I recently bought a copy of the film ‘Making Faces’ – a documentary about the Canadian type designer, typecaster and printer Jim Rimmer (who sadly died before the film was finished.) I have watched it three times already!
Jim was one of those types of people who the words passion and dedication are often used to describe, and rightly so. His life’s work had revolved around typography in some way. He has been involved in just about every stage in the design, development, manufacture and distribution of type, as well as being an accomplished graphic designer (commercial artist back then) and letterpress printer. In short, he is the kind of bloke I’d like to have a beer with, and to work with!
The film shows the development of a new typeface “Stern” from the original drawings with a marker pen, through several detail variants (watching a lower case g being revised and redrawn is a bit like type porn!) and into the pencil line developments.
Not that Rimmer was completely tied to the past; once drawn the characters were then ‘scanned’ into a (rather old) computer using an odd plotting device that draws vector points much like Illustrator does, to create an editable glyph.
Further critical developments and refinements are done here, but the real design work was done with the marker on paper earlier.
Rimmer demonstrates the process of converting a computer image into a finished size matrix (mould) using a pantograph, a mechanical scaling device invented in the 1600’s and (non-laser guided or jet propelled ) mechanical milling tools:
It is then a matter of casting the individual letters using molten metals.
Incidentally, it is worth mentioning here that ‘Stern’ is the first typeface that has been specifically designed and produced for metal type and digital release!
Rimmer is naturally enthusiastic and very knowledgable (there are plenty of additional scenes included of some of the less edited interviews ) and he comes across as someone who has long known that his approach had become outmoded and a little archaic, but didn’t really care much because it worked for him. I also got the impression that he was wondering why it had taken so long for people to get interested in these processes again.
Well, we know now. The old saying that “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” sounds very true. This guy didn’t stay in the past. He brought the past with him, using whatever was best for the job in hand, and focussed on the quality of the type, not in the technology that produced it. I like that.
My recent reconnection with letterpress makes me feel a little more connected with people like Jim and some of the processes he kept alive, albeit in a very tenuous way, but I feel it.
My copy of the DVD came with this spiffy little catalogue from the Rimmer Type Foundry, showing samples of some of the typefaces he has produced.
As well as the catalogue, I also got piece of type – a lower case ‘k’ from the typeface that was designed and produced in the film. Such a beautiful little touch – I have lots of metal type in a variety of faces, but this is a little special.
Ok now go buy yours here.
Watch a trailer.
Read the blog
Read Jim’s Obituary
Read tributes to Jim
Look how the film got started
And if that’s not enough, look out for another film scheduled for release later this year – I will…
(PS If you like this, then you’ll like this too)