The Places and Faces of Italian Type – PRINT Magazine

Why is it? Everybody Are you so infatuated with Italy? It is too numerous to list but if you’re reading this it is for the Love Typography, letters and type are all important!

For ten years SVA MFA Design’s co-chairs organized The Masters Typographic Workshop in Italy (along with a stellar faculty) which was devoted to the study of Italian type, typography, signs, ephemera and printing. The extraordinary Corrnuda Tipoteca printing archive, museum, and letterpress printing/workshop that Sandro Berra directed was one of our first stops during our two-week tour.

The two-week Masters experience was built on the first day’s trip to Venice, an hour away. It included a visit to Sandro to learn from him. Now, Sandro, in collaboration with type historians Bill Moran (late of the Hamilton Woodtype & Printing Museum) and Riccardo Olocco, have devised a matchless intensive Italian type experience: TipoItalia from June 12 – June 13, 2023.

Simply put: . . I’d go if I could and urge all designers to consider making this investment. So, I’ve asked Bill and Sandro to whet your appetites for type, with a few more details below.

I asked Bill Moran:

What are you and Sandro hoping to share with the Tipoteca experience
Thank you for asking! We offer a guided discovery of Italian letterforms for two weeks (early inscriptions and street signage, etc.). to trace how they evolved and resulted in the wood and metal typefaces that make up Tipoteca’s collection. We will print with the museum’s faces and the student’s hand-cut letterforms, then compare styles and design traits. Participants will then create a digital typeface using these ideas, which they can take home as souvenirs.

What are your ideal students?
Anyone with an interest historical letterforms, vintage signs and their provenance. Teachers are a target audience, as they can take this process back into their institutions and share it with their students using digital typography or letterpress.

Is there a greater interest in the history, theory and practice of type than ever?
Absolutely. Before Covid, Tipoteca was regularly hosting students from universities in Europe and the U.S. It’s become something of a pilgrimage for graphic designers. Tipoteca had to share their collections and educational efforts online during the pandemic. This inspired curious aficionados to dive deeper into typographic history via the internet. With the easing of the pandemic there’s definitely a pent-up demand to get our hands inky again and this will be the perfect opportunity.

Do you see this interest in a similar light as vinyl is for record aficionados who want to return to “authenticity,” or is there a more fashionable underpinning (or both)?
Yeah, that’s a great analogy. Vinyl records are a great choice for music lovers. They have the warmth and ritual of playing a record. Letterpress is a similar process. To extend our analogy, let’s use Garage Band to create a new composition. Music for the eyes. We’re especially jazzed (see what I did there?) Riccardo Ollocco will facilitate the font making part of the program. His historic revivals and restorations of fonts are amazing. Check out Olocco and his partner’s work (here).

We’re living in digital environment totally overwhelmed by typography (on paper, screens, walls, cities… ). The act of setting not only physical type, but also spaces, interlines and margins is a good way to practice and have a solid experience in our daily ways of using (and reading) type in use. 

I asked Sandro Berra:

You will be taking your students to where?
We have several day trips planned, in addition to our work at Tipoteca as well as staying at Villa Bolzonello. We will begin in Venice with a special guide, a calligrapher/passionate sign painter who will lead us on a walking tour of the most fascinating inscriptions. A second outing will take us to Rovereto where we will visit the Casa Depero and the Mart Museum, which is the most important museum about futurism. Another outing is planned for Milan, where James Clough will show us how to letter the Monumental Cemetery. It’s a stimulating and varied range of propositions.

What are the key aspects of lettering?
We know that Italy contributed significantly to typographic design. It was the first country to print, and Venice is one example. Jenson, Manuzio were the first to establish the capital lettering for the Latin alphabet. Italy is proud of its cultural diversity, richness and beauty (just look at the Italian gastronomy!). It treasures it. It is no surprise that the Slow Food movement was founded right here. We would like to explore not only the canonical lettering found in books but also the vernacular letters or inscriptions that can still convey original ideas..

Are there other aspects of the past that can be discovered, analyzed, and studied?
The best way to answer to this question, is a quote of Norman Potter: “Don’t be conned into thinking that only new materials or processes are worth investigating. Every material available is strictly contemporary.” So, whatever is behind us, can be uncovered, analyzed and studied because they are still part of our world.

What requirements, if any, do students need to have?
A passion and interest in letters of all kinds is a great starting point. This workshop is designed to inspire curious and passionate people to study letters. You will also have the opportunity to learn letterpress printing. It is possible to discover new ways of thinking by the way the workshop combines the digital past and the tradition of Italian typography. This is due to the fact that it takes place in Italy, where these forms were first created. Bill Moran’s experience as a typographer on the one hand, and Riccardo Olocco’s historical expertise on the other, are a formidable stimulus to research and to the acquisition of new ways of using the past in our present.

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