Letterforms & Birthdays 2014 Wall Calendar

If you are a designer or other type enthusiast and you are looking for a typographic wall calendar for 2014, this Kickstarter campaign will just be your thing. Rob Saunders, curator of the Letterform Archive, has created a wall calender with each month featuring a rare masterwork from the Letterform Archive, exquisitely reproduced in high fidelity and full colour. Those twelve classic pieces are juxtaposed with twelve typefaces carefully selected in collaboration with Stephen Coles. The calendar also includes the birthdays of 232 letter artists, the most extensive birthday list of its kind ever published. With a mere four days left for the Kickstarter campaign, there is no reason to procrastinate. Stephen Coles wrote an excellent piece on Typographica about Rob’s impressive collection and the selection of contemporary typefaces for the calendar; I interviewed him about the masterpieces and the birthday list. Don’t wait any longer and go to Kickstarter so you can enjoy twelve months of exquisite letterforms on your wall in 2014.

Detail from a calendar blotter by Piet Zwart for door manufacturer Bruynzeel in Zaandam & Antwerp, 1938 & 1939.

Rob Saunders has been collecting letterforms for over 35 years, while pursuing a career as a designer, teacher, children’s book publisher, and marketing consultant.

Rob Saunders | “Letterform Archive started out as a private collection of analog artifacts, and it’s this access to originals that enables the high resolution captures we’re doing. We now have about 7,000 books, 5,000 pieces of ephemera, and 1,500 volumes of periodicals. Focus areas for the collection include: Dwiggins, Koch, Tschichold, writing books, type specimens and type foundry ephemera, avant-garde typography, and mid-century graphic design. One inspiration for making the calendar was the Scriptura Calendars (Masterpieces of Lettering Art & Typography) published in Germany from 1971 into the nineties. It also seemed a natural use of the material in the collection.”

Spread from Ladislav Sutnar, Essential Product Information, Sweets Catalog Service, New York, circa 1955

How did you select which masterpiece to reproduce on which month on the calendar?

Rob Saunders | “There were two basic constraints – the work had to be in the collection, and we had to know the artist’s birthday. Beyond that I was looking primarily for quality (masterworks only), uniqueness (never or rarely published), and variety: different eras, countries, media, and styles.

The latter expresses a core concept of Letterform Archive: that inspiring letterforms come from an almost unimaginable variety of sources. I’ve come to understand that the breadth and range of the collection is its core strength, more than any specific depth. We are able to connect some pretty disparate dots, and help designers find inspiration in surprising places. The game we are currently running on Twitter and Facebook really brings this point home. It also represents the broader universe from which the twelve items were selected, the starting point. In fact I’ve even thought of letting people vote for their favorites from this year’s birthday list for next year’s featured artwork.”

Will Bradley, detail from The American Chapbook, American Type Founders Co., Jersey City, November 1904

Besides the selections of the Letterform Archive and the typefaces, you have also included a list of 232 birthdays of letter artists. Where did you get that idea?

Rob Saunders | “The birthday idea started because I was going to try to tweet on designers’ birthdays, but they were hard to find and we realized no one had ever compiled a comprehensive one. Seems like fun to be able to celebrate your faves all year long, right?

It’s surprising how few birthdays are known from earlier centuries, and at the other end of the spectrum, living artists often don’t want their birthdays known. We put together a good representative selection for this year, but it will continue to evolve. As a practical matter, there’s only room on the calendar for one birthday on each date. Who knew that Elbert Hubbard, W.A.Dwiggins, John Heartfield, and Ray DaBoll were all born on June 19th? The birthday list will be different every year as we cycle through the choices and add to the list.”

Detail of Rudo Spemann’s calligraphy for Sermon an die Mädchen by Matthias Claudius, Wilhelm Langewiesche, Ebenhausen, 1936

This birthday list is also the subject of the insanely geeky game you mentioned earlier. I tried to compete, but was blown out of the water by far more knowledgeable players, some of them very high-profile. Are you happy with how it turns out?

Rob Saunders | “I am having so much fun sparring with my heroes, and it seems to be infectious. The Leaderboard contains some of today’s sharpest typographic minds. The completed Gameboard will eventually become the back cover of the calendar.”

The contemporary typefaces selected for the calendar in collaboration with Stephen Coles and Isdahl Kalvenes.

This is your first Kickstarter project. Anything else in the works?

Rob Saunders | “Our future crowd funded publishing plans include an alphabet book of mosaic letters from the New York City subway, a book of hand painted sketches for chromolithographic labels, a book of menus from type specimens, and facsimiles of complete works, both in letterpress and in digital form for retina iPads.”

I cannot wait to discover what else you have in store for us.

The FontShop FontFeed

Leave a Comment