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Inspired by our young son and our eclectic collection of lead type, woodblocks and line-engravings, we set out to create a unique, limited edition letterpressed book of ABCs. The book serves as a tool for learning to read using color and compositional elements to guide the viewer through the various visual connections between word and image.
Drew’s ABCs started as a personal exploration focused on our young son and his introduction to letterform recognition. Identifying subtle differences, discovering they are all different yet the same revealed an opportunity to celebrate and embrace diversity in a playful manner—small, large, thin, thick, serifs, san serif, bold or light, an “a” is still an “A”.
As designers, we intuitively rely upon our design skills to teach and learn how to see and understand the visual world. Our collaboration began with the shared goal of integrating our passions and collection of the design artifact through an awareness of the diversity of typographic forms as an educational opportunity. We sensed the project could expose a new audience to our shared love of history and typographic craft within a book form, a medium that engenders intimate learning experiences that foster dialogue.
It is an experience not limited to the young as there is no age limit when it comes to appreciating the beauty of letterforms and the value of craft. The perceived audience is ages 2-100.
Drew's ABCs, is designed to expose the reader to the richness of diversity within typography, while embracing the imperfections of well-worn letterforms that unveil a bit of typographic and printing history. Playing with various themes found in typographic diversity, we developed visual connections between letterforms, fonts and families in an attempt to highlight their similarities, differences and unique distinctions.
The design of the book presents various playful tongue twisters (in the spirit of Dr. Seuss) and silly phrases in an attempt to emphasize the letter > word > image relationship. Each spread is devoted to an alliterative sentence, for instance: “Peppy people perpetuate putting paper Pigs past Pasadena.” A key word is highlighted (capitalized and emphasized by color) and illustrated via a line engraving in each sentence.
Additional words are included in each spread to allow readers to practice pronouncing words that start with the same chosen letter—for instance the “P” spread would include: Plane, Point, Peacock, Pizza, Path, Parallel. Supplementary images are also included within each spread to reinforce the image/sound relationship through multiple readings and visualization. Lastly, alternative interpretations of letterforms and their design are included to provide young readers with an expanded exposure to the variety of letters that they will encounter in the world.
The overall concept and design of this project revolves around a simple belief in the “basics” and avoiding unnecessary complexities whenever possible. We also purposely chose a subject matter (children’s ABCs), color palette (primary colors) and printing process that reflect our commitment and love of these founding principles. This perspective allows us to focus on creating parallels between the book’s design/production and the reading/learning processes.
The letterpress printing process took over 7 months to complete, providing an enriching educational opportunity through its production, involving the collaboration of students from Pace University and Rutgers University-Newark. The final result of this limited edition of 360 books, brings the alphabet to life on the pages, its design is simple yet complex and both visually balanced and dynamic. The concept for the book was to expose the richness of diversity within typography and celebrate its differences, a goal we feel confidently was achieved.
In addition, our collaboration achieved two essential and integrated goals: the successful integration and design of our diverse collection of letterpress type and images in a meaningful and effective manner; and creating a unique educational opportunity in both the process and product of this book.