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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 3

Design in Typography Compound Borders

page 113

Design in Typography Compound Borders.


Keeping still to the subject of combinations of borders, we rind the chief source of disappointment and failure, especially in the more elaborate efforts, to be absence of unity in the design. There must be one leading idea, to which all else is subordinated, if any piece of work is to look well. The workman who takes up a job without any idea what he will make of it, and the other who goes with half-a-score, and tries to develop them all within the narrow compass of a single sheet of paper, produce substantially the same result in the end—a crude medley of half-wrought-out ideas—a piece of art-work in which there is no art—a jumble of incongruous forms, beautiful, it may be, considered apart, but mutually destructive in juxtaposition.

In the article of this series published just a year ago, we referred to the use of the rule as an adjunct to the ordinary border. The great advantage of the rule is, that it is in harmony with almost any border that can be devised, and is in most cases an improvement, and is also (like the tint borders referred to last month) capable of harmonising designs otherwise incongruous. Of this it is easy to give an illustration. Here is an absurd mixture, from the circular of a supply house —a flagrant example of the most incongruous combination. On a row of the lightest floral ornaments a heavy pediment has been placed by the vagrant fancy of the compositor, « without visible means of support. » Ill-assorted as the borders are, they can be brought into due relationship by the use of rule:—

The flowers now appear as a decoration on the frieze, and the pediment is properly supported. In a case like this, the architectural idea must be consistently maintained throughout the design, or the effect will be absurd. The uses of the rule in border-work are to harmonize, to define, and to strengthen. The first of these uses we have illustrated above.

In the case of light and flowing borders surrounding rectangular work, the rule gives definition and strength. This was well recognized by the unrivalled typographic artist (who is he?) who designed the « Ribbon and Flower » —the finest of realistic combinations.

Knowing that only in rare cases the compositor would supplement the border with brass rule, and that the contrast of a right line would be required to set off its graceful curves to the best advantage, he devised a series of pieces for this purpose. How greatly these enhance the effect, may be judged from the specimen in the preceding column. The central staff in the two characters shown below, from the same combination, fulfils the similar double object of adding strength and supplying a contrast; but by a strange oversight. no corresponding corners nor stop-pieces are supplied. Here is another example of the value of the rule as adding strength and definition to a type combination. In some cases, the rule is preferably placed outside; in others, both inner and outer rules may be added; and in most cases a rule or a simple « straight-ahead » border may be used with equally good effect.

Our German friends exhibit remarkable taste and judgment in the combination of plain borders, and often exercise marvellous patience in combining them with brass-rule boundaries, interior and exterior. Some of their effects, from the simplest and quietest materials, elaborately wrought out in gold, colors, and tinted grounds, are magnificent. A favorite device of theirs is to surround the plain or more solid border with a « Spitzen » or pointed design, which answers the same purpose as the tint, in softening off the outlines:

These examples, and the architectural ornament in the preceding column, are from combinations by Schelter & Giesecke. One of the latest German combinations we have had an opportunity of studying—the beautiful « Draperie » of Messrs Müller & Hölemann—is admirably adapted for compound borders.

It is not necessary, though in the case of an unpractised workman, always advisable, to keep to one combination. In the following example, taken from a small label, the harmony is unexceptionable, though four different borders are used, without reckoning the brass-rule. The border is Caslon's nonpareil No. 45, the corners are his double-pica No. 16, and the inner corner is from his combination No. 1. The double-pica border would have been much too heavy; the nonpareil too light. The double rule strengthens while contrasting with the border; the corner harmonises and combines the two, and the small corner is of use in preventing the appearance of stiffness in the inner angle.