Typography Puzzle, Inspired by Letterpress

Why does this puzzle matter? Through typography we learn about proportion, positive space, negative space, and systematic thinking. We even learn some math. However, the methods most often use today are centered around clicking, scrolling, and reading from a screen. We’re not engaging multiple senses or kinesthetic movement like our letterpress predecessors would have been doing. What if we took a different approach? What if design basics were taught with toys inspired by letterpress? Would this change the way our brains perceive and absorb info? These interactive letter forms were created to examine this question.  

Background—Within MassArt is a room housing thousands of fonts from the 1800s, known as the T.J. Lyons Collection. While you could view specimens online, visiting in person is a more rewarding experience. Interacting with the type engages your eyes and fingers simultaneously. Typography is tactile! The letterform designs featured below are inspired by No. 500—a font designed by William H. Page and George Setchell from 1887. The original can be found in 7 line and 8 line wood type, at the Lyons Collection.

 
 The letters are transparent acrylic. The counters and letter spacing are set in neon. This puzzle is designed to help students  see negative space, and engage with it in a playful experimental way.

The letters are transparent acrylic. The counters and letter spacing are set in neon. This puzzle is designed to help students  see negative space, and engage with it in a playful experimental way.

 Neon-orange spacers in a variety of widths  allow students to experiment with letter spacing. Proportions are based on letterpress standards. Shown here are 6/em spacers.

Neon-orange spacers in a variety of widths  allow students to experiment with letter spacing. Proportions are based on letterpress standards. Shown here are 6/em spacers.

 Shown here are 4/em spaces (or the font size divided by 4). This provides students with the opportunity to learn some math through design as well.

Shown here are 4/em spaces (or the font size divided by 4). This provides students with the opportunity to learn some math through design as well.

 Specimen from the T.J. Lyons Collection at MassArt. Coincidentally, it contains the word "toys"! Happy surprise.

Specimen from the T.J. Lyons Collection at MassArt. Coincidentally, it contains the word "toys"! Happy surprise.

 The full puzzle—26 capitol letters (duplicates of a few), Counter form parts, Letter Spacers (in widths based on 6/em and 4/em spacing. Typography teaches us so much!—proportion, history, math, emotional expression too. Typography is the apex of left brain and right brain thinking.

The full puzzle—26 capitol letters (duplicates of a few), Counter form parts, Letter Spacers (in widths based on 6/em and 4/em spacing. Typography teaches us so much!—proportion, history, math, emotional expression too. Typography is the apex of left brain and right brain thinking.

 Here I am on my visit to the Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Wisconsin. It was here I learned about die-cut technology and why this was a valuable advancement for the creation of wood type.

Here I am on my visit to the Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Wisconsin. It was here I learned about die-cut technology and why this was a valuable advancement for the creation of wood type.

The Die-Cut Method

Using ornamental borders as an example, Stephanie of the Hamilton Wood Type Museum kindly walked me through the basics of the die-cutting process.