. . . I have known.

John Dreyfus, Typographical Consultant to the Monograph Corporation. A big wheel in UK typography, he was employed in the same capacity by Cambridge University Press, and used to appear at the Pitt Building bearing aesthetic “gifts” from time to time. He stands in the Stanley Morison line — good design should be utterly invisible. (This post from June 2011 examines his design for Anna Karenina.) I absolutely believe in this approach to book design. It really annoys me to be brought up short when reading a book by the thought, “But why did the designer decide to put the folio there?” or “Why is this element indented, but not that one?” With John Dreyfus’ work you never had any such thoughts — you never thought of the design at all — it just worked, making the experience of reading the book a sort of uninterrupted arrow shot from the author’s pen to your brain. This may sound like a facile thing to say, but I can attest from having designed many books that this invisible design is almost impossible to achieve.

Ernst Reichl, a true gentleman. A great designer, he was very senior by the time I knew him, but never failed to engage with this young(ish) nobody from Britain when we would meet at the Typophiles lunches. The fact that I was at the time the representative of Cambridge University Press’s hallowed printing business in America may have helped me get his ear. This link takes you to a Design Observer note about his career on the occasion of an exhibition at Columbia University. It includes a slideshow of examples of his work. I am ashamed to confess that I never managed to steer the conversation into areas where I might have gained (in anything other than a personal  manner) from our meetings. The fact that we both had foreign accents — his Germanic, mine Anglo-Scottish, may have been a bond.

Marshall Lee: a very organized man. His designs are neat, crisp, with sharp edges. He did a good deal of work on college textbooks: the demands of textbook design preclude the sort of invisible design ethic mentioned above. There are just too many elements needing to be made accessible and attractive to the reluctant student for the designer to be anything other than aggressively involved. He was gracious and polite when Ira Cohen introduced me to him in a midtown restaurant. His book, Book Making: Editing, Design, and Production shows you who he is and the sort of work he does.

Harry Ford was a total contrast — warm and rounded. I met him, again courtesy of Ira Cohen, towards the end of his career, when he was in charge of the poetry list at Atheneum — in charge meaning he was the editor, and the designer, and the production man. I suspect he let the sales force sell the books. Just look at an Atheneum poetry book from the seventies and eighties, and you will “know” Harry Ford.

Jack Bowles — perhaps the least known, but to me the most important. He came to Cambridge University Press from Shenval Press, a well-known London jobber with a reputation for good, clean work. Jack was a thinker, and more than that, was willing to fight for the ideas which resulted from his thought processes. He more or less single-handedly got the 3-pica indent design accepted as a significant part of the academic text design repertoire. With a 3-pica indent you needed to place all elements (apart from the text itself) on the 3-pica left indent — otherwise the page began to look messy and disorganized. People would put the A heads, B heads, Running heads, folios etc on the 3-pi indent and allow the tables and quoted material to stay flush left. Only Jack had the courage of his convictions and would put all elements on that indent, and only he could make it work. Eventually others saw the wisdom. A particularly daring use is to be seen in R. H. Richens’ Elm, which uses the feature in double-column setting. Unfortunately this Amazon link doesn’t include a “Look Inside the Book” feature. Another of his hobby-horses was the superior readability of ragged right typesetting with even word spacing, as opposed to justified type with a variable word space. Not a winnable battle, even he’d acknowledge, but not for that reason any less to be insisted upon. He and his wife Elizabeth, took me under their wing at one point in my life, and he spent hours helping me when I started to play around with design myself. I used to send him my type specs from America to vet before the book went into production. He now lives in The Charterhouse in London, and is one of my oldest and dearest friends.

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