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Many typefaces available to us today are not stand-alone designs, but were introduced as inventive solutions to very specific problems of type manufacture, typesetting restrictions, or printing issues. As those designs become part of the overall typographic landscape, it’s easy to forget how closely connected they are to the original problem, or how much potential there may be to explore solutions to a new problem. Looking at some now-classic typefaces, we’ll see how they turned out the way they did, and hopefully encourage some fresh responses to newer challenges. Dan Rhatigan worked as a designer and typographer for 15 years in Boston and New York before moving to England in 2006 for graduate school at the University of Reading. After receiving his MA in Typeface Design, he spent 7 seven years working with Monotype as researcher, type designer, and eventually Type Director. He now lives in New York City again, where he works as an independent type designer and consultant.
“Letraset and other brands of rub-down type literally put typography in the hands of the people. Rub-down type made it possible for students, professionals, and everyone else to design with real typefaces, without needing professional typesetting services. A cheap and easy way to experiment with typography and other graphic elements, Letraset put a lot of care into making type easy to use well, but it also resulted in a lot of ways to use type badly, but with interesting results. With some care and attention, however, it was a great way to develop an eye for typography.”