We spoke to legendary art director, author, critic and editor Steven Heller about his new book Scripts, co-authored by designer Louise Fili, and the lost art of penmanship in the digital age.
Can you give us a brief description of Scripts?
Scripts is a celebration of script letters, alphabets and fonts from classical to modern, from Italy, France, Germany, England and the United States. It is a collection of all manner of ephemera in which scripts play a prominent role. We call it a “love letter to script letters.”
What led you to starting your collection and do you have any particular favourites?
We have collected specimens of all kinds of type and typography for years. Much of it we’ve used in books. We produced a series of Art Deco graphic design books for Chronicle for which we assembled a huge collection of ephemera. Thames & Hudson published our Euro Deco book that includes much of this material. On one hand we simply love the beauty of this vintage material. On the other we use it for scholarship, looking at how the language of graphic design and typography developed in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Favorites? Ah, they are all our babies. I think, however, whenever we find a gem, that’s the fave for the moment.
You mention in the book that script types were born out of 19th century schooling as well as a need for elegance and personality in typefaces, do you think that the art of penmanship is lost in the digital age?
The art of penmanship barely exists in the present. The digital tools have done two things: School kids now type rather than write. Older kids and adults react to that with the desire to return to hand crafts, including penmanship. There is still something very satisfying about writing with the perfect pen and making the perfect mark.
Are there any designers or typographers currently using these styles whose work stands out for you?
Bernard Maisner is the KING OF CURSIVE. His handwritten scripts are right out of the 19th century. There many others who also use their hands, but the most exquisite is Marian Bantjes.
Finally, can you give us a taste of what to expect from your next title Typography Sketchbooks?
Well, here is handwork personified. Not all are scripts to be sure, but the variety of approaches, skills and imaginations is wonderful to see. Like Graphic, this book of sketchbooks shows type designers and typographers with their hair and computer screens down.
Steven Heller was art director at the New York Times for 33 years. He is currently co-chair of the MFA Designer as Author Department, and is the author of scores of books, including Graphic Style, Handwritten, New Ornamental Type and New Vintage Type.