By Bruce Kennett
496 pages, hardcover, $95
Published by Letterform Archive
The cover photo of William Addison Dwiggins with his shock of hair and mischievous smile suggests an artist whose wit and playful spirit characterized much of his life’s work. Dwiggins was a prolific graphic designer, a puppeteer, and a writer of fiction, fantasy and critiques on the graphic arts. Primarily known for his typography, including the typefaces Metro and Caledonia, he also designed Electra, published in 1935 and digitally revived for this book by typographer Jim Parkinson.
Dwiggins was a highly inventive and technical virtuoso who created graphics by day and constructed his studio, furniture and tools in his spare time. In demand by publishers Random House and Knopf, his type work and designs helped produce more than 300 titles. In addition, his illustrations employing pen-and-ink line work, stippling patterns, and stencils of bold shapes and colors remain visually striking today. During his last two decades, Dwiggins focused on typefaces, books and hand-carved marionettes for the theater group he cofounded to present his original plays.
Written and designed by Bruce Kennett, this book includes more than 1,200 illustrations grouped by locations where Dwiggins lived, studied and worked. A warm and witty portrait emerges, and the inclusion of comments Dwiggins noted on his numerous sketches provides welcome insight into his creative process. Despite a chronic struggle with severe diabetes, Dwiggins was an innovator and one of the most influential designers of the early twentieth century. His prodigious output, as Steven Heller writes in the foreword, was “the work of three lifetimes.” —Ruth Hagopian