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Unjustified texts: perspectives on typography

Robin Kinross

A book of writings from twenty-five years of engagement on the peripheries of both journalism and academic life, and drawn largely from small-circulation and now hard-to-access publications. Persistent themes include: editorial typography, the emergence of graphic design in Britain, emigré designers, Dutch typography, the work of critical modernist designers

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The transformer: principles of making Isotype charts

Marie Neurath and Robin Kinross

The visual work of Otto Neurath and his associates, now commonly known as Isotype, has been much discussed in recent years. This short book explains its essential principles: the work of ‘transforming’, or putting information into visual form. This deeper level of their work – which is applicable in all areas of design – is routinely neglected in the assumption that Isotype is just a matter of symbols and pictograms. At the core of the book is a previously unpublished essay by Marie Neurath, the principle Isotype transformer, which she wrote in the last year of her life. This is supplemented by Robin Kinross with commentary on illustrated examples of Isotype and other supporting short essays.

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Modern typography: an essay in critical history

Robin Kinross

A brisk tour through the history of Western typography, from the time (c.1700 in France and England) when it can be said to have become ‘modern’. A spotlight is directed at different cultures in different times, to trace the developments and shifts in modern typography. Attention is given to ideas, to social context, and to technics, thus stepping over the limited and tired tropes of stylistic analysis. This is a reprint of the second edition, which has some variations in the pictures as well as corrections and updatings in the text.

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Active literature: Jan Tschichold and New Typography

Christopher Burke

In the first book on Tschichold to be based on extensive archive research, Burke turns fresh and revealing light on his subject. He sets Tschichold in the network of artists and designers who constituted New Typography in its moment of definition and exploration, and puts new emphasis on Tschichold as an activist collector, editor and writer. Tschichold’s work is shown in colour throughout, in freshly made photographs of examples drawn from public and private collections. This is not a biography, but rather a discussion of the work seen in the context of Tschichold’s life and the times in which he lived.

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Entries

The claim of reason

2003.11.11

Robin Kinross is giving a talk with this title at the Information Design Histories conference at Coventry (UK), 10 December 2003 (Communication Research Institute of Australia), in which, among other things, he will argue against arguments that he presented at the first Information Design conference, held at Cranfield (UK) in 1984. The title of that earlier talk was ‘The rhetoric of neutrality’.

ATypI, Rome

2002.09.26

At the ATypI conference in Rome last week, three Hyphen authors spoke. Robin Kinross gave a talk around the themes of his book Modern typography, ten years on from its first publication; he is now limbering up to revise and expand the text for a new edition. In another strand of discussion, Eric Kindel and Fred Smeijers presented their ‘historical action research’ into the making of stencil letters for the production of books.

Werkplaats at the Stedelijk

2002.06.09

An exhibition of the work of the Werkplaats Typografie (Arnhem) will open at the end of June at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, running through to September. To coincide with this, a book is being made: In alphabetical order, edited by ex-Werkplaats participant Stuart Bailey. Among its contents are texts by Anthony Froshaug, Norman Potter, Robin Kinross, Melle Hammer and Paul Elliman – which represent a lineage of ideas and approaches that inform this kind of workshop education. The publisher is NAi Uitgevers in Rotterdam.

‘Dot Dot Dot’ 2

2001.02.23

The second issue of Dot Dot Dot is just out. Among the more directly Hyphen-related contents are a review of Anthony Froshaug by Paul Barnes, and an article by Robin Kinross on ‘The uses of failure’. A remark by Froshaug, ‘I should not like to celebrate my death, laid out on a coffee table’, provides a motto for the whole issue, which breathes a very fresh spirit.

Breakthroughs

1999.09.07

In the September issue of the magazine Lingua Franca (the bright and irreverent ‘review of academic life’, published from New York), the topic of the ‘breakthrough books’ column was design: ‘we asked five graphic designers to tell us about the best books in their field.’ One of them, Robin Kinross – evidently fed up with design – chose Benedict Anderson’s Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism and Jack Goody’s The domestication of the savage mind. Another, Steven Heller, greedily chose four books, one of which was Kinross’s Modern typography.

