Magazine mastheads and typography

Drawing title, June 1915

Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, June 1915
Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, October 1915
Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, October 1915
Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, February 1916
Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, February 1916

Nowadays, type and magazine title pieces – mastheads – are created by designers on computer screens but right into the 1990s, drawing unique lettering and fonts by hand was the standard way of doing things. It might have been cheaper to rely on Letraset rub-down lettering or manipulating photoset typefaces, but nothing could beat the typographer’s pen and creativity for originality.

Until the 1960s and the dominance of photography for magazine covers, illustrators would often draw the lettering for each issue as part of the overall design. The three titles here scanned from different issues of Drawing date from 1915 and 1916, at the height of the first world war.  At first glance, they may look the same, but take a closer look and you’ll soon start to see the differences. The top one is damaged.

Take a look at theses online videos by typographer Davey Farey – whose work includes designing the Times, the Maxim masthead and Blackadder credits – to get a feel for the way it’s done.

Drawing title, June 1915

Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, June 1915

Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, October 1915

Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, October 1915

Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, February 1916

Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, February 1916

 

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