Thursday, December 24, 2015

the history of fonts on stools for my classroom

About 3 or 4 years ago, my Principal, Mr. Smith, allowed me to order new metal stools to replace wooden ones that had become splinter hazards for my students. The new ones were perfect for the size of my students and my table height. The new metal stools had one flaw, a Masonite top that couldn't withstand the long term abuse that would be occurring in an elementary art room. I ran through many ideas to cover the tops. All seemed cool and I believed that the students would like the ideas. The only issue was that a majority of my ideas were way too involved and it would have taken me a year or two of design and application to conquer the project.

My love of letters seemed to fit just right. I thought about using my favorite fonts. I thought about listing the fonts and having each one drawn in its own font. Then, the simple concept of going through the 26 letters of the alphabet worked best for an Elementary art room.

I spent many hours searching the history of fonts and the important designs/designers of the last 500 years in the world of typography. I saw many lists by many of the respected minds in the font community. The fonts that continuously showed up on these lists were automatic picks. Fonts like Garamond, Baskerville, Bodoni, etc. were obvious choices. Helvetica, with its surge in popularity (surge in disgust as well) over the last few decades, was always going to be my A. Helvetica is not my favorite, but thought the students should be aware of how prevalent it is in the design world. I do love its lower case A with that bent drop of water as its bowl. 

30 Typography Stools

A Helvetica
B Copperplate
C Garamond
D Baskerville
E Rockwell
F Century
G Bodoni
H Franklin Gothic
I Times New Roman
J Claredon
K Broadway
L Sentinel
M Futura
N Gill Sans
O News Gothic
P Bembo
Q Akzidenz-Grotesk
R mine... (this does not mean that believe that I am the least bit important in the history of Typography because I AM NOT the slightest bit important in the history of Typography)
S Gotham
T Univers
U Officina
V Caslon
W Didot
X Interstate
Y American Typewritier
Z Metro

Italic (Poster Bodoni)
House Industries Ampersand
A blank one for students who choose not treat them well (not pictured)

I had some gold spray paint at home so I went to work on that Helvetica A. I made a circular mask to shield the gray metal ring at the top during spraying. My want for the letters to be exact had me tracing out enlarged letters via the computer... large enough to be seen well and still leave room for additional information. The Helvetica "a" is already taking a beating.

The thought of having all the stools gold sounded horrible, so off to Walmart and a myriad of spray cans were purchased. I used masking type and an Exacto knife to create masks for many of the letters while some were hand painted to achieve a variety of colors.

Upper and lower case was always considered to add interest as many lower case letters have unique styling. Also, I wanted to shift it around a bit just to keep it interesting.

Certain letters were treated to an interesting background. No real rhyme or reason to my choices on that. Just kept it kid friendly.

I designed this R for a project I was teaching at a local university. It was definitely inspired by the impressive House Industries ampersand pictured below.

The camo Z took the longest as I masked off each layer of green.

House Industries has been a frequent stop on my daily net surfing for many years now. Their designs are top notch and will be the kinds of designs that shall remain relevant for many decades to come. Their ampersand is way cool. You can even buy it cast in aluminum or iron!.

I threw in the Earnhardt "three" for some of my Nascar loving students and the 007 seven popped into my head at the last minute. Willie Stargell's 8 was for me. The rest of the numbers were just well constructed numbers I liked.

I have told my students that all the items in the room that I have designed, I have designed them for myself as well. I have to look at this stuff all day. The form is important but they must function as teaching devices. When these designs lose their cool, I head back to the drawing board and revamp them. I definitely had my taste in mind when designing a lot of these stools. Letters and lettering never seem to dull. I do love them.  

-Merry Christmas

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