’ – the typeface he uses in his title, I mean! I also covet the nine-line fat-face much beloved of Peter Criddle’s Ericius Press, which he prints beautifully at an angle, bleeding off the page, but which various historical type aficionados described as ‘truly disgusting’ and ‘painfully bad to the eye’.

It was most enjoyable to see the outrageous digital fonts that some members managed to find online. The silhouetted font Bizarro discovered by Margaret Rookes is the stuff of nightmares, and Ron Rookes displayed a list of outrages that pushed legibility to the limit in a most satisfying way. I wonder whether, like the Victorian fat-faces, these too will be resurrected with glee in a hundred years’ time? Maybe not. John Miller found non-text fonts of Banksy graffiti and single-handed signing – there’s more than one way to communicate . . . Terry Shapland’s seemingly innocent and flowery ‘Sybarite’ font included a surprise moral warning, with the take-home message that you should not teach your horses to dance to music. All the more horrific for being typeset in Curlz MT. Ugh!
Rebus was a new one on me. It was wittily displayed by Win Armand Smith, who showed its riddle-like quality without in fact using any actual Rebus (which, she tells me, is a Victorian dingbat typeface) at all. I particularly loved the fish-head eyes (I’s).

A font can be outrageous if it’s missing some characters (Peter White issues a plea for missing sorts) or if it’s been horribly abused by previous printers. But often it’s good to be outrageous, or daring, dazzling, audacious and flamboyant (Elizabeth Fraser and John Holmes)! And sometimes this impact can be made by . . . just not being there. Owen Legg’s ghost font is as ingenious as it is absent.

For baptismal font collectors, there are three in this annual: a most unchristian looking Luppitt font, an octagonal medieval font in Bag Enderby, and a stunning contemporary font in Salisbury Cathedral (Paul Hatcher, John Miller, Jean Watson). All are outrageous in different ways.

So who had the audacity to include the swastika border? Find out for yourself as the Annual is now available for sale at just £7.50 at www.bpsnet.org.uk !
Claire Bolton, print historian and former BPS and PG member, has kindly written a review with a more detailed approach to the ins and outs of printing a contribution to this kind of annual, which is full of useful advice.

PG Annual 2014

Review of the Publishing Group Annual: Outrageous Fonts by Claire Bolton

This is the annual production of the members of the Publishing Group. This year 22 of the 31 members contributed, all designing and printing a page or more for this small book. The 2016 theme was Outrageous Fonts.

The word ‘fonts’ may act like a red rag to a bull to the more letterpress-orientated of us, and indeed the collection brought us three images of fonts (one from Salisbury Cathedral, one from Bag Enderby church, Lincolnshire and one from Luppitt church in Devon) as well as another contribution which thoughtfully explained the difference between fount and font. Readers take note. Seven contributors provided digital offerings, so were well within the terms of the title. The remainder (and the majority), I am delighted to say, ignored the digital implications of the title and showed off their most outrageous letterpress type.

The variety of approach and interpretation of the theme is always one of the keys to the success of the PG Annual and this year is no exception. I am not going to pick out contributors by name but have decided to comment more generally on the design of the pages and the skills in getting ink on the page of the participants. My apologies if I am preaching to the converted.

Learn the rules first and then, as you continue to learn, break the rules joyfully.

Design
The PG Annual alternates its A5 format from landscape to portrait each year. 2016 is a Portrait year. Whichever the orientation, A5 is not the friendliest page size for design, especially when allowing extra margin for a comb binding. The unprinted space left on the page is as important as the printed text areas. Some contributors have allowed generous margins to set off their printing, others have been more miserly – I think to the detraction of the printing – and one has splendidly, and very successfully, ignored margins altogether. One contributor solved the A5 problem by happily expanding the page.

The page layout is traditionally centred for over two-thirds of the contributions, but it is good to see some producing some alternative, off-centred approaches.

Text type sizes and line lengths vary, not unexpectedly with the number of contributors. Some have kept to the general rule of thumb of not more than 11-13 words to a line, beyond which the reader gives up as it is too difficult to follow the line, especially when the type is of small point size. Others have balanced their text type size and line length and some have pushed boundaries as to what size of type works as a text type.

