Spiratone Enlarging Focuser – Vintage Package Design

Remember these?!? Yes, I’m that old and so are some of you, apparently. I snatched this up for a buck at a local thrift store and it looks untouched both inside and out. Nice hand-lettered “Spiratone” logo pairs well with the Cooper Black and the mod deep blue bars finish up a nice and simple package design. Well done.


There are Now Over 600 Photos in My Hand-Painted Signs Gallery

I’ve been snapping photos of hand-painted signs (or otherwise handmade) for as long as I can remember and only just today went over the 600 mark. After a recent trip to visit my former home, NYC, I discovered several new “reveals” that were the result of City Gates or Coca Cola awnings being removed during renovations. Luckily I had a decent enough camera on my phone to capture them with. After all the years of having this obsession, you’d think I’d never leave the house without my digital SLR. Click here to view the photos.

Seeing is Believing: Seed Catalog Covers and the Search for the Perfect Vegetable

A rotating exhibit at the Lillian Goldman Visitor Center of the Seed Savers Exchange highlights some beautiful seed catalog covers from days gone by.  I’m nowhere near Decorah, IA, but if you aren’t either, don’t fret. They’re updating this Facebook photo album with samples from the exhibit. Hopefully they’ll be adding more as this is merely the inaugural selection. When you’re done, you should also check out another album of “Early 1900’s Seed Catalog Tin Signs & Magnets,” which they’ve re-issued as tin replicas that you can buy in their online store.

baia Instamount Photo Cube

I’m a sucker for 1950s color advertising photography, with its over-saturated colors and idyllic subjects and scenery. The packaging for the baia Instamount Photo Cube was no let down in this respect. Looking like scenes from bygone family-oriented TV shows the sides of this box, which held a once ubiquitous acrylic photo cube, wreak of family values and WASPy middle American life. The eye-catcher for me, though, was the simple 3-color baia logo set in a bold, slightly extended version of Clarendon. It feels rather modern for such a classic and commonly used typeface perhaps due to the even/odd interplay of the flipped words’ alternating characters. I owned a baia 8mm film editor some time ago and never paid much mind to the faded, black logo on it. I’d surely have kept the thing if the logo had appeared like this.

Austin Music Posters in the Wild [an online photo gallery]

Austin Music PostersI’ve occasionally collected band/concert posters that I’ve managed to un-secure from walls and poles around the various cities I’ve lived in and visited, but they’ve always ended up rather mangled due to whatever packing tape, wheat paste or staples were keeping them in place. Not to mention have taken up a lot of space, what with their average 12″ x 18″ dimensions. And, no, I don’t remove posters before they’re “old,” so as to ensure they’ve lived out their intended purpose. Well, I’ve recently decided that I don’t need to own every piece of graphical ephemera I come across—mostly because I’ve mainly collected these posters as design inspiration rather than whatever precious little objects I or anyone else might believe them to be. So, here’s my online photo gallery of Austin Music Posters in the Wild. I’ll add new ones as I see/snap them. Sorry if the quality of some seem fuzzy. They are in the wild, after all. Please feel free to comment if you like and/or know the designers of any. Credit where credit is due.

The Lost Type CO-OP

lost-type-coopThe Lost Type Co-Op is a Pay-What-You-Want Type foundry, the first of its kind.” So reads the first line on their About Us page. I had to read their About Us page because I wanted to find out what the catch was. Here are several typefaces—many vintage-inspired—that I’d like to own and each has a pay-what-you-will price model that ruffled the skeptical feathers on this bird. But there’s no catch. The Lost Type Co-Op really does sell high quality fonts designed for print and sometimes web use (@font-face) for whatever price—including zero dollars—you are willing to pay. Upon entering the amount and clicking the DOWNLOAD button on a particular font’s page, your download starts immediately and you are then redirected to PayPal to complete your order. Yes, your product is delivered before you finished paying for it. [Read more…]

Vernacular Typography – a website, blog and film

newarkFellow type-obsessed collector, Molly Woodward, has embarked far beyond the shores of this occasional blogger’s endeavors with her website, blog and Kickstarter-funded film project, all appropriately titled “Vernacular Typography.” Visitors of my Hand-painted & Hand-made Signs exhibit may see some overlap, possibly in one or two sign photos, but definitely in a related passion for the often overlooked typographic relics scattered throughout cities as exotic as Havana, Florence and Newark. Her film has been successfully funded and I can’t wait to see what comes of it. While future generations may not have the real artifacts to admire and study, there will surely be sufficient digital archives thanks to the tireless efforts of folks like Molly. Cheers!

Letterheady – Vintage & Not-So-Vintage Letterhead Designs

LetterheadyClick on over to Letterheady, a one-page scroller featuring letterhead designs for such notable figures as Nikola Tesla and Adolph Hitler to obscure companies like the Liverpool-based Robot Salesmen Ltd. They appear to be legit, with sources linking to other sites from which the examples were culled. Some seem to have been Photoshopped to give them an empty, unused state. Who cares. They’re fun to browse and fit right in here with my love of Visual Junk.

