Wim Crouwel's New Alphabet

brianbaker's picture

I've recently become very interested in Wim Crouwel, especially his New Alphabet, but though all my searching on the web I have found very little on him or the New Alphabet. All leads on books he's written, or been featured in, have run dry for me. Any information that doesn't turn up on google searches for "Wim Crouwel", "New Alphabet", or combinations of the two would be appreciated.

designalchemy's picture

I could be wrong, but I think it may have been released by fontshop in their Fuse series.

brianbaker's picture

No luck at fontshop. Thanks anyway.

After even more searching I found this http://cgm.cs.mcgill.ca/~luc/longdesigners.html (caution: 2.6mb html page) which tells me nothing I hadn't found though google. If I could only have what this wall http://www.vividvormgeving.nl/foto%27s/crouwel06.jpg shows I would be happy.

rcapeto's picture

Hi Brian.

I have a copy of Crouwel's New Alphabet booklet.
What kind of info do you want? If you want the
faces themselves ("what the wall shows") they're
sold by TheFoundry as it was mentioned.
Of course, the 'New Alphabet' is a 'conceptual'
design - a proposition for a CRT face (the main
text of the booklet is set in Univers). That's
1967 of course. Some theoretical aspects behind
it are developed in an article Crouwel wrote in
the Journal of Typographic Research (=Visible
Language), in its Winter 1970 issue: "Type Design
for the Computer Age".

On Crouwel himself, the main reference is
Frederike Huygen and Hugues Boekraad's
Mode en Module, a thick catalogue raisonné
(Dutch-only unfortunately), nicely designed by
Karel Martens and Jaap van Triest (though I
have problems with some aspects of its printing).

R

brianbaker's picture

I had found The Foundry's website before and, I guess, missed that. Rodolfo, do you have the Winter 1970 issue of the Journal of Typographic Research? I would like to know everything I can about the New Alphabet.

rcapeto's picture

Brian: no, I don't have that issue of the
JoTR but I had access to the article all
the same. It mentions the New Alphabet only
very briefly. The gist of it is that type
in the computer age shouldn't be based on
the old, hand-derived forms. I quote this
sentence that might delight our friend
Hrant: "Writing by hand is fortunately a
vanishing skill." (Exercise for HHP: compare
Crouwel to Gerrit Noordzij). Instead, the
inner "modular" logic of the computer should
inform the structure of "letters". Crouwel
calls that a cellular structure - which can
be represented by "dots" (I think the word
"pixel" wasn't current yet in 1970). Only,
the concept of a cell is richer and more
complex than that of a pixel or dot. The
signs formed by these cells - "enlarged
cellforms" - he wouldn't call "letters, but
"nuclei", the grouping of nuclei not "words",
but "units". Together, units form a
"communication".

R

hrant's picture

> type in the computer age shouldn't be
> based on the old, hand-derived forms.

Yeah, it should be based on R2D2... As Paul Stiff replied to Noordzij in Typography Papers (#4), type is about *reading*. Not the hand, not robots, not dead Italians.

Brian, I'm an "alphabet conception" guy (as MyFonts calls it), but I don't do Wim - sorry.

hhp

brianbaker's picture

Thank you. I'm satisfied for now. I'm going back to school next week, I'm sure one of my professors will be able to help me get some more information.

rcapeto's picture

Brian: I thought you said you "would like to
know everything I can about the New Alphabet".
How come you're satisfied? ;) Now, if you get
any new information from your professors,
please share with us.

Hrant: yes, that's the point. Both of them
(Noordzij, Crouwel), in their opposite ways, seem
to be preoccupied with the formation of signs
rather than their reading/decoding (I think that's
an over-simplistic assessment however). In any
case, Crouwel's progressive approach (and let's
put it in context, that's 1967-70 - at least six
years before R2D2) seems healthy, especially
when so much typography and type design today
tend to a certain smug regressiveness... ;)

regards,
R

hrant's picture

What are you, my Brazilian alter-ego?! ;-)

hhp

rcapeto's picture

No, but I may agree with you in a few things. ;)

anonymous's picture

The Foundry's Architype 3 collection is a set of Crouwel's faces including "New Alphabet."

Look here:
http://www.thefoundrystudio.co.uk/

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