Speaker details
Thomas Maier

Assistant Lecturer University for Art and Industrial Design | Austria

Thomas Maier assistant lecturer, student University for Art and Industrial Design Linz, Austria

Thomas Maier, born 1973, Graz, Austria was educated at Graphicdesigner, 1987-1992, and a Master Class for Painting 1992-1994. He studied Experimental Visual Design at the University of Art and Industrial Design ,1994-2003, Diploma in photographic film techniques. Since 2003, thesis on the development of typeface technologies

Works as a graphic designer since 1993, including catalogues for artists’ exhibitions, design of some typefaces for exclusive use in design jobs.

Presentation details

Typographic forms | Stencils and lettering guides | An illustrator's letters
Three linked presentations chaired by Andy Haslam

Friday 14 September | 16:15 – 17:30
Location: Seminar Room 202
Presentation | Theme: Hand made | Duration: 75 minutes

A 15-minute introduction by Andy Haslam, who will chair the session, followed by 30-minute presentations from Thomas Maier and George Hardie

Typographic forms

Andy Haslam
Information follows

Stencils and lettering guides

Thomas Maier
The typical problem of a stencil is you need a thin bridge to hold the inner parts of the letterforms and usually designers apply this design feature to the other letters, too even if the letters wouldn’t need bridges. So all the lines and strokes of a letter in stencil are disconnected.

Stencils from metal were usually made like this: The tin was covered with etching ground and the contours were scratched out of this ground till the blank metal surface was showing. Then the stencil was etched with acid till the tin under the scratched lines was gone and the inner parts would fall out. Although in Lisboa last year at a "Gravador" I bought stencils with quite decorative letterforms of which the shop owner said they had been made with a jigsaw (!).

Sign painters sometimes use stencils for making simple numberings of buildings. A sign painter uses a preparatory drawing before he starts anyway, to make sure the desired text will fit the given space. But usually that drawing is not used to paint the outer lines of the letter with paint therefore that doesn't count as a stencil in strict sense of the word. If the letters are bigger the painter will only mark corner-points and curves and paint the lines with a brush freehand maybe along his painting stick. There were a lot of metal stencil methods ranging from simple ones to those that could be connected to form a word or a line of letters.

Well known kinds of typical stencils were used for making the sketch and then signing your underwear by stitching. Cloths and bed linen was a valuable possession and therefore was marked with the owners initials.

Cutout letters from colored paper were frequently used in the decoration of shop-windows.

In the USA a great number of different kinds of lettering templates evolved, often made from oil paper instead of expensive tin. Stenso Lettering was an example of prefabricated paper stencils that were unique with its spacing holes about1942.

The second big chapter of stencils are these plastic orange ones used by architects for lettering and numbers on technical drawings. The evolution of these lettering guides is connected with the DIN-Norm and the instructions for making technical drawings from the 1920ies onwards. Drafting tools like this were first done by the German company later named after their most successful lettering ruler "Standardgraph". Funnily enough the first of these stencils did not contain a full character set but only the basic shapes of which to combine a letter from. Other early companies manufacturing these rulers were for instance "Minerva" or "Graphulus".

There were also machines manufactured to die-cut stripes of lettering into oilpaper, like the tools made by "Marsh" stencil company.

Later on there were pantograph-based lettering machines like "Dingraph" or "Duograph" wich was sold in america by "WRICO" (Wood-Regan Instrument Co.) As a next step after that the first real lettering-machine in the sense of the word machine, developed by the rotring-company in the 1970ies, the NC-Scriber was constructed. These keyboard-sized tools were mini plotters with the purpose of being an aid for technical drawings and lettering. Stencils with the strict demand for a certain and characteristic design have alway inspired type designers.

"Futura Black" (1929) by Paul Renner is one of the best known resemblages of stencil design for letterpress printing, although a stylistic mismatch for the rest of the Futura family.

Another well known designer Jan Tschichold did "Transito" for the Amsterdam typefoundry in 1931.

"Stencil" was designed 1937 for letterpress printing by Gerry Powell for ATF and with the same name in 1938 by Robert Hunter Middleton for Ludlow.

Today all of these letterforms are available as outline fonts on the computer and I'll give some examples of these. The stencil as letterform has left its original technology and only remains as a stylistic reference.

The lecture will be with a lot of pictures and give an overview over the younger history of the use of stencils and should be interesting for beginners and pros as well.

I like to explore everyday typefaces usually neglected or ignored by the more serious typographers. Last year in Lisboa I did a talk about the typography and letterforms of the typewriter, I think the stencil will well continue that. I won't talk about the great older history of stencils like Eric Kindel and Fred Smeijers did last year, but about the newer history of stencils in the 20th century any of us should approximately have seen and touched by ourselves.

An illustrator's letters

George Hardie

George Hardie will talk in some detail about a process he describes as “going amateur” (he has made and published a number of books which he explains as “graphics without clients”.) He will talk in particular about Scraps di Londres, and his most recent book Manual, concentrating on words, type and lettering. His personal rules for batch-production address the nature of ‘hands on’ in a direct and practical way.

George will not be able to avoid discussing his influences and inspirations; ideas, games, rules, collecting and noticing things. He will briefly describe his practise which sits somewhere between Graphic Design and Illustration and is informed by teaching. He will also contrast his international commercial work as a jobbing illustrator with his pursuit of personal themes; making his own work in spite of clients ringing up and interrupting him with their problems.

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