Figure 01.10.01
Some tests of hand lettering for the theoretical title pages of the book What You Will.

So, as I said before, there is backlog of these “Production is Reception” posts at the moment, as I have been working steadily on What You Will, but have not been writing about it (I was having so much fun with “Gleaming the Cube”).

Early on in the process of brainstorming the design for the book, I thought that I might like to try doing some hand lettering for the title pages, and perhaps in the book itself. “Hand lettering” isn’t quite the right term, because I actually used my trusty “Gothic” letter stencils. I had no idea what the letters were actually going to look like, so I did some tests.

Figure 01.10.02
Narrowing it down.

The main test was to determine how the letters could or would be filled in. I thought that if they were going to be stenciled, that they should be filled in, but not filled in completely. I wanted to make the fact that they were stenciled readily apparent. I settled on some sort of grid pattern for the filling-in, but then more questions came up: should they be filled in freehand or with the stencil as a guide? Should they have an outline or not? What thickness of line should be used? (See the bottom of Figure 1.10.03: “new”s and “newligh” to get a sense of how the thickness of the lines affected the individual letters.) All of these minor details were going to be important.

Figure 01.10.03

But then that importance fizzled so quickly. A day or two of pondering the drawings, reading the poems, and thinking through the rest of the design led me to abandon the idea of stencil letters for this book. They seemed unnecessary, a way of visualizing (in the sense of making visible, or rendering opaque) the language that was unrelated to the primary concerns that were developing and taking hold in the rest of the design. I like the way those stencil letters look, but they did not fit with the primary structuring principle of the book, so they had to go. Was the time that I spent on the tests wasted? Not really. First of all, in the large scheme of the book it wasn’t that much time, and second, and most important, time spent in development, even of ideas that are abandoned, is not time wasted. It is time spent narrowing and focusing, meditating, working out the shape and parameters of the book’s concept by testing its limits.

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