Art director’s choice

Before the advent of Letraset and the Apple Computer, custom, hand-drawn lettering was a feature of headline type. Individualistic, dynamically stylised letterforms bursting with character appeared on everything from comic books to business cards.

Where the normal rules of typography can provide constraints, this was a blank canvas for designers and illustrators alike to be completely expressive. The consideration as to how the various letterforms would interact with each other in standard typography practice was never an issue, which only allowed for a more creative approach to the work. The hand-drawn nature of the working process allowed for completely free reign, with eye-catching headlines becoming standard.

Over-exaggerated swashes and serifs, perspectives and scales were the norm, to the point where the typography became illustration in its own right. Shading, patterned fills and decoration were often added to intensify the impact of the letterforms to great effect.

Illustrator and designer, Rian Hughes spent years collecting, scanning and cleaning up a vast number of these typographic examples, released as two separate book volumes last year. Custom Lettering of the 1960s and 1970s in particular has become the most thumbed-through books in my collection and is constant source of inspiration. I recommend it to anyone remotely interested in type. Below are just a few examples from the book.

From the book Custom Lettering of the ‘60s and ‘70s by Rian Hughes
From the book Custom Lettering of the ‘60s and ‘70s by Rian Hughes

A couple of interesting font foundries have caught my eye recently, both clearly influenced by this style of typography, and showcasing a fantastic range of full alphabet fonts that have been created to pay homage to these designs. Both Letterhead Fonts and Sudtipos, to name just two, offer a good selection of authentic faces. A selection appear below.

LHF Flash Script by Arthur Vanson for Letterhead Fonts
LHF Flash Script by Arthur Vanson for Letterhead Fonts

LHF Fat Cat by Chuck Davis for Letterhead Fonts
LHF Fat Cat by Chuck Davis for Letterhead Fonts

LHF Alpine Script by Arthur Vanson for Letterhead Fonts
LHF Alpine Script by Arthur Vanson for Letterhead Fonts

Calgary Script’ by Ale Paul for Sudtipos
Calgary Script by Ale Paul for Sudtipos

Radio Time by John Moore and Ale Paul for Sudtipos
Radio Time by John Moore and Ale Paul for Sudtipos

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