Teaching Type to Talk

By Alan Peckolick

October 2013
ISBN: 978-1-938461-06-4
168 Pages / Over 135 Illustrations

$50 USD

These two book jackets succeeded in very different ways. Both involved facial hair. In Beards, the title lettering supports Alan’s philosophy of letting type talk. In The Bedside Book of Bastards, he used a villain’s mustache to illustrate the point.

In 2012, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation asked 18 designers to create a series entitled “Visions and Voices,” devoted to great Jewish ideas. Alan Pecklick and his firm were asked to choose from a selection of quotes. In his solution, he felt an illustrative element was necessary to making the poster look immediately “Jewish.” The silver, pointed finger—a yad—is a pointer used when reading the Torah. On the right, Alan’s letterforms for The Center for Jewish History’s mark were created using hand-lettering based on classic Roman letters.

Alan sketched out dozens of versions of the cover design. The one he decided to use is shown with its Pantone breakdown and a subtle note from master letterer Tony DiSpigna.

Alan and his firm were lucky to have Tony DiSpigna with them. Tony was, and still is, one of the world’s preeminent letterform designers. Alan wanted to design their holiday greeting card with pure, elegant pieces of typography. Spencerian script is one of the most beautiful ways words can be written.

For the poster for the 1964 World War II film Weekend at Dunkirk, Tom Carnese (Alan’s partner and brilliant hand letterer) and Alan designed the original letterforms and then cut them up with a razor blade to get the effect, literally shattering the letters to evoke the horror and violence of war. This European production was never released in the United States.


Accompanying the revolutionary spirit taking hold of American culture in the mid-1960s and 1970s, American graphic designer Alan Peckolick heralded a movement in graphic design, known as expressive typography. Along with his mentor and icon Herb Lubalin, Peckolick called for a new caliber of design: Dreaming up and hand-drawing letterforms that had never existed before, with type, which once exclusively played a supporting role to the graphic image, now taking center stage. Calling for conceptual typography over a standardized format, Peckolick gave letterforms a presence on the page, and also an attitude: His designs will talk back, and always speak up. Teaching Type to Talk is the first-ever compendium to span the typographer’s career. Peckolick’s work is equal parts witty, shrewd, and impeccable, and is accompanied by original anecdotes as insightful and tongue-in-cheek as his designs.

About the Author

Alan Peckolick is an internationally recognized graphic designer and artist. His projects have included logo designs, posters, packaging, annual reports, corporate identity, and annual reports for a wide range of organizations, such as New York University, Revlon, General Motors, and AT&T. His designs have earned him over 500 design awards worldwide, including six gold medals from the Art Directors Club of New York.


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