In front of a standing room-only audience, MFA Design Department Co-chairs Steven Heller and Lita Talarico led a lively discussion about their new book Typography Sketchbooks (Princeton Architectural Press) at The New York Public Library’s Berger Forum on Wednesday, January 11. They were joined by several contributors to the book (which features 118 designers in all), including alumni Travis Cain (MFA 2004 Design) and Matt Luckhurst (MFA 2010 Design), MFA Illustration as Visual Essay Department faculty member Viktor Koen, and Purgatory Pie Press duo Esther K. Smith and Dikko Faust.
Heller started the evening with a slideshow and enthusiastically praised the work featured in the book—“It transcends what’s on the screen.” He applauded both the refined and the very rough starts of the field of typography and demonstrated that “(typefaces) can represent things in the street that have nothing to do with typefaces.” Koen talked about his early distaste for sketches during his student years (one of his teachers required seven additional sketches in addition to final assignments), but said he soon began to appreciate sketching as an important part of the design process. Cain, currently the Art Director for Kiehl’s, said that because he focuses on easily readable type for Kiehl’s health and beauty products, in his spare time, he gravitates to “typography that doesn’t concern itself (with) whether the viewer can read it.”
Wearing a t-shirt displaying his students’ proofs, BFA Fine Arts Department faculty member and “Letterpress” instructor Faust presented with his professional and personal partner Smith. While showing the audience some of the process behind the duo’s Purgatory Pie Press, Smith emphatically stated that Faust hated Helvetica. The evening’s last presentation was from Luckhurst, who got into design via graffiti work. “Sketches don’t need to have an intent, other than to be sketches. Not to say they can’t, but it is novel to have a place to let the mind and hand wander,” he says in Typography Sketchbooks.