Editor's Note: Although this exhibition was originally scheduled to run through June 18, it has been exhtended to July 31—don't miss it!.
I wasn't a typography person until I paid a visit to the Century: 100 Years of Type Design exhibition, presented by AIGA and Monotype. Sure, I shared my peers' disdain for Comic Sans and admired a nice headline style from time to time, but for the most part I simply didn't appreciate the details. I guarantee that you, too, will walk out of the AIGA National Design Center with at least a few font facts on your mind, if not a full-fledged fixation. Presented on the occasion of the organization's centennial, Century presents the history and conception of typeface from the very first fonts to the ones we use today through a well-curated selection of artifacts, including typeface production drawings, packaging, advertisements and publications by prominent designers of the last 100 years, among other ephemera.
Check out the exhibit trailer for a look at the space and a few details on the work on display:
I made my way to the exhibit on a night that was hosted by the AIGA Women Leadership Initiative—a new project working to bring women in the design industry together through networking events, exhibits and salons—that included a guided tour highlighting women designers. Monotype's Dan Rhatigan did an excellent job leading the tour, highlighting the importance women played in the typeface evolution, introducing lesser-known gems and walking us through how some of the artifacts came to be in Monotype and AIGA's collection. One look at his typeface-tattooed arms and you know he's the perfect guy for the job.
In addition to being aesthetically engrossing, the Century highlights several major points in typographic history: Letters from Eric Gill showing the progression of some of his most famous font contributions; hand-drawn proofs exhibiting just how slight some of those serifs can be; and even the photograph that inspired a particularly iconic Vogue cover. And those are only a few of my personal highlights picked from the veritable visual buffet of design delicacies.
Following Rhatigan's walkthrough, Su Mathews Hale (Senior Partner at Lippincott) and Deborah Adler (Principal at Adler Design) shared a few words on their new endeavor.
The exhibition itself is organized by Monotype and designed by AIGA Medalist and Pentagram partner Abbott Miller. The entirety of the gallery is a shrine to the expansive world of font: The walls and floors are covered with polka dots that are actually 1,000 different periods, each from a different font family. Upon walking in, you'll also notice a scrolling projection displaying a "C" in 600 different fonts. They're easy details to overlook among the multitude of things to see—such is the nature of typography.
Century: 100 Years of Type Design is only open until
June 18 July 31, so you have some time to catch the exhibition at the AIGA National Design Center at 164 Fifth Avenue in New York before they close the doors—more information on visiting hours is available here.
If you're interested in learning more about the AIGA Women's Leadership Initiative or want to get involved, check out their website. More information about the centennial, we spoke to AIGA Executive Director Richard Grefé.