Over on printmag.com, Paul Shaw examines the fonts used by Print and how the magazine’s typography evolved over its 75 years of history. This excerpt focuses on the use of Chisel on the covers. Make sure to read Paul’s entire inspection, though, it’s an insightful read.
Chisel, a design by Robert Harling, was issued by Stephenson Blake in 1939. It made a first appearance at Print in 1946 and is also used on the cover of issue VIII:5 (1954), see below. The preceding issue is one of a few that show a handlettered flared Roman. Its inline decoration is quite similar to the one in Chisel. Paul Shaw:
With Print IX:5 (1955), Leo Lionni became the co-editor of the magazine. […] For the first time, the covers sported a consistent nameplate. They were set in Chisel, an inline version of a 19th-century Latin typeface […] Beginning in 1960 several of the guest art directors began to challenge the use of Chisel for the nameplate. Some, like Designers 3 (Jack Selden, Mel Harris and Jack Golden) for Print XIV:2 and Robert M. Jones (art director at RCA Victor Records and proprietor of the Glad Hand Press) for Print XIV:3, used Chisel Wide [released in 1956, not available in digital form]. But others looked further afield to such typefaces as Futura (Print XIV:1) and Microgramma Bold Extended (Print XIV:4). With Print XIV:6, the final issue of 1960, Chisel was replaced by handlettering. […]
Chisel was an old-fashioned typeface when it was released in 1939 and it must have looked even mustier in comparison to Univers, Neue Haas Grotesk (later Helvetica) and Folio, the trio of new sans serif typefaces released by European foundries in 1957 that were slowly making their way to the United States.
Ian Jack’s loving profile of Harling, who lived until 2008, comments that Harling’s few fonts “created a jollier version of the Victorian age and helped shape the postwar fashion for Victoriana.” It’s certainly a fairly direct line from his and his friends’ fascination with the more garish aspects of Victorian applied art to the cover of Sergeant Pepper. But it’s hard to call any of his published designs masterpieces.
Unfortunately, perhaps the prime of his career as a commentator on typography in the late 1930s apparently wasn’t a great time for new display fonts in Britain (he more focused on interior design writing after the war). Although he publicly advocated that his friends Ravilious, Bawden and Freedman move from lettering to font design, in which any of them could have excelled, as far as I’m aware none of them ever made any serious effort to.
Contributed by Philippe Dionne Bussières
Contributed by Stephen Coles
Contributed by Luke Lockwood