Inking
Getting ink on the page evenly and cleanly is always a challenge. One can blame the paper, the temperature on the day, the age of the ink, the age of the type . . . We have both ends of the spectrum (sorry!) here with some skilled inking of a large areas of black to some rather poorly under-inked offerings (at least in my copy). Great to see such a range of coloured inks – typography does not have to be black, and I loved the grey and navy combination.

Paper
Some of the under-inking problems may be down to trying to print letterpress on unsympathetic paper stock. Generally papers designed for the inkjet or laser printer will not perform well for letterpress printing. Choice of stock is as important as typeface and ink to produce a printed page that you can be proud of. Grain direction should run down the page. I know this is tricky if it is already running down the A4 sheet you are cutting from, but please try to get the grain direction correct as it makes for such a different feel when turning the book pages.

The content made for some fascinating reading: I am now much more knowledgeable about font architecture in far-flung churches, and it was good to see some of these outrageous letters emerge for a quick frolic, and especially good to have representation from our National Treasure the St Bride Library.

This is a ‘show off ‘ publication for PG members, so use it to show off what you can do to delight other printing aficionados.
This is the annual production of the members of the Publishing Group. This year 22 of the 31 members contributed, all designing and printing a page or more for this small book. The 2016 theme was Outrageous Fonts.
 The word ‘fonts’ may act like a red rag to a bull to the more letterpress-orientated of us, and indeed the collection brought us three images of fonts (one from Salisbury Cathedral, one from Bag Enderby church, Lincolnshire and one from Luppitt church in Devon) as well as another contribution which thoughtfully explained the difference between fount and font. Readers take note. Seven contributors provided digital offerings, so were well within the terms of the title. The remainder (and the majority), I am delighted to say, ignored the digital implications of the title and showed off their most outrageous letterpress type.
 The variety of approach and interpretation of the theme is always one of the keys to the success of the PG Annual and this year is no exception. I am not going to pick out contributors by name but have decided to comment more generally on the design of the pages and the skills in getting ink on the page of the participants. My apologies if I am preaching to the converted.

Learn the rules first and then, as you continue to learn, break the rules joyfully.

Design
The PG Annual alternates its A5 format from landscape to portrait each year. 2016 is a Portrait year. Whichever the orientation, A5 is not the friendliest page size for design, especially when allowing extra margin for a comb binding. The unprinted space left on the page is as important as the printed text areas. Some contributors have allowed generous margins to set off their printing, others have been more miserly – I think to the detraction of the printing – and one has splendidly, and very successfully, ignored margins altogether. One contributor solved the A5 problem by happily expanding the page.

The page layout is traditionally centred for over two-thirds of the contributions, but it is good to see some producing some alternative, off-centred approaches.

Text type sizes and line lengths vary, not unexpectedly with the number of contributors. Some have kept to the general rule of thumb of not more than 11-13 words to a line, beyond which the reader gives up as it is too difficult to follow the line, especially when the type is of small point size. Others have balanced their text type size and line length and some have pushed boundaries as to what size of type works as a text type.

Inking
Getting ink on the page evenly and cleanly is always a challenge. One can blame the paper, the temperature on the day, the age of the ink, the age of the type . . . We have both ends of the spectrum (sorry!) here with some skilled inking of a large areas of black to some rather poorly under-inked offerings (at least in my copy). Great to see such a range of coloured inks – typography does not have to be black, and I loved the grey and navy combination.

Paper
Some of the under-inking problems may be down to trying to print letterpress on unsympathetic paper stock. Generally papers designed for the inkjet or laser printer will not perform well for letterpress printing. Choice of stock is as important as typeface and ink to produce a printed page that you can be proud of. Grain direction should run down the page. I know this is tricky if it is already running down the A4 sheet you are cutting from, but please try to get the grain direction correct as it makes for such a different feel when turning the book pages.

The content made for some fascinating reading: I am now much more knowledgeable about font architecture in far-flung churches, and it was good to see some of these outrageous letters emerge for a quick frolic, and especially good to have representation from our National Treasure the St Bride Library.

This is a ‘show off ‘ publication for PG members, so use it to show off what you can do to delight other printing aficionados.

£7.50
Including UK
Postage

£9.75
Including Overseas Postage


PG Annual 2014