Spring 2009

Phil Baines and Typography Now

A letter from Rick Poynor

It was nice to see Phil Baines reminiscing about Typography Now: The Next Wave, but his account of the book’s origins (Reputations in Eye no. 69 vol. 18) is a bit misleading. It’s true that Edward Booth-Clibborn got the idea to publish a book about new developments in typography from a meeting at Type ’90 in Oxford. However, the conversation Phil mentions had nothing to do with the creation of the book itself.

When a mailshot sent to all of Booth-Clibborn’s usual publishing contacts, requesting submissions, failed to produce anything usable – it had gone to the wrong people – he asked me to become involved. I had been collecting material for a book of my own about recent experimental graphic design and I said I would bring all of this to the book so long as I could be its editor. Booth-Clibborn agreed.

As editor of Eye, I was already in contact with the most significant designers featured in Typography Now. I edited the book, gave it its title, determined its structure, sequenced much of the material and wrote the introduction. The final selections were made by me and the book’s designers, Why Not Associates.

Booth-Clibborn had no input whatsoever and didn’t see the book until the colour proofs arrived. He insisted on putting his name on the cover any way. Vague cover credits confused the issue further – these were clarified on the paperback. Phil had twelve pieces of work in Typography Now, making him one of the most featured designers, but he wasn’t involved in the book in any other way.

The most intriguing typographic thinking and work was coming from the United States at that point. By comparison, most of the new British typography didn’t have much of a theoretical foundation. Phil’s work was exceptionally interesting, in British terms, so it was a shame to see him trying to distance himself from developments – I didn’t describe this as a ‘movement’ – in which he played a notable role.

Rick Poynor, writer, Eye founder, research fellow, Royal College of Art, London

First published in Eye no. 71 vol. 18 2009

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.