Posts Tagged ‘type’

Engraving Workshop

February 26, 2011

I am giving an engraving workshop at Loyola University New Orleans. This is a breezy overview of what is contemporary, commercial “engraving”:

Friday, March 18 @ 6:00pm
Loyola University New Orleans
Media Room 1.
Monroe Library

(This same workshop was recently given at:

Tuesday, March 1 @ 5:00pm
Southeastern Louisiana University
Mac Lab
East Stadium)

Each workshop includes:

•    what is engraving and why do we love it.
•    historic specimens of weird and fantastic engraving.
•    contemporary applications for engraving.
•    how to prepare art for engraving, and the various kinds of “engraving”.
•    how to engrave…
•    …or, how to work with an engraver (so you just have to design and leave the engraving to somebody else.)
•    engraving resources (so, I have this engraving-appropriate art. now, how and to whom do I send it to get it “engraved”?).

Students of host university, ATypI, SOTA and AIGA members free; moderate fees may apply for non-members and students of other institutions.


Is Engraving Important to Design Education?

October 10, 2010

Saturday, October 16 at 2:00 pm
Session IV, Panel 3

The American Printing History Association 35th Annual Conference
Corcoran College of Art + Design
Corcoran Gallery of Art, 500 Seventeenth St. NW
Washington, DC

(This presentation was first given in Dublin at the 2010 ATypeI Conference.)

Although rarely studied in today’s classroom, commercial engraving for print is a vital element in the teaching of graphic design and media studies at the college and university level. This notion, which will be explored in the proposed presentation, is based on more than a decade of independent study of steel die and copper plate engraving, the recent installation of a working engraving proofing press within the Loyola University of New Orleans graphic design department and the establishment of a new and growing engraving community in New Orleans. This is the first new and only robust commercial print engraving community in North America.

The legacy through which we have studied, and viewed, graphic design, typography and the book arts primarily has been through the lens of the letterpress form. For over 500 years, almost all of our print communication was fashioned within this framework and according to a specific, or implied grid (grid being the series of units aligning both vertically and horizontally in an intentional, recognizable pattern). In the western world, almost every description of commercial visual communication is presented in this format; books, newspapers, periodicals, even the orientation and navigation of websites depend on a grid for their structure.

Engraving, on the other hand, is a fluid, free-hand expression restricted only by the perimeter of the surface upon which an engraving is worked. The exquisite beauty and gracefulness of arcs and shading inherent in the engraved line is unparalleled and had become, until very recently, an unfortunately moribund craft.

This twenty minute presentation addresses ways in which the organic nature of steel die and copper plate engraved imagery and text complement and enhance visual experience, why and how engraving is a central part of any modern graphic design curriculum, and dynamic ways that it can be introduced in the classroom. By providing examples of elegant and unique engraved imagery, we can inspire the next generation of visual thinkers to keep this important art form alive.

© 2010 Nancy Sharon Collins

History of Romantic Letters at TypeCon 2009

June 26, 2009

The History of Romantic Letters at TypeCon 2009

2:00 pm-5:30 pm

Presented by Nancy Sharon Collins (Collins LLC/Loyola University/AIGA New Orleans)

Location: Portfolio Center, Atlanta
Cost: $50 + $10 materials fee
Ever wonder about engraving? What is it? Where does it come from? Why does it look that way? What’s a monogram? How does engraving factor into the history and function of type?

The only way to truly appreciate engraving is to try it yourself—come experience the “cut” by which engraved letterforms are made—everyone in this workshop will be encouraged to try their hand with a “graver” (or “burin”), the real tools of this elegant, virtually forgotten trade.

Specimens of vintage monograms, lettering styles and engraving will be displayed. Using simple tools such as graphite pencil and various sorts of erasers, attendees will trace, combine, retrace existing forms and learn to make new symbols, letters and forms with these historic pieces of inspiration.

Readable Text, New Orleans Style at TypeCon 2009

June 26, 2009


12:00 noon, Type in 20

TypeCon 2009, Atlanta

Nancy Sharon Collins talks about FLOOD BOOK and notions of readable text. Audrey Bennett and Ellen Lupton are cited.


In 2005 Audrey Bennett spoke on this topic at Typecon in Boston, she and I have exchanged emails about this, infrequently, ever since.  I was interested in her talk because I was then teaching graphic design and typography at a university literally down the bayou in south Louisiana where illiteracy rates soar.  Recently at an AIGA leadership retreat in  Portland, OR, I ran into Audrey who I had not seen since Boston.  I was very excited to show her a book I designed and was amazed to discover that she had just purchased a copy.

