Type Americana 2

studioatja —  May 16, 2012 — 1 Comment

In an architectural firm, we’re constantly surrounded by internal and external influences and inspiration when it comes to design. Typography and Type design are two things that are truly fascinating to me; so much that when I won a free ticket into The SVC’s Type Americana 2 Conference lectures, I thought I had just hit a small jackpot. My typography professors from college would definitely be envious.

The program that day:

Oswald Cooper: Attacked by an itch to work with type – Paul Shaw
Roycrofters to Renaissance: The progression of Dard Hunter’s letterforms from arts and crafts to classical – Dr. Cathleen Baker
Ludlow’s Mutt & Jeff: Douglas McMurtrie & R. Hunter Middleton – Paul F. Gehl
Engraving: The curiously shy stepchild in American type genealogy – Nancy Sharon Collins

Print Your Own Language: The role of letterpress in Cherokee language revitalization – Frank Brannon, Jr.

A second life for vintage American typefaces –
Panel discussion with Tom Phinney, Steve Matteson, & Richard Kegler

Unfortunately, I can’t talk about all the speakers (although I would love to), but I can sum up some highlights:

Our first speaker: Paul Shaw. He’s done some pretty amazing stuff.  

Although trained as a historian, Paul has spent most of his career as a designer.  His firm Paul Shaw / Letter Design has worked on calligraphy, hand lettering and typographic design for department stores, cosmetic brands, large corporations, universities, ad agencies for nearly thirty years. His work has won awards from the Type Directors Club, AIGA, New York Art Directors Club, Print and Letter Arts Review. From 1992 to 2001 Shaw was a partner with Garrett Boge in the digital typefoundry LetterPerfect.  He also has a few typefaces under his belt – Maybe 18 or so – among them Kolo, Donatello, Bermuda, Old Claude and Stockholm. He has written on letter-related subjects for Print, Eye, Baseline, Letter Arts Review and AIGA Voice. His book, Helvetica and the New York City Subway, sold out in two months!  A trade edition, published in early 2011 by MIT Press, just completed a second printing. I highly recommend you purchase this book before it sells out again.


A sample of Cooper’s handwork.

Paul kicked off the conference by diving into the world of Oswald Cooper (1879–1940), one of the four leading American type designers of the early to mid-twentieth century. Most of us know his name from the über-familiar font—Cooper Black. Paul discussed all of Cooper’s typefaces, including some of his less ubiquitous ones and some that were never completed; he also examined the close connection between them and own lettering.

After Paul Shaw, more inspiring speakers indulged as I listened. Paul Gehl talked about the interesting dynamics at Ludlow between McMurtrie & Hunter Middleton.



Print Magazine’s March issue from 1953 devoted entirely to the Society of Typographic Arts. Middleton was a founder of STA and was a past president from 1945-1946.


Stationer Nancy Sharon Collin talked about the history of engraving. I tried not to get too wrapped up because in my head I kept thinking, “I saw you on Martha Stewart!” Her upcoming book with Princeton Architectural PressThe Complete Engraver, will be out in Sept/Oct 2012. It’ll be released in tandem with two typefaces that she and Monotype created together.

I also met some interesting people. Among them were some type designers, who invited me to join their regular typography gatherings, and a wonderful freelancer that’s working on her postgrad for Type Design at Cooper Union. Thank you Lila for the photos!

After listening to the speakers and surrounding myself with all these interesting folks, I was well inspired and went home with fantasies of how my own unborn typefaces would evolve and take life! So thank you to Juliet Shen at The School of Visual Concepts for putting together this conference and thanks to everyone mentioned above for rekindling my love for type!

Can’t wait until Type Americana 3 in 2014!

-Mia, gal at the front that wears many hats

One response to Type Americana 2


    Mia, Thanks for taking the time to write about Type Americana 2. I love the fact that your are in a different field but retain a love for typography. It touches on so wide a circle of knowledge that I think there is universal appeal in telling its history. Since the personal computer was invented everyone has become a typesetter whether they realize it or not. -Juliet

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