Conversations in print

1999.07.16

A long interview between Petra Cerne Oven and Robin Kinross has just been published in Emzin, (vol. 9, nos. 1–2, 1999). This is a cultural review published in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The conversation concentrates on Kinross’s activities as a writer and publisher. The conversation was conducted in English (of course), and is published here in Slovenian translation. Another conversation covering similar territory, between Kinross and Florian Pumhoesl, was published in the Austrian cultural magazine Springer (vol. 3, no. 4, 1997–8). Both conversations are informal, occasionally unbuttoned, wide-ranging – of a kind that it is hardly possible to publish in the English-speaking design press. (Update: the conversation with Petra Cerne Oven is now available in English here.)

Ma[r]king the text

1998.08.14

Robin Kinross is contributing to the ‘Marking the text’ conference at Trinity College, University of Cambridge, England, 3–6 September 1998. The topic of his talk is ‘Judging a book by its material embodiment’.

‘Modern typography’

1998.07.22

The book is now officially out of print, though a few copies may be available still from Coen Sligting, our Dutch distributor. We do not plan to reprint in its present form, but a revised edition is being considered.

An interview with Robin Kinross

Petra Cerne Oven and Robin Kinross / 2000.08.21

This interview was recorded in London on 28 May 1999, and published in Slovenian translation in the cultural magazine ‘Emzin’ (vol. 9, nos. 1–2). In making this transcription, we have made some clarifications and expansions of what was said. Read more

New Series

2002.08.02

Andy Crewdson’s ‘New Series’ is now launched. This is a natural successor to his weblog Lines & Splines, which in its later entries had begun to move towards more extended discussions, notably in a very perceptive review of Martin Majoor’s Seria typeface. The first pieces on New Series are a review of Harry Carter’s View of early typography and an interview with Robin Kinross. A piece about Fred Smeijers’s Arnhem typeface is in preparation. [Update at 2013.11.03: ‘New Series’ is offline.]

Tschichold at St Bride’s

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2007.04.29

In connection with his forthcoming book Active literature, Christopher Burke will be talking on 19 June at the St Bride Printing Library in London on ‘Jan Tschichold: the missing typefaces’. An exhibition at the Library of work by Tschichold, curated by Christopher Burke and Robin Kinross, will open then and be on display through to 23 August. Go here for more information.

Isotype: recent publications

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Robin Kinross / 2008.05.12

The recent flourish of interest in the visual work of Otto Neurath – let’s call it Isotype – may be seen as a second wave, coming after a first period of discovery, which included exhibitions of the work in Reading (1975) and Vienna (1982), and an exhibition of the work of the Neurath group’s main artist, Gerd Arntz, in The Hague (1976). From this writer’s point of view, this phase of research culminated in a collection of all Neurath’s writings on the matter (1991).1 Significant contributions of the second wave include the book Bildersprache by Frank Hartmann and Erwin K. Bauer (2002), an exhibition shown in Brno, Prague, Vienna and finally at the Triennale in Milan (2002–3), and now (2008) the book Otto Neurath: the language of the global polis by Nader Vossoughian, with an associated exhibition and events at the Stroom gallery in The Hague. This book and exhibition have indeed been part of a veritable stream of happenings in the Netherlands, which includes a website of Gerd Arntz’s graphic work and a book Lovely language. Hyphen Press is due to contribute to this second wave later this year, with a book titled The transformer. By way of a warm-up for that book, and some clearing of the ground, here are a few thoughts prompted by the most recent publications. Read more

Kinross at the KB

2009.02.04

From this week to the end of June, Robin Kinross is living and working in the Netherlands: taking up this year’s Fellowship at the Konkinklijke Bibliotheek [Royal Library]. The position is run jointly by the KB and the NIAS (Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences). Building on a theme of his book Modern typography, Kinross is doing research on paper sizes and their standardization. His only duty is to prepare a public lecture on his topic, to be delivered (and also published as a pamphlet) in June. Meanwhile the Hyphen Press office is being run by his assistant, Roland Früh. Work on the new books goes on. The transformer has this week reached page-proof stage.

