The AIGA National Design Center in New York looks back on 100 years of typography
’Century: 100 Years of Type in Design’ at the AIGA National Design Center in New York City celebrates typography as a significant component of our everyday world over the past ten decades. The immersive exhibit, designed by Pentagram partner Abbott Miller and curated by Monotype, features a wealth of historical examples - production drawings, proofs, books, packaging and other ephemera - pulled from the deep archives of the Herb Lubalin Study Center, Monotype, the AIGA, Pentagram, and many more premier design organisations.
Former Wallpaper* Handmade cover artist Alan Kitching created five limited-edition letterpress printed posters prominently displayed near the show’s entrance, paying tribute to five graphic design legends born in 1914: Tom Eckersley, Abram Games, F H K Henrion, Josef Müller-Brockmann and Paul Rand.
A wide band of Miller’s signature tomato red runs horizontally around the space, contrasting with bold black geometric patterning that marches down one white wall, across the floor and up the opposite wall. Upon closer inspection, that pattern is made up of typographic periods drawn from 1,058 individual typefaces from 630 type families. The varying shapes of these simplest characters become a sort of Morse code mirroring the vast diversity of material on view.
Video animations and recorded interviews with Daniel Rhatigan, type director of Monotype, complete the well-curated display. Rhatigan says, ’Last year when we did Pencil to Pixel, we were looking at typefaces in isolation. This time, because it was AIGA who invited us, we wanted to examine a cross section of graphic design over the past hundred years to see how typography has been used across that century.’
The exhibit decisively demonstrates that design history is not a linear progress but one made up of overlapping layers of inspiration and influence as typefaces evolve and change, and as designers find new and inventive ways to use them.