Blackletter bitmap

Issue 14 of Emigré magazine was the Heritage issue. This word was set large on the cover in bitmapped blackletter type. This was a clash of opposites – calligraphy versus computer – and as opposites often do, it looked incredibly effective. Blackletter and bitmap share a black, angular, modular and abrasive aesthetic, but separated by a thousand years. More in fact. It’s pretty amazing.

The Pages window in InDesign gives thumbnail size renderings of its content that allows you to navigate a multi-page document. These will be blocks of grey usually for text, or crunchy bitmapped pictures. Text large enough will be an approximated jumble of bitmaps.

These usually look pretty abstract, but for some reason our typeface Caustic was semi-readable. Screen-grabbed and scaled-up, these page icons look quite striking. The differences in type size producing different results, odd but characterful and recognisable letter shapes.

Maybe the idea of basic-ness and simplicity of bitmaps is old enough to become interesting again, it’s years of over-use safely 25 years ago. Maybe the new norm of super-sharp retina screens and high-definition TVs mean that something new or different comes from a different direction.

With this idea it’s also an appealing as its ‘found’ or ‘ready-made’. It’s an idea that involved no design, just noticing and using something already there, that would otherwise be discarded or ignored.

So screen grabbing is not a new idea, bitmap type obviously isn’t, sometimes it’s the change in combinations or use that makes something new. New-ish. Or not new, but still good.