Anthony Froshaug: material words / making the book

Jane Howard & Robin Kinross / 2009.02.21

A recent tidying of the office turned up an offprint from the journal ‘Matrix’ (no. 21, 2001), which published two pieces written on the occasion of the publication of our book ‘Anthony Froshaug’. Looking at them again, they seem worth reviving – to explain something of the process by which that book was made (just as this piece explains how another of our books came into the world). Read more

A4 and before

2009.06.02

On 11 June at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague, Robin Kinross is giving a lecture on standard paper sizes. This is the culmination of his period this year as a joint Fellow at the KB and NIAS. The talk will have the character of preliminary survey, towards a long history of paper sizes.

‘Modern typography’ in translation

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2009.07.26

One of the most pleasing aspects of publishing is to see translated editions of your books appearing. Italian, Spanish, and now Korean editions of Modern typography have been made in recent years. Meanwhile our own second edition of the work is out of print and awaiting a reprint, with corrections and small updatings. We hope that that book can be made later this year. Read more

Interview about Hyphen Press

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2010.07.05

Last December, Michel Aphesbero and Thomas Boutoux came to London to interview Robin Kinross, for the rosab.net web-magazine, made at the École des beaux-arts de Bordeaux. The interview lasts for 51 minutes and is slow stuff, but has things not told in public before. But first you have to find it: wait for the page to load, then zoom out – a lot!, then scroll to the left and you will see ‘A studio visit to Robin Kinross in London’.

Local talk

2010.09.27

On Thursday 28 October (7.30 pm) at the Highgate Library in Chester Road, London N19, Robin Kinross will be speaking about his work with Hyphen Press. He will spend a good part of the evening looking at books from the library’s stock and thinking aloud about ordinary book production: what is acceptable, what is not so good, what is unremarkable but OK, and so on, in typesetting, printing, and binding.

‘Modern typography’ reprinted

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2010.11.09

The book Modern typography has just been reprinted and copies are on sale now. We have made corrections and updates in the text, and have taken to the chance to vary some of the pictures in the ‘Examples’ chapter.

‘Gerd Arntz: graphic designer’

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Robin Kinross / 2011.04.26

This book review was written for the Designgeschiedenis Nederland website. It is published here in slightly adapted form, as a follow-up to an earlier review of publications about Isotype. Read more

The cover of ‘Fellow readers’

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Robin Kinross / 2012.04.26

This is the cover of the pamphlet Fellow readers: notes on multiplied language, which Hyphen Press put out in 1994. The piece was prompted by the debates over typography that had been published in the pages of Emigre and Eye magazines, and elsewhere. A participant in this discussion, I saw the chance to make a more extended contribution when my book Modern typography was coming up for a reprint. This was in 1994, just as the wind was beginning to go out of this little Anglo-American storm. I gave the publication the format of Modern typography (in its first edition of 1992), using the same typeface, and page construction, and wrote to fill 32 pages – which would be just enough to give it a spine with the author and title on it. The margins carried quite a few notes: I was conscious that Modern typography’s margins had been underused. I imagined that the printers might make the book and the pamphlet in the same production process, which they almost did. Fellow readers seemed to serve its purpose. Though slender, as a free-standing publication it made more of a mark than any magazine article could. Read more

They order these things better in France

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2012.05.16

The photograph below records the entrance space at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, last week, where Robin Kinross gave a ‘conférence’ on the occasion of the publication of the French edition of Modern typography. He also took part in a radio discussion for France Culture, to be broadcast at lunchtime on 28 May. Such serious attention in the public realm to typography is unusual. In the Anglo-Saxon world, it’s unheard of. Read more

In Vienna

2012.06.07

Next week in Vienna, two events hosted by the Typographische Gesellschaft Austria take place: a workshop with Jost Hochuli (Monday 11 to Friday 15) and a talk by Robin Kinross on ‘Design for meaning’ (Wednesday 13). More details here.