Font Submissions in the 1970's

I was looking through my Letraset and Mecanorma catalogs and wondering what the process was like for font submissions 40-50 years ago. Many of the new additions in each catalog were from established designers and non-exclusive, but some designs were submitted by young "indie" designers and perhaps students. Does anyone know what the process was like? Were designers involved in producing the final layout for the dry transfer sheets? Did each designer set sidebearings in order to set the spacing guides (dashes under the characters) that were included on the sheets?


  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,373
    edited December 2021
    @Florian Hardwig that explains a lot about the surge of experimental looking faces in the Letraset catalog from the early 70's. I remember when I was little kid, noticing some of those Letragraphica faces disappearing. Joc Line is one I remember vanishing from the catalog and picking up a sheet on clearance. I didn't know about that book; just ordered it.

    Every time I picked up my Mecanorma catalog and saw this page, I wondered how the submission process worked.

  • @kupfers I don't have anything to add about the process of submitting designs to Letraset, Zipatone, or Mecanorma beyond what @Florian Hardwig wrote.

    I only had direct experience with submitting a face to ITC in the late seventies. Basically, you had to show drawings of what it looked like and a sample character showing a finished drawing. I did this and mailed my submission to ITC. After a few weeks, I got a letter confirming that it was received. About six months later, the submission was returned with an encouraging rejection letter. No idea what the process was if it was accepted.

    I'm literally about to walk out the door to leave for a trip, but I can post some images later if anyone is interested.

  • Very cool to see an original drawing of your namesake — light traps and all!
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,373
    edited December 2021
    @Mark Simonson Yes, I'd love to see more. Safe travels!
    @Nick Shinn Shinn Bold? Can we see more? I love the reverse light traps on the corners. Was this basically what Shinn Bold ended up as in the digital version or was the phototype version significantly different?

    I remember seeing Lee Usherwood's Alexon when I was a kid but not knowing what it was. I just thought of it as "the Canadian font" because I saw it on so many Canadian things.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,127
    Steve Jackaman digitized it and kept the drawings (except this), which he acquired with a lot of Typsettra assets. He removed the light traps and made other changes, including a horrible slanted italic. I haven’t made a cent off the digital fonts, so don’t promote them.
  • It's time for a Neue Shinn family, I'd say!
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,127
    Sorry, that was then, it would be too much of a chore to revisit, I have some new ideas that interest me more, plus doing a variable version of Beaufort is my present chore.
  • I didn't know about that book; just ordered it.
    Ray, just to manage your expectations: Faces from Letraset is a staple-bound booklet of 44 pages, and has hardly any of the eye candy that Unit’s Letraset: The DIY Typography Revolution has to offer. 6 text pages are dedicated to “the story of the Letraset collection”, and another 8 to noteworthy designers and artists. The rest is comprised of an index of the library, with the names shown in the respective typeface, plus designer and release date. See some images on designer Sam Ingles’ portfolio. It covers the dry transfer faces and Fontek’s digital range. Note that only Letraset exclusives are included, that is everything from Aachen to Zipper, but not designs licensed from others, like Baby Teeth, Marvin, Motter Tektura & Ombra, Oxford, Yagi Link Double, etc. That said, I think it’s a splendid publication, packed with solid information.
  • The selection criteria by type publishers are rarely publicly documented in detail, and change over time – they certainly depend on the phase the company is in: when starting up, there’s probably a greater openness to submissions, and quantity is favored over quality, in order to quickly build up a library. Cost of production (but also marketing) is an obvious factor, too.
    In an interview conducted by Ilene Strizver for TDC’s Type Legends series, Ed Benguiat recounts the beginnings of his career as type designer. One day, Emil Schaedler, his teacher at the Workshop School of Advertising Art, had shown a Spencerian script typeface in class. “I decided to draw one, too. So I drew the first script. It took me about three days – it took [Schaedler] three years of whatever – and I took it to Photo-Lettering and showed it to Ed Rondthaler who was the president of Photo-Lettering, and he said ‘Beautiful! We’ll take it.’ Not realizing they’d take anything … It wouldn’t make any difference.” This was in the early 1950s. By the mid 1970s, Photo-Lettering had become more selective. A similar pattern can be observed for other eras and technologies, think Google Fonts.
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