Michael Harvey Passes Away At Age 82

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News | Yves Peters | October 30, 2013

Two weeks ago, on October 18 the type and lettering world was saddened to learn that Michael Harvey, whose health had been declining for some time, had passed away. Tributes have appeared online, one of them by iconic American type designer Sumner Stone, who wrote this wonderful epitaph (PDF):

I am saddened by the news that Michael Harvey has passed away. His letters will, of course, now live on for many years to come, and his fine spirit with them. Nevertheless, we will miss the presence of his marvelous big smile and the twinkle in his eye that went with it. That twinkle always seemed to be there above his ruddy cheeks and one quickly learned that it was a true transmission of his inner state. He was a tall leprechaun, full of laughter. He had a subtle and perennial sense of humor and just being in his presence lifted you up. He could float on the jazz piano clouds of Ellington and Strayhorn, and named typefaces after each of them. He was also a serious thinker, a scholar, and always ready to engage in a discussion of the finer points.
His achievements in the lettering arts are numerous and numinous. By any measure he was prolific. He carved letters in stone and wood, drew them for hundreds of book jackets, wrote books about them, taught them to graduate students, and made them into typefaces that ranged from goofy to sublime. He was a true master in every respect. I am grateful, and proud, and happy to have known him.

You can watch Michael Harvey himself talk about his career in lettering and the influence of Edward Johnston and Eric Gill on his work in this candid episode of the Edward Johnston Foundation video series.
As the video cannot be embedded you will have to visit the page on their website to view it.


Spread from Adventures With Letters: A Memoir by Michael Harvey

The story of Michael Harvey’s life and work can also be discovered in Adventures with Letters: A Memoir, a copiously illustrated book he wrote and designed himself. More than just an autobiography, it is a fascinating investigation about letters and how they are made. The book was featured on the TDC website and reviewed by Paul Shaw for Eye Magazine.

Paul Shaw, who has known Michael Harvey for nearly thirty years, also is the author of a superb interview conducted in May 2012 for Print. In memory of his longtime friend, the day before yesterday Paul published the correspondence he had with Harvey with the intention of publishing an addendum to that interview. Highly recommended reading, with many beautiful examples of Michael Harvey’s lettering and type design, book jackets and inscriptions in stone and wood.

Not content with merely exercising his art and his craft, Michael Harvey also wanted to pass on his knowledge to the next generations. He did so by teaching part-time in English art colleges since 1961, and with his Letterforms course at the University of Reading, well-known by our readers for its MA in Typeface Design. Furthermore Michael Harvey published numerous books. Three older volumes were collected in Creative Lettering Today, often mentioned as being one of the best type design books.


Lettering carved by Michael Harvey in the Sainsbury Wing, Robert Venturi’s extension to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. @ Cedric Converset


Lettering carved in stone by Michael Harvey at the Museum Meermanno (Museum of the Book) in the Hague, The Netherlands. © Dan Reynolds

Michael Harvey’s type designs were informed by his background as letter carver and letterer of book jackets – he produced at least fifteen hundred covers for leading publishers in England and Holland. His elegant and spirited letter forms, featuring tense curves and chiseled stroke endings, enliven the page or screen with zest and panache. Michael Harvey’s first typeface release was Zephyr, a slanted shadowed semi serif originally issued by Ludlow in the mid ’60s. His two main families were launched by Monotype – Ellington is a swinging narrow slab serif with pizzaz from 1990, and its stressed sans serif companion Strayhorn followed five years later. A decade later Monotype published the more subdued Mentor and Mentor Sans, collaborations with Andy Benedek. Michael Harvey also established a long-term relationship with Adobe which resulted in the condensed outline calligraphic display sans Andreas; the slanted chunky semi serif Conga Brava and its stencil version; the striking angular script-like sans Mezz; Moonglow, an inline display sans inspired by carved letters; and Studz from the Adobe Wild Type collection. For Dutch Type Library he designed the subtly lyrical DTL Unico, his only text typeface. In 2000 Michael Harvey founded his own type foundry Fine Fonts in partnership with Andy Benedek, releasing Aesop Script, Balthasar, Braff, Fine Gothic, Frieze, Marceta Uncial, Quirky, Ruskin, Songlines, Tisdall Script, and Victoriana.

Header image: Still from the Edward Johnston Foundation video

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1 Comment:

  1. I met Michael several times and he once came to NC to teach @ Cheerio. I was saddened to hear about his passing. I just want to add that his original book; Lettering Design, was an influential book which I had read when I was just starting out. I think he had drawn some of the earliest humanistic sans-serif letterforms, very different from Optima or Lydian. I was not only interested in pen-made or brush-made letters and as everyone knows, he drew letters, but imbued them with warmth and character. He added so much to the world of letters, a rare talent …he will be sorely missed.

    Posted by John Stevens on Nov. 12, 2013

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