Friday, January 6, 2017

Deliberate Designs

A scrapbook page with two roughly cut pieces of paper. The bottom piece is a calendar for the month of January 1908 and the top piece is a quotation that reads "All the great human forces become the servants of the man who carries in himself the powers of righteousness with God." All of the letters are fancily calligraphic, with the first initial of the quotation enlarged and stylized like a medieval manuscript initial with blue and red ink. The word "January" above the calendar is in red. All other text is in black.
As a new year begins, we celebrate by displaying a January calendar page, among other creations, that was designed by the man who coined the term 'graphic designer' in 1922. William A. Dwiggins was an illustrator, calligrapher, and type and book designer who produced most of his influential works during the first half of the 20th century.

A woodcut image of three musicians standing back to back in a rough circle. The background  is a chalky orange color while the foremost musician, playing a long flute or horn, is dressed in a red shirt, green hat, and bright orange pants. To his right is a bagpipe player wearing a green tunic. To his left, a violin player with a yellow broad-brimmed hat.Dwiggins had a monumental impact on book design improvements during the 1920s and 1930s and created numerous fonts such as Caledonia which are still in use today. Dwiggins's criticism of the low standard of book design in the 1910s led to a collaboration with the Alfred A. Knopf publishing house in later decades. Like Knopf, Dwiggins was committed to high-quality book design and publication and brought his aesthetic to both his commercial advertising commissions as well as his own personal projects.

We have a small collection of Dwiggins-related materials here at Rauner thanks to the papers of Dartmouth professor Ray Nash, a graphic-arts historian who ran the Graphic Arts Workshop at Dartmouth from 1937 until 1970. Along with many other fascinating example of printing, Nash left us four scrapbooks containing work related to Dwiggins. To see them, come to Rauner and ask for the Ray Nash papers (MS-1076), boxes 52 and 53.

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