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Letter Man of New Zealand

One of the most memorable things about a visit to the Te Papa Museum in Wellington has got to be the exhibition of works by typographer Joseph Churchward.

The museum has a room full of original handcrafted type by Churchward, a Samoan-born New Zealander who is still alive and continuing to produce typefaces at 75 years old!

Churchward has crafted more than 500-plus typefaces – one of few typographers who has produced so many different typefaces. Some of his works have been published by Berthold Type Foundry including Churchward  Design, Brush, Tranquillity, Marianna and Tui.

Many of them are still available through foundries such as myfonts (myfonts.com) and identifont (identifont.com).

Churchward is the only New Zealander to have so many typefaces published internationally by big foundries. And one can see why at the exhibition.

Each type is carefully handcrafted using pen and boards and you can see all the white paint used to cover up his sketches, mistakes, fine-tuning and so on.

Remember that many of these faces were created BEFORE the advent of the computer. Churchward clearly understood the mechanics of the printing press, ink trap, dot gain, and other technicalities involved in printing and pre-press.

With Montezuma (second photo below) he cut the letters using a technique which we see on more modern typefaces such as Retina and Amplitude.

What a guy he is!

Here are some photos of the exhibits:

Churchward Maori

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Churchwardiana Sans

Smaller point size for Chinese paper?

I hear that Lianhe Zaobao, the Singapore Chinese paper which has to be read with a magnifying glass by at least one reader (see picture below) is thinking of reducing its point size.

Why, I wonder? So they can squeeze more into the pages?

The problem, it seems, stems from the rising cost of newsprint now pushing US$1,000 a ton.

In a move to reduce costs, Singapore Press Holdings newspapers have been told to be careful about increasing the number of pages.  At least one paper in its stable has been told to rethink its design.

Why use so much white space for one story, for instance. Can the story be equally effective using less space?

I think this is a failure to understand design and its impact on readership.

Newspapers are already losing readers by the minute and to make papers more difficult to read and access (via good design) can spell disaster.

All the news that fits?

A few days ago, I read this quote from the publisher of the New York Times, Arthur Sulzberger Jr.:  “Do we need all this news and information? Do we want all this news and information? Can we tolerate all this news and information?”

Unfortunately, not many newspaper editors think like that. They are still churning out stuff we read on the Internet or watched on the TV 24 hours ago. But their crime is made worse by the fact that stories are so lengthy.

The Straits Times in Singapore seems to have gone with longer stories after its recent redesign. There are, on average, two stories in one broadsheet page. That’s way too long.

The Sydney Morning Herald and hundreds of broadsheets around the world this morning are no better.

What’s gone into their heads? Where have they been?