Socialist features of a typeface

shessler's picture

A tricky one, perhaps: What features would be regarded as "socialist" or "left-wing" in a typeface?

I am here looking beyond the cliché of old russian revolutionary posters with condensed sans-serifs and cryllic-inspired features. Are there any contemporary typefaces made today that would be regarded socialist?

dezcom's picture

"And in case you are curious, yes, there was a Cyrillic version of Kolektiv."

LOL, Maxim!!! or should I say "Duh";-)

johnbutler's picture

I AM THE 99‰

Nick Shinn's picture

@John: Creative type design flourished: what did not was manufacturing of type and technological innovation.

It's not type design if new fonts aren't being made from the designs, if the effort is being applied to lettering.

How about typositor styles?
Surely it wouldn't have been too much of a technical difficulty for the Soviets to manufacture a phototypositor, even though out of the loop of more sophisticated Western type technologies.

froo's picture

Indeed, every technology, developed no matter where, was available and in use. There were schools, research institutes, publishing houses and type designers. But just around certain centres. The new technologies didn't spread, they were controlled in various ways.

Maxim Zhukov's picture

Nick, Soviet designers had no direct access to any typesetting equipment. You had to have a special security clearance for that; compositors did, not designers. The VGC PhotoTypositor never made it to Soviet Union; my first time seeing, and operating it was in New York, in 1977. In Moscow there were very few Berthold-built Diatypes, and I am not sure if any Staromats and Starsettographs were used—not by the designers, that’s for sure. Like Marcin wrote, it was all about control… Come on, even the typewriters were all registered, and their font samples kept on file. The only photolettering device I knew of, and used (for a modest bribe), in mid-1970s belonged to Mosfilm, the largest film studio in the country.

Ray Larabie's picture

I heard about the typewriter registration. Even in the late 80's it was almost impossible get computer printers or fax machines.

froo's picture

However, they forgot about this: "Children's practical printing house". It was my favorite toy. I remember my surprise when I noticed that also the adults loved it.

Té Rowan's picture

Looks like a very fun and useful toy. :-| (the straight-face smiley)

dezcom's picture

As a child, I had similer rubber type tool! I remember it fondly but have not seen it since the early 1950s ;-)

Maxim Zhukov's picture

OMG… That was a blatant case of unforgivable slovenliness. Someone at the Służba Bezpieczeństwa screwed up real bad. Hope they’ve corrected that gaper. What a shame, towarzyszy!

andrijtype's picture

pozdraw, Marcin

it's very cute!

only soviet printing toy that i have found in my childhood (but i had look for them very intensive) had only communist dingbats in case as stars, hammer-stickle and so on.

you ask me why? because commies always afraid of words, even of child's words.

Nick Shinn's picture

I had this:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/wychbury/3199489226/

I also had Meccano, but didn't become an engineer :-)

William Berkson's picture

My late Uncle J. Ben Lieberman, who was a printing fanatic and incredibly energetic and industrious, was active in the private press movement. He had done his PhD on freedom of the press, and was fond of saying that freedom of the press meant in the first place the freedom to own a press. He started the American Printing History Association, wrote the books Types of Typefaces and Printing as a Hobby, printed the preliminary edition of Mac MacGrew's American Metal Typefaces, and on and on. He was really tireless.

One of his less terrific ideas was a hobby printing press for children, something like the box above. Except it could use real metal type and printer's ink. However, it didn't ever work that well, alas.

A few years ago I saw a demonstration of the Ellison die cutting machine, and saw it as a version of Lieberman's idea that actually works well. It does paper cut-outs beautifully, and a lot of elementary schools have them. I told the lady that they should adapt it as a press for the kids to do printing on, but I don't think they have done anything. Their set up would work as a small printing press, as the both roller and press styles develop a lot of pressure. I also told them they *had* to do dies of Century Schoolbook as one of their cut-out fonts. They had others, not as good. Don't know whether they adopted that idea.

dezcom's picture

Bill,

Today's kids have laser printers and inkjet printers so the level of interest is greatly reduced from kids of or era. Besides that,they have Skype, iPhone, Gameboy, Playstation, etc... In our day, we had only marbles and sticks ;-)

William Berkson's picture

I know Chris, but those laser and inkjet printers just don't have the romance of letter press, with its depth of color and tactile quality. I still think the kids would find it fun.

dezcom's picture

Romance to you and me ,Bill, to them?

Té Rowan's picture

Magic.

William Berkson's picture

By the way, Lieberman would have been totally delighted with desktop publishing, as his passion was for widespread ownership of the ability of people to print. Incidentally this is the opposite of socialist as far as printing goes. He thought it was crucial to have widespread private ownership of printing, and not to have it all in the hands of the government, as in the Soviet Union. And I've heard that Soros' giving Xerox machines to Eastern Europe did play a role in the fall of regimes, though I don't know how true that is. In a way the internet has taken this same idea further, as everyone can now publish worldwide, electronically. And it has had a huge social impact, not least in the Arab spring.

dezcom's picture

Bill, I tried to order his book a few months back and they said it is out of print.

William Berkson's picture

Chris, Oak Knoll has it and other stuff he wrote. It looks like the second edition of Types of Typefaces is called Types and Typefaces, and is expanded, and was printed by him (the Myriade Press was his).

dezcom's picture

There seems to be many of the same book with a confusing array different prices. Which one is the most current edition?

William Berkson's picture

Types and Typefaces is the title of the revised edition, 1978. The different prices are I think because some of them, and maybe all of them, are used books and in different conditions.

froo's picture

And I've heard that Soros' giving Xerox machines to Eastern Europe did play a role in the fall of regimes, though I don't know how true that is.

Xerocopy and copy shops appeared in the early 90s, after the transfer of power (at least here). From what I remember and from what I saw during selecting materials for an exhibition about the "Second Circuit", until 1989, underground publications were printed using the strangest technologies (from PVC carving to computer lineprinters), but certainly were not reproduced on Xerox machines.

More information here (automatic translation).

PS: Paradoxally, some of samizdats were generated thanks to the state Institute of Literary Studies in Warsaw. I was told in ILS, that they used to press the counterintelligence and the security service to get the censored and confiscated publications, because the ILS's goal were research and studies on Polish literature, no matter of what source. And as you can imagine, "each secret hole has it's secret mole":-)

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