FLOOD BOOK, * as it is named, is a post-Katrina rant—or repetitive chant—with rhyming verse written in Yat which is a local, New Orleanian dialect. Its a little book, the size of a short novella, with compelling illustrations and simple, classical type.  I wanted Audrey to see it because it became a sell out as a tool for teaching reading to those with severe literacy challenges.   Why had she picked-up the book and what was it that inspired her to buy it?  In this presentation I will talk about the typographic and design choices in the FLOOD BOOK project, the coincidence with Audrey and how Dr. Caroline Musselwhite, assistive technology specialist working in the areas of AAC and literacy, found the book useful in her workshops.

* FLOOD BOOK will be on sale at the SOTA book store.

When Old is Just Obsolete—or—This is Not Sustainable

April 26, 2009

Virtually on Christmas Eve, 2008, yet another commercial engraving house bites the dust.

I have personally worked with these folks for more than thirty years (yes, 30) and with them made exquisite specimens of engraved types—no wonder manufacturing in this country is in such deep and ugly trouble.

Business can be a sorry business, read it here:

and here.

Read more about engraving, here:

and here:

SHAME ON YOU. Are there really No Sustainable Printers in New Orleans?

March 7, 2009

In a town now being cited for many new green initiatives I must wag my finger at my adopted home, I just did an online look to see who of our local printers advertises sustainable practices and I found none.

Not one of these local printers advertises sustainable practices on the home page of their website:

Garrity Printing Inc.,
H & H Printing Service,
Pel Hughes,
Harvey-Hauser Printing Company,
Davis & Sapi Printing,
Wendel Printing,
Mele Printing,

In North America, New Orleans boasts the first press established outside of the original colonies back when this country was being formed. While waiting for his press and types to arrive from France, Denis Braud engraved plates himself. A resident since at least 1762, Braud printed letters of exchange for the treasury.* Also, the debate has never been conclusively resolved about just where the first type foundry “to operate in a Southern state”, Virginia or New Orleans.**

Can this legacy of great type and print innovation be made right?

Come on boys and girls of the letter and word, get on the stick. Otherwise, conscientious typographers and designers such as myself will have to source printing from sustainable printers in Alabama!

* Florence M. Jumonville, Bibliography of New Orleans Imprints 1764-1864
** Maurice Annenberg, Type Foundries of America and their Catalogs

Early Symptoms of Type Nerd Syndrome (TNS)

April 20, 2008

Following is from an e-conversation about suffering from Type Nerd Syndrome (TNS).


Herewith please find attached evidence of Type Nerd Syndrome. Last Friday Jen McNight, visiting artist, assistant professor at University of Missouri-Saint Louis, Daniela Marx, tenured professor of graphic design at Loyola University New Orleans and I gamboled and frolicked in this field of type like three kittens playing with a ball of string.

We each found ourselfs nearly prostrate photographing the architectural type being installed in the Loyola library; we photographed each other photographing the type, videoed and laughed, we are hoping to make a presentation with the captures for TypeCon 2009. (I began to wonder if this was some symptom of a serious illness of which we should be aware.)


Type Nerd Syndrome (TNS) is a condition which usually starts with a sharp blow to the head – physical or chemical – during adolescence.

The symptoms are usually mistaken for OCD in non-creative people. In professionals it often earns the afflicted nicknames like ‘Font Police’, ‘Font Cop’, ‘Font Nazi’ or even…. shudder…. ‘Type Director’.


Now this all makes sense. When I was young I used to climb all over the gym sets in our collective back yards, there were three families sharing this strip of land that the dad’s made into a playground replete with sand and a big “jungle gym” made out of that heavy steel piping, as well as some store bought swing sets and various other climb-upon things that I don’t see much anymore (probably because of insurance issues.)

I used to climb up to the top of the big, pipe-metal one and hang upside down from it off of my knees. One day i do recall landing on my head rather than swinging, guess my knees decided to play a funny trick on me resulting in a sharp blow to the head. Guess it all started for me there.


heh – yeah that’d do it for sure. For me it was hearing the phone ring upstairs while practicing my drums. Thinking it could be ‘for me’, and quite possibly an ‘adoring fan’ – I dropped the sticks, jumped over a box, leapt for the 3rd stair only to be stopped cold in my tracks by a low hanging radiator pipe to the head. The phone kept ringing – at least I think it was the phone – as I crumpled to the floor. All the people I’ve asked, who are ‘into type’, have related similar stories…. Even Chuck Bigelow whose experiences were less traumatic and suffered over a period of time in art college