While that question remains unanswered, in his hour onstage Stone illuminated the progression of letterforms from early Paleolithic drawings and Egyptian pictograms to the alphabet we recognize today. “I believe we have been misguided by a famous Eric Gill quote” noted Stone. Gill concluded that “Letters are things. Not pictures of things.” But Stone asked the audience to reconsider this statement. The forms we combine to interpret as words today stem from a long history of drawing pictures of things to represent meaning. In many cases, these pictures of things were in fact representations of the human form.
Type Designer (Rumsey, California)
At this point in the talk, Stone took the liberty of unveiling a special guest he had invited on stage. With a flourish, Stone whipped off a purple velvet cape to reveal a Stone-sized R. “I’ve always wanted to make a letter the same height as myself” Stone proudly stated. But this was no ordinary letter. Rex, as Stone calls him, is the King of all letterforms. Fittingly, Stone gently placed a gold crown atop his guest’s head. Rex is indeed the king, because the R we recognize today evolved from the Egyptian pictogram of a head.
The form of a human head is far from the only bodily influence on letterforms however. “Look at our very bones.” Stone said, backlit by a ginormous picture of a femur as he swung his arm in a graceful arc. “We have circles built right into our bodies.” So it should come as no surprise that the circle became an early part of letter making.
Stone concluded his talk by showing different masters crafting type by hand in a variety of mediums, evoking oohs and ahhs from the audience. As for Stone’s current work? His latest masterpiece was creating a female companion for Rex. With personalities and rich histories of their own, I guess letterforms need love just like everybody else.
written by Jenn Livermore