Behind the Type: The Life Story of Frederic W. Goudy

Printed in 1941, Bernard Lewis’ Behind the Type: The Life Story of Frederic W. Goudy is a short biographical sketch of America’s most eminent type designer. Lewis writes:

Goudy has found in type design as others have discovered in the writing of prose, poetry, or music, or in the painting of a piclure, that there is a coordination of parts, a pull toward the finale. Just as in music where the whole completes itself in temporal expectation so in letter design does the whole complete itself in spatial expectation. In music one tone pulls toward its successor; in type design, one stroke or movement leads to the next. Goudy has found that in order to design an integrated alphabet in which each letter has a mutual affinity for its companions, he must get in on the beginning of a swing or a visual or kinesthetic “set.”

Behind the Type also includes a transcript of an address Goudy delivered at Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, February 12, 1938. Goudy spoke about type design:

The inexperienced designer says to himself, “I will design a new type.” He does not as yet realise that whoever imagines a tree must also imagine a sky or a background against which to see it standing. He cannot imagine a type unless he imagines also its destination. He must have visions whose power is his power. He must deal with what is logical as if it were a miracle; yet, as a matter of fact, what he is attempting to produce is something which should long have been in his mind, perhaps without his being conscious of the fact, and from what he has studied and arranged he has now only to read and project what already is there.

Goudy spoke on legibility:

Type, to be fine, must be legible, not merely readable, but pleasantly and easily legible; decorative in form, but not ornate; beautiful in itself and in company of its kinsmen in the font; austere and formal, but with no stale or uninteresting regularity in its dissimilar characters; simple in design, but not the bastard simplicity that arises from mere crudity of outline; elegant, that is, gracious in line; fluid in form, but not archaic; and, most important, it must possess unmistakably that quality called “art,” which is the spirit the designer puts into the body of his work, the product of his study and taste. How many of the types demanded by advertisers or the typographic advisers would be able to stand analysis of this sort?

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