Type Camp California Day 3

Type Camp California Day 3

Billy Whited

July 15, 2011

On Day two of Type Camp California we were given a short “homework” assignment: write a six word autobiography containing your name, at least one verb and at least one adjective or adverb.

Although I did give some thought to this assignment, I had no idea that it would be the foundation for the next day’s exercises. Had I known this, I might have chosen to be a little less clever with what I wrote. By the end of the day, I had grown quite tired of what I’d written, which went a little something like this:


Day 3 Exercises

Bespoke Lettering

The first exercise of Day 3 was, by my estimation, the most challenging of all the exercises we undertook while at Type Camp.

We were tasked with drawing a couple of words from our autobiographies in a style all our own. The goal of this exercise was to create a unique typographic composition that captured the essence of our chosen words (in my case “weightless” and “weathering”). It was a task for which I was ill-prepared.

Interestingly, I haven’t been able to find any pictures of my completed lettering. I guess this isn’t all that surprising considering that I didn’t execute the assignment very well. Still, I did manage to find a couple of concept sketches from my attempt at lettering the word “Weightless”.

A concept sketch for my 'Weightless' with a floating letter E.
A concept sketch for my “Weightless” with a floating letter E.

Though the design was rigidly conceived, being truly geometric, I was proud of the floating letter e I conceived. I felt it really put the “less” in “weightless.”

One instructor mentioned that good technique for starting a lettering project is to think about a word, feeling or concept that contrasts sharply with the phrase you’re trying to illustrate. I often find that pulling your imagination to extremes creates tension and opens your mind up to a world of possibilities that might not have been immediately obvious.

I thought this piece of advice was really sound. It has implications for life as well as for art.

The Shakespeare Press Day 2

During the latter half of Day 3 we visited The Shakespeare Press Museum for a another day of letterpress adventure. Many of us had unfinished projects from the previous day and the additional hours in the workshop gave my partner Fraser Bingham and I, the extra time we need to put the finishing touches on our Bollock$ Bookmarks:

Bollocks, by Fraser Bingham and yours truly
“Bollock$,” by Fraser Bingham and yours truly.

However, the main objective of this afternoon session was to print our six word autobiographies. Once I discovered we were to do this, I regretted choosing to start each of my six words with a prominent letter w for I was sure this was going to create a challenge for me.

Yet, despite my initial hesitation, I really enjoyed this type-setting challenge. I think it inspired in me a daring and creative solution.

While many other Type Campers went large with their compositions (with good reason considering that the Shakespeare press had a rather lovely collection of wood type!), I decided to go small.

Really small.

Really, really small.

In fact, I chose to set my autobiography in the smallest typeface available at the Shakespeare Press Museum: 4pt Bank Gothic fixed to a 6pt body. Hand setting letters of this size is extremely tedious and requires great patience and care. It’s quite easy to lose or damage lead type that is mere 1/12th of an inch in size.

A composing stick filled with 4pt Bank Gothic type
A composing stick filled with 4pt Bank Gothic type. Photo by Laura Serra @laureola

I knew I wanted to set my autobiography on 6 lines, and because I was using 4pt type on a 6pt body, I knew I could set my composition “solid.” This meant that a piece of type at 36pt would neatly span the six lines of my passage—perfect for my uppercase W (which adorned the beginning of each line).

My finished six word autobiography ended up being roughly the size of a business card.
My finished six word autobiography ended up being roughly the size of a business card.

Using a just a single e offset some of the concerns I had in a setting a composition with 6 uppercase w’s and contributed to a final result that was quite legible, fun and dare I say, creative?