Open until June 18 at the AIGA National Design Center in New York, the Century exhibition celebrates the last 100 years of type in design, featuring pieces from the archives of several design institutions, including the Condé Nast Archives, the Herb Lubalin Study Center and the Hamilton Wood Type Museum.
Created by Pentagram Design's Abbott Miller, and curated and produced by Monotype, Century celebrates type's ever-present cultural role, surveying its place in design from the Industrial Revolution to the digital age.
For the event, Monotype have collaborated with a series of partners, all of whom occupy key roles in the design industry, to showcase rare and unique works from their archives, including sketches, concept art, photography, and original artwork.
Some of the highlights include oversized letterforms from Hamilton Wood Type's 1.5 million piece collection; a copy of the New York City Transit Authority Graphic Standards Manual, from the Lubalin center; and gems from Condé Nast's editorial archives, including a 1929 type manual, prototype David Hockney covers and examples of Alexander Liberman's groundbreaking cover design work.
"It's an opportunity to see the hand of the author," says Monotype creative director James Fooks-Bale. "Many designers are familiar with Mohawk paper, Condé Nast publications or the Gill Sans typeface, but they may not know as much about where these designs came from. This exhibition will give people the opportunity to learn more about the history of type in design and the work that shapes our environment."
As interest in the type world has expanded far beyond the graphic design community, the exhibition celebrates the integral role typography plays in visual culture. Aiming to build an environment that would surround visitors with the diversity of the typographic form, Abbott Miller created a repeated graphic motif for the walls and floor of the exhibition, borrowing full stops from dozens of typefaces from the Monotype libraries. In the words of Miller, this is "a testament to the diversity and overlooked beauty of type's humblest elements."
The C identity plays on the idea of a clock, featuring a letter made up of individual segments of typefaces from the Monotype libraries, and supported by an animation entitled Fractured Century. This mimics the minute hand movement of the clock, moving through hundreds of typefaces to create a letter whose sum is truly greater than its parts.
A second animation, Full-Stop, pulses through each of the full stops featured on the walls and floor. "Set to the pulsing sound of a heartbeat, the animation hints at the notion of type as the heart of graphic design," explains Miller.
As part of the exhibition Monotype is also publishing a series of five posters, in collaboration with Alan Kitching, to mark the 100th anniversary of five graphic design legends - Tom Eckersley, Abram Games, FHK Henrion, Josef Müller-Brockmann and Paul Rand - inspired by the typefaces each designer worked with and the brands they served,
Alan Kitching’s limited edition letterpress printed poster honoring Paul Rand 1914– 1996 using the Gill Sans Light Shadowed typeface, designed and printed by Alan Kitching. Image courtesy Alan Kitching.
"The impetus behind this work was the fact that all these five designers were born in the same year," says Kitching. "This was pointed out by Naomi Games in her book 'Abram Games'. I have always admired their work, and in fact they all played some part in my development as a designer."
"What distinguishes these designers is their intelligent and witty use of the type and image which they combined together to make a powerful graphic statement,” he adds.
Eye Magazine's John L. Walters has also contributed pieces examining each designer's work, and the typefaces Kitching has chosen to represent each. The five posters will be available as limited edition screenprints, as well as a collection of five that will fold down into the Monotype Collections box set. The five original pieces will be on display at the AIGA, as part of the Century exhibition.
The exhibition is free to the public, open through May 1 - June 18, at the AIGA National Design Center in New York. A full list of partners includes: AIGA, Pentagram Design, Mohawk Paper, The Type Directors Club, Condé Nast, Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum, The Type Archive, The Herb Lubalin Study Center at Cooper Union, Alan Kitching and The Museum of Printing.
Sign up for a guided tour here.