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American Craft Magazine August/September 2010

Leaping from the Page

Gyongy Laky GO And..., Estuary, Domain Change and Negative (clockwise from top left), wood assemblages, Gyongy Laky at work (bottom right). Photo Tatsuro Nishimura.
Cover of 3D Typography. Photo Tatsuro Nishimura.
Letters created by Dutch designer Thijs Verbeek. Photo Tatsuro Nishimura.

Gyongy Laky GO And..., Estuary, Domain Change and Negative (clockwise from top left), wood assemblages, Gyongy Laky at work (bottom right). Photo Tatsuro Nishimura.

Photo gallery (4 images)

3D Typography
By Jeanette Abbink and
Emily CM Anderson
Foreword by Karrie Jacobs
Mark Batty Publisher
New York, NY

Thanks in large part to the personal computer, graphic design has quietly gone mass. In the process, any remaining mystique around the care and use of type seems to have flown out the window. A zillion times a day someone buys (or just grabs) a digital typeface from the Internet. Once a word is keyed in using that font, alternate sizes or colors are little more than a click away.

In their redesign of this magazine, Jeanette Abbink and Emily CM Anderson found themselves pushing for something more. The pair dreamed of headlines that would practically leap from the printed page. Before long, the women were adapting cutting-edge attitudes toward craft-ideas about handwork and experimental materials-and so began to craft and then photograph words in three-dimensions that feature in these pages.

Understanding that their impulse was not unique, they hunted for additional examples of three-dimensional typography in the wild. Like-minded designers and artists had formed these alphabets with the unlikeliest of materials-everything from stacked books to laundry hung on a railing. The visual research became the nucleus of this 224-page volume.

The pair have uncovered mesmerizing examples of type realized in three dimensions. Some designs, such as wood assemblages by Gyöngy Laky, are careful to preserve the letterforms precisely, while the likes of Stephanie DeArmond's slab-built ceramics prize the abstracted decorative flourishes of script typefaces above legibility. New York City-based designer Alvin Aronson's D/A Clock, a digital timepiece, forms numbers using white Corian line segments that slowly protrude from the smooth clock face (only to fall back even with the surface, as necessary, when minutes tick by).

Countless examples in the book call British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy to mind. His meticulously constructed, often-ephemeral work sometimes lasts just long enough for the artist to snap a photo. One has to believe the same thing about the letters created by Dutch designer Thijs Verbeek, whose typeface is made with clothespins that pinch letter-shaped folds of human skin. Without Verbeek's photographic evidence, such a performance would be lost to history.

Such photos carry 3D Typography. But, ironically for a book about text, the general lack of writing here means that the reader struggles to understand how the sets of images depicting various alphabets in the “improvisation-ally” organized chapters relate. Abbink and Anderson seem to be saying that truly experiencing this volume requires entering the visual space of the photos themselves. Imagine, for instance, your delight upon finding, in a bathroom in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, the word "crap" spelled-out using rolls of toilet paper hung on a tile wall.


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