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  • Writer's pictureSteven Heller

History as Type Specimen

Just when you think that graphic design/typographic history is old news, Emigre re-engages the discourse—or at least how it is framed. To my great surprise Emigre’s latest type specimen book is not just a catalog of fonts but an invaluable historical analysis of the role of Emigre in the Macintosh revolution AND a catalog of fonts.

For their second type catalog, “instead of using fake text, or ‘Greeking,’ which is commonly used in type promotions,” writes Rudy VanderLans, “we decided to put the fonts to work in a realistic context.” This context is a fascinating essay by Emily McVarish, associate professor of graphic design at California College of the Arts and co-author of Graphic Design History: A Critical Guide.

Each spread is set in a different Emigre font, but rather than a mere look-see, McVarish’s essay “Inflection Point” focuses on Emigre #11, published in 1989, which she says represents graphic design’s “first encounter with digital tools,” adding “Looking closely at Emigre #11, and more passingly at later issues, this article analyses the technical, critical and cultural production that would shape Emigre as a medium for typographic demonstration and discussion among peers.”

Frankly, it’s a damn good way to consume history while savoring the type, too.

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