Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘ABC’

20 DECEMBER, 2010

ABC NYC: The Language of New York’s Found Typography

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Between our unabated obsession wtih all things alphabet and our choice of I LEGO N.Y. as the best quasi-children’s book of the year, it’s no surprise that ABC NYC: A Book About Seeing New York City hits the sweet spot. Though designed as a learning tool for toddlers, the book is a typography lover’s wet dream — a stunning celebration of the alphabet’s visual diversity, as seen on the streets of New York. Ten years in the making, the book features remarkable vintage urban typography, from graffiti to subway signs, captured across New York’s five boroughs by photographer Joanne Dugan.

To sweeten the treat, Dugan has made the letters available for purchase not only as full alphabet sets, but also as self-adhesive, eco-friendly individual prints to spell your way to home decor bliss.

ABC NYC has an equally wonderful number-centric companion, naturally titled 123 NYC: A Counting Book of New York City — a vibrant counting book exploring the city through its rich numerical iconography. A portion of profits from both books is donated to nonprofits promoting education and literacy.

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17 DECEMBER, 2010

Unruly Alphabet: The Macabre, Anthropomorphic Lives of Letters

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Yes, we’re officially on an alphabet binge. After marveling at it in mesmerizing motion graphics, on fabulous Mad Scientist wooden blocks, and in a brilliant typographic anthology, we’ve discovered a worthy new addition to our selection of creative ABC books — illustrator Aaron McKinney’s Unruly Alphabet. With wit and beautifully detailed illustration, McKinney brings each letter to macabre, hauntingly playful life, weaving a dialogue of gallows humor between the letters built on a larger metaphorical narrative on the most loathesome human qualities.

I’ve always been interested in etymology. The way words, a human constructed concept, play off one another to somehow convey thought and expression in our minds fascinates me. With that thought in mind, I decided to strip language down to its most primitive form, the alphabet. To make it interesting, I anthropomorphized each letter with some of humanity’s most common, despicable traits. With each letter playing off the next, the end result is the alphabet, a pretty inorganic and deliberate thing made more barbarically human.” ~ Aaron McKinney

Blending the nostalgic charisma of the classic childhood alphabet book with adults’ taste for dark comedy and sophisticated aestheticism, The Unruly Alphabet is a treasure trove of gorgeously gory glyphs that will delight you with artistic merit and surprise you with a philosophical prompt to contemplate human nature.

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17 NOVEMBER, 2010

Alphabets: A Miscellany of Letters by David Sacks

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It’s no secret we’re obsessed with alphabet books. But a new book by David Sacks offers much more depth than the designerly eye candy the genre lends itself to.

Alphabets: A Miscellany of Letters is an ambitious exploration of the pervasiveness of letters in everyday life, tracing our visual vocabulary to its roots in Egyptian hieroglyphs, Kanji characters and other ancient alphabets with rich illustrations, beautiful graphic design and typography, found objects, graffiti and more.

B from Linotype Zootype

The Zootype font, with its animal heads poking holes into the backs of letters, was created by Argentine designer Victor Garcia in 1997

E in lights

Composed of thousands of E-letters, rendered in a bright neon light, this image seems almost kinetic

F from Peter Blake's Alphabet

Pop artist Peter Blake is a master of typographic collages and found objects

Sacks explores the persona of each of the 26 letters of the alphabet, treating it as a separate symbol with its own design history and cultural legacy. It’s interesting to consider letters outside the context of text and words — suddenly, they come to life as conceptual creations that carry a powerful and complex aesthetic, symbolic and interpretational charge.

The letter N, rendered in grass

X from Pin Ups

From a provocative book shaping letters out of women's bodies represented by negative space

And for a special tickle of our appetite for creative derivatives of the London Tube map, this gem:

Q from A to Z

London-based designer and illustrator Tim Fishlock posterized Harry Beck's famous alphabet made of sections and lines from the London Underground map

From Braille to the Morse code to Muji alphabet ice cube moulds, Alphabets covers an astounding range of linguistic symbolism, giving the nostalgically familiar alphabet book of our childhoods an adult upgrade with remarkable design sophistication and aesthetic sensibility.

Images courtesy of The Guardian

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