Making Faces screens in San Francisco

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News | David Sudweeks | October 18, 2011

Bay Area typophiles gathered Tuesday before last at Typekit for a screening of Making Faces, a process documentary on the drawing, pantographic cutting, and casting of metal type. In the film, Jim Rimmer steps us through the process, producing an original face.

Prior to the film’s rolling, director Rich Kegler shed light on his connection to Jim and introduced us to his own company, P22, starting with its accidental beginning. The presentation began with a photograph of his first font product.

“This was never meant to be commercially released,” Rich started, as he explained how his schoolwork led to the creation of digital fonts celebrating individual artists and important art movements. After some demand developed for his work, Rich continued the process of digitizing period pieces and releasing them on 3.5 inch diskettes.

“I recently came across this photograph, and I had completely forgotten I even did this.” One of the ways Rich marketed the fonts starting out was to run a booth at art shows. This was done in hopes that his product would be picked up into the museum giftshop circuit. The tagline under each category reads ‘Not your typical type.’

Each font set featured themed packaging. Often aspects of the floppy disk—its color, proportions, etc.—figured into the design’s composition. Packages pictured above include Constructivist, Insectile, Acropolis Now, De Stijl, Vienna Secessionist, Daddy-O, Il Futurismo, and Arts & Crafts font sets. There’s one I’m missing.

Rich met Jim Rimmer after P22′s acquisition of Lanston Type Company. Sumner Stone (pictured above, left) and Jim (right) took part in the discussions on how to go about transferring the holdings of Lanston’s type library. Over the years, Rich and Jim became friends and collaborated on more projects together. It was during this time that Rich felt the need to document Jim’s process. He got a camera, shot about ten hours of footage on location at Jim’s Pie Tree Press in New Westminster, British Columbia, and with editing, created what has become a wonderful tribute to Jim and his work.

The film takes us from the earliest drawing stages to the finished product, following closely the process of the lowercase k. Jim prefers to start by drawing loosely on paper. He works left-handed with a broad grey marker and comes back over with a smooth black colored pencil to tighten up the contours, sometimes following curve templates (in his right hand pictured above).

The audience responded in audible awe at Jim’s manual ability as he drew two consecutive double-story gs on the page. Another moment of wonder for the audience was to see the method of drawing outlines on the computer. Moving a specialized, loupe-fitted mouse, recording key points along the letter contour, Jim made a real-time drawing of the glyph on the screen. I had heard of this method before in conversation with Veronika Elsner, and through some discussion on Typophile, but this was my first time to see it work.

During the Question & Answer period after the screening, the digitization method came up again. “What was that?” Jim was running a Power PC Mac with IKARUS, a spline-based font editor, available at one time from (I believe) URW.

At the close of his remarks, almost as an aside, Rich Kegler commended one of the more visible pieces Jim Rimmer had done, his logotype for Heart.

The resultant face of Jim’s work in the documentary, Stern, an Aldine italic, stands almost upright and holds the distinction of being the first typeface concurrently released in both digital and hot metal. Incidental to the screening at Typekit, Stern is now also available as a webfont.

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