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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 3

Design in Typography. Elementary Forms.—The Simple Corner

page 33

Design in Typography. Elementary Forms.The Simple Corner.


Decorative effects are generally successful in proportion to the simplicity of the elements. We have already shown how varied are the applications of the simple running-piece, and it is to be noted that the more highly ornamental the design of the border, the more these uses are restricted. We now proceed to consider the uses and adaptations of the simple corner, both by itself and in conjunction with the running-piece. One reason why this valuable piece is so generally neglected is, that it is supplied in such limited quantity. In its primary application, a few pieces go a long way, and its proportion to the running-piece is insignificant. This, in a simple border, whether as small as a postage stamp, or as large as the present page, only four corner-pieces would be required. We know of but one combination—the « Pompeiian » —in which these sorts are supplied in large quantity—in fact, weight for weight with the running pieces; but it is to be noted that the design is intended chiefly for use as a groundwork. It is this simple and admirable combination that supplies the illustrations in the present chapter.

The first and obvious use of this character is as a corner-piece, as illustrated in our last article. Its application in this manner is too evident to require comment. But without the running-piece at all, it may be so used as to form a variety of borders. The first example we show is set double, producing a succession of squares. To change this to the second pattern, we have only to shift either row—upper or lower, one place along. We have now the universal design—familiar in every form of decoration, barbaric or civilized, and known as the « Greek » or « Key » border, in its simplest form. These are the only perfect border-patterns which can be made by this sort alone; but several imperfect or groundwork designs may be constructed, which require a boundary-rule or border to give them finish, and these may be further diversified by introducing openings in the pattern, as, for example:

One advantage of all these designs is, that they may be composed from the nick, without looking at the face of each type.

With the aid of the simple running-piece much greater diversity can be introduced, and every variety of the key « key » pattern may be formed. As, for example,

And if a still more massive design is desired, the pattern may be bordered on one or both sides; and lighter patterns may be produced by the introduction of spaces, as shown in the next column. These are only a few suggestions of the almost unlimited variety of combination borders which may be formed by one of the most elementary of designs—the lineal border of two characters.

Some of the groundwork designs from the same pieces have already been indicated above; but they are capable of great variety, either as solid or open patterns. And when, as in the case of this particular « Pompeiian » combination, the same design is repeated in different depths of tint, the effect may be greatly diversified, the design remaining the same. In the plaited designs, for example, referred to in our last article, the warp may be in one and the woof in another; and both in borders and groundwork, a new element of variety may be introduced, the patterns being increased to an indefinite extent, with only the same two elementary pieces:

We have entered thus fully into the subject of the adaptations of the one- and two-character borders, as they form part of the alphabet of decoration, and lie at the foundation of all typographical design. No other forms equal these in general utility and diversity of application. No success can be attained in the use of combinations without a knowledge of the place and importance of these characters; and any type combination, no matter how artistic, is seriously deficient if it lack either of these fundamentals.

In referring to the formation of the true corner from the running-piece by the process of mitering (p. 12), we should have added that this applies only to geometrical or conventional designs, and not to those of the realistic order. In the « Book » borders, for example, all four corners are necessarily different. A good corner could be produced by mitering, but the design would no longer represent a book. In floral borders, too, we should have at the corners absurd leaves and flowers—leaves with no stem, two stems to one leaf, and monstrous twin blossoms. In such cases a special square corner must be devised, as in the following example from Caslon:—