April 19, 2010

POSTED BY

Rafael Esquer

CATEGORY

WORDPLAY : The Lettering of ON LANGUAGE in the New York Times Magazine

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Every Sunday when I get my copy of the New York Times, the first thing I look for is the On Language section of the New York Times Magazine. I love this section because of couple of things: (1) I love language. That is, the writing, the reading, the origin, …

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Every Sunday when I get my copy of the New York Times, the first thing I look for is the On Language section of the New York Times Magazine. I love this section because of couple of things: (1) I love language. That is, the writing, the reading, the origin, the evolution, and the history of language. This section feeds my appetite for it and more. (2) I’m consistently in owe when I see the amazing typographic solutions the invited artists, designers and typographers come up with to illustrate a particular word or expression.

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I always thought it’d be a fun assignment to do until one day the New York Times called me to design one. They only give you the word or expression and that’s all. I asked them to tell me something about the article, but it was a ‘nice try’ because, of course, The Times will not give anything before being published. On top of it, you only have one day (more or less) to do it. I love these projects! I hate these projects!

Because of that, I now appreciate what I see published every week. I take my hat off to all the artists that have gone through this experience and succeed (most of them). I’m honored to be in the same group.

If you are in New York City, don’t miss this one-of-a-kind exhibition:

WORDPLAY: The Lettering of ON LANGUAGE in the New York Times Magazine. Featuring the work of over 200 contemporary designers, illustrators, artists and typographers. Thursday, April 22, 2010, 7-9 P.M. The New York Times, 620 Eighth Avenue, 7th Floor.

I remember a cold February morning when I received my word: Tarnation Heck! (with an exclamation mark!). I thought —What the heck!, I don’t even know what it means! Help! How many people know what Tarnation Heck! Means? Well, maybe many of you, but not a Mexican-born designer who thinks (mostly) in Spanish and speaks (mostly) in English (except when very tired or very mad).

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A more advanced squiggly sketch

After doing some research, I wanted to make a squiggly lettering that suggests something like a “cultural soup” of language, in which words spawn, evolve, or even die off. At the end, I think, it’s an appropriate context for “tarnation,” a word that is two mutations away from its parent “damnation” (via “darnation”). The swirling, tangled lines of the image also carry the tone of a curse.

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And, my initial instinct was right. I had a blast with this assignment. Thank you New York Times. Let’s do it again. Here is the online version of the published article.

To see the design process check out alfalfa studio site:
Go to WORK > EDITORIAL > NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE

Or to attend the exhibition tomorrow, check out the invitation and RSVP now!

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