A Revival and Celebration of the Golden Age of Typography
Any type user and enthusiast will doubtless derive joy from the letters and ornaments in Vintage Graphic Design, gathered from the rare and forgotten sources that authors Steven Heller and Louise Fili have collected over the years. As type gourmets, Heller and Fili savor type in many forms—especially the aesthetically idiosyncratic and the printed artifacts of which historical or retro typefaces are samples. A period of rapid innovation and growth in printing and type technology, the late 1800s and early 1900s saw type foundries in Europe and America burst into wellsprings for bold compositions and arresting typefaces However, this is not a history book; rather, it is a sampler of tasty typographic confections or so-called eye candy. The curated selection here reflects this era’s printing material, including stock pictorial cuts, filigree borders, and cartouches galore.
These aesthetic gems are the fruit of Heller’s and Fili’s labors after spending decades scouring the antiquarian book and flea markets of Paris, Berlin, Rome, Florence, Barcelona, eastern Europe, and elsewhere online and in auction catalogs to find examples of graphic design worth preserving and reviving. These beautiful—yet often absurd—rarities represent historic typeface catalogs and specimen sheets from an age when craftsmanship was at its zenith and attention to manufacture was rigorous. Paired best with the authors’ 2011 book, Vintage Type & Graphics, this full color volume is not just about delectation for its own sake, but to prove beyond a drop-shadow of a doubt that just because a typeface or decorative device is “old” does not mean it is “old-fashioned.”
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the School of Visual Arts MFA Design / Designer as Author + Entrepreneur Program. He is the author, coauthor, and editor of over 170 books on design, social satire, and visual culture. He is the recipient of the 2011 Smithsonian National Design Award for "Design Mind." He lives in New York City.