Culture Crush: More Fraktur

So, I hope you aren’t tired of Fraktur yet! …I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it. John Foster who rights the Accidental Mysteries post series on Design Observer scouted out these lovely examples of Fraktur. They are from a beautiful book with the very long title, “The Proper Art of Writing: A Compilation of All Sorts of Capital or Initial Letters of German, Latin and Italian Fonts from Different Masters of the Noble Art of Writing.” The title looks even longer in German, so I won’t go there.

What I find most fascinating about Fraktur is how intricate some of the forms can get. This intricacy is especially evident in these specimens. While looking at these, just try to remember that someone sat down with a pen or brush and ink to create these forms by hand; no Photoshop touch-ups or Illustrator line drawings here. Can you just imagine how long these forms took to make and how much thought went into planning each stroke?

In awesome news, the copyright on this book has expired, so it’s now within the public domain! …AND the entire book can be viewed in PDF form courtesy of Open Library!

Here is another of my favorite pages because I just can’t resist:

Be sure to click on over to Foster’s post on Design Observer to find out why he thinks this book contains an “accidental mystery!”

The Awesome Project


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So, check out that necklace! It’s part of The Awesome Project; a collaboration between illustrator  Madalina Andronic and designer Claudiu Stefan. All the pieces are made of porcelain and are handpainted in a style influenced by Romanian folklore. I just love the folk art look! It reminds me of German fraktur and scherenschnitte and, therefore, it makes me happy :). …If you’re interested, I’ve written about my love of German Fraktur here.

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By the way, while I’m only showcasing the necklaces from the project here, they also make bracelets, rings, vases, and more.

Let’s Pretend

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One of the graphic design courses I took in college focused on learning about different cultures and determining how best to relate to them through graphic design. The lesson I took from that class is that it’s the designer’s responsibility to learn about the culture for which he or she is creating. The designer can then use that knowledge to tailor the design aesthetic of the piece so it appeals to that particular culture. For example, say you’re designing for a company that works heavily with the Latino community. Instead of grabbing a stock photo with people of Latino heritage smiling cheesily at the camera, learn about their culture and present a design that will actually be meaningful and memorable to them.

While this in itself was a valuable lesson, the class also offered me the opportunity to research and design for my own cultural heritage. Because of this, I learned a lot of interesting things about the German culture; its design aesthetic, its cultural tendencies and values, and the stereotypes with which it has been marked.

Practically every source about German culture that I uncovered mentioned the German peoples’ tendency to be stoic. They are apparently a community of strong, silent types; the kind that suffer {or rejoice} in relative silence. I’m not sure if this is an actual tendency of the German people or just another of the many stereotypes that have been perpetuated about the culture, but it interests me because I can relate to it.

Maybe it was caused by watching too many spaghetti western movies as child, but I always viewed stoicism as a good quality. To me, it meant you were measured and able to handle your emotions; you were in control. As I’ve recently discovered, though, stoicism can be taken in many different ways. People could mistake it for shyness, quietness, or meanness. They may even think you just don’t care.

Since noticing this, I’ve been trying to be more open about my emotions and thoughts. But, I’ve found that it’s pretty hard to do. It feels forced; not like the genuine person I want to be. I couldn’t decide how I should overcome this until I found this TED Talk by Amy Cuddy on Swiss Miss. It’s about how body language can not only change how others see us, but also how we see ourselves. It provided me with a major aha moment.

I’ll let you watch the video yourselves instead of explaining it all and spoiling the epicness and passion of Cuddy’s speech. I will say that it’s a truly inspirational talk and very much worth the watch.

After the video, you’ll understand why I started off this post with a quote from the FX series Justified.

{original photo at top via Pinterest}

Culture Crush: Pennsylvania German Folk Art

In college, I took a graphic design course in which I was given the opportunity to study the visual history of a country of my origin. I chose to study Germany and I fell in love with German folk art, especially fraktur. The name “fraktur” is actually used to describe two different art forms: One, folk art pieces that were hand-painted and embellished with calligraphy. And, two, the typeface style that is often described as “blackletter.”

The word “fraktur” comes from the Latin word “fractura,” which means “to fracture” or “to break.” If you take a look at any fraktur typeface, you’ll understand why. Fraktur letters are heavy, harsh, and separated or “fractured” from each other. Despite that seemingly unflattering description, they are actually quite beautiful and most have a gorgeous handmade quality. …just like the folk art style of fraktur.

Below is a collection of beautiful fraktur pieces that I just couldn’t stand not sharing. I found each one on the Free Library of Pennsylvania’s site. Their site houses a wealth of information about fraktur. As evident from the photos below, they also have quite the stash of beautiful fraktur images. You can click the photo of each piece featured here to find out more information about it on the Free Library of Pennsylvania’s website.

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Writing Exercise, 1787

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Bookplate

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Alphabet, ca. 1790. I love how the letters in this alphabet are so intricate! …they barely read as letters and they’re so beautiful that I just don’t mind.

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Writing exercise, ca. 1797-1800.

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Religious text and alphabet, ca. 1790.

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Religious text and alphabet, ca. 1790.

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Writing Exercise, ca. 1815-1822.

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Letter H (although it looks more like a “B” to me), ca. 1810


This next piece is actually the one that ignited my love of fraktur. I found a black-and-white image of it in an old book of fraktur pieces hidden away in my college library’s art shelves. Even in grayscale, it was beautiful. But, after a bit of research, I found a color scan of it at Colonial Sense.

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Circular valentine, created by Johannes Uhlmann & given to Elizabeth Sandwith on Valentine’s Day 1753.