MoMA Collects Lustig (Alvin, that is) via The Daily Heller

Steven Heller posted this piece on Elaine Lustig Cohen’s recent talk at MoMA’s Library and Museum Archives on the museum’s collection of works by her late husband, legendary graphic designer Alvin Lustig (previously lusted over on this website). Cohen is, of course, a superb graphic designer in her own right and probably too often overshadowed by Mr. Lustig’s high-profile body of work.  My favorite piece of hers I discovered years after acquiring it. Huh? Picked up for a song in an NYC used book store, Jose Ortega y Gasset’s On Love: Aspects of a Single Theme sat on my bookshelf of design fetishes for years before I’d ever bothered to look up who’d designed the cover—even though her signature was plainly visible.

The Label Man – Fruit Crate Labels & More

vintage fruit crate labelFirstly, no, I am not affiliated in any way with The Label Man, but I do LOVE the original vintage labels featured (and for sale) on this website. The collections are broken down into several categories for your browsing pleasure and the website also features plenty of info on the history of crate labels as well as “Tips on Building your Collection of Vintage Fruit Crate Labels.” The hundreds of labels on the website provide a cornucopia of hand-drawn typography from around the ’30s through the recent past and should be a great source of inspiration for any creative persons’ pursuits.

Alvin Lustig Book Covers (via FaceOut Books)

faceoutbooksThanks to @brandi_duncan for turning me on to FaceOut Books and their inspiring blog, which features among others these wonderful book covers designed by Alvin Lustig. Reminiscent of Alexander Steinweiss’ covers for Columbia records, Lustig exploited the silhouette as design element and hand-drawn scripts to wonderfully tasteful heights. If you’ve read any of the books whose covers he designed for authors as varied as Franz Kafka to Henry James you will probably find that they were equally illustrative from a context standpoint. One can see resemblances to fellow modernist Paul Rand in the geometric and free-form shapes he used as well as his love for color. Check them out and be inspired.

EricBelowSeaLevel: The Design of Erik Kiesewetter

ebslPeruse the portfolio of this New Orleans-based designer and try not to feel lazy! In addition to his commercial work, which is quite excellent, Mr. Kiesewetter has been busy working and collaborating on projects ranging from post/medium, an online artist/gallery portfolio management system for New Orleans artists, a screen-printed poster series for the historic 2nd-lining Nine Times Social & Pleasure Club and the Neighborhood Story Project, a book-making project based in New Orleans whose mission states “‘Our stories told by us,’ we work with writers in neighborhoods around New Orleans to create books about their communities.” Honestly, it’s difficult to tell which of Mr. Kiesewetter’s work is commercial or pro-bono as the level of quality and creativity remains consistently high. I recently purchased the first two issues of Constance, an art and literary magazine produced in New Orleans, which Mr. Kiesewetter collaborates on and is how I stumbled upon his work. You should take a look, yourself.

Typeface, a film by Justine Nagan

I’m looking forward to seeing Typeface, a film by Justine Nagan, which recently premiered at TypeCon2009 in Atlanta. The film’s tag line say that it’s “charting the intersection of rural America and contemporary graphic design.” Well, that’s right up our alley here at NoRelevance.com! The preview images and synopsis look and sound great and all of its early press seems to indicate that it’s a wonderful film. Hopefully more interesting than that other film about type that came out not too long ago. Speaking of the synopsis: “Typeface focuses on a rural Midwestern museum and print shop where international artists meet retired craftsmen and together navigate the convergence of modern design and traditional technique.” You had me at “typeface.”

War Posters

From the Boston Public Library, check out these wonderful–if not strangely relevant–propaganda posters from WW2 Allied powers.

War Posters (flickr set)

I’ve got a victory garden going, don’t you?

2008 NYC Subway “Map” by Massimo Vignelli

New Yorkers do pride themselves in having excellent senses of direction. Just get lost anywhere in the city and droves of passers-by will offer you the quickest route to your destination. How will they know you’re lost? You’ll have no doubt unfolded an MTA Subway Map turning it this way and that. And, if you were savvy enough to pick up the May 2008 issue of Men’s Vogue at an NYC newsstand and were lucky enough to get the right copy, then you might be flipping around a 2008 Subway Diagram (re)designed by Massimo Vignelli himself. Vignell designed his first version for the MTA in 1972 and it stood, barring numerous updates and service changes, until 1979 when the MTA unveiled Michael Hertz’s currently and more geographically correct design. Vignelli’s design was often criticized for not being a very good “map,” per se, but he gallantly defended it. “Who cares? You want to go from Point A to Point B, period.” he told the NY Times in a past interview. You’ll notice his 2008 version is called “2008 Subway Diagram,” not “Map.”

Metroscript Open Type Font

Surely by now you’ve come across Metroscript–a relatively new OpenType script typeface that’s being hailed as “one of the most complex digital script systems on the market” and rightfully so. Designed by Michael Doret of the Alphabet Soup type foundry, Metroscript takes full advantage of the OpenType format, which makes possible and incredible number ligature combinations and, thus, lends a more hand-made look to headlines and copy. My particular interests in it are from the standpoint of the computer-generated, cut-vinyl signage industry and its new tool for getting that hand-made look. Will it displace some old-fashioned hand-painters? It’s possible. Metroscript essentially presents the designer with a Rubik’s Cube of ligature options–most of which look good enough to print. So, I imagine many designers might end up wanting to use their comps as the finished product.