Ancient Typography in the Digital Age

Trajan was a Roman Emperor from 98 to 117 AD. and ruled over the greatest military expansion in Roman history, leading the empire to attain its maximum territorial extent by the time of his death.

Trajan's Column, 107~113 AD, Rome, Italy, commemorates Trajan's victory. The column was originally flanked by two libraries, which may have contained Trajan's scroll-written despatches from his Roman-Dacian Wars. Filippo Coarelli suggests that such scrolls are the basis both of the column's design and its spiralling, sculpted narrative. The column shows 2,662 figures, and 155 scenes; Trajan himself appears on the column 58 times.

Below: A drawing and photographed carving of the "Trajan" capitals on the Column of Trajan made by Eric Gill in the early twentieth century.

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In the 1980s, at Adobe, California, Sumner Stone wanted to expand on his earlier exploration on ITC Stone. Stone was inspired to create this font by seeing the classical lettering on the sacral buildings on the campus of Reed College. He hired Carol Twombly (yay, a woman)! to create the type by borrowing the classical lettering and adapting it for digital use. Below left, Sumner Stone. Below right, Carol Twombly.

Trajan is an all-capitals typeface as the Romans did not use lower-case letters. Here's some more on the font as well as a good article on typeface design. Below are some other places where it has been in use.

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OSPAAAL, a Cuban Political Movement

OSPAAAL, a Cuban Political Movement

Posters by The Organisation of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America (OSPAAAL), a collection instigated by Michael Tyler.

OSPAAAL’s purpose was to fight globalisation, imperialism, neoliberalism and defend human rights. The posters also encouraged Cuban people to build a new society by promoting sugar harvests, national literacy and celebrating music, arts and dance…

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Landscapes in Colombia

An interview with the talented multimedia artist Tania Granada, Bogota:

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What kind of Art do you make?

The visual art that I do is ‘diverse’ I’d say, mainly because I use different ways to create images; drawing, painting, photography, video and sound design sometimes are all part of the creation process of a piece. I make moving images in animation and video, but I also like the idea of making still images where you can feel some kind of motion. 

What influences you?

Impressionists paintings might be an influence to me in the way figures are portrayed and also how light is depicted. Figures, in these paintings, I feel have a certain ‘blurriness’ that allows them to ‘breath’ and become alive; also, the light in this style of painting I think has to do a lot with the notion of time passing. In moving images lately I am strongly influenced by Wim Wenders’ films;  the way he portraits landscapes and people is compelling to me, sometimes it’s like you’re staring at a living photograph. 

See one of Tania’s Videos here.

Does politics influence your work, if so, how?

Yes… rather than with a specific political discourse, with a position as a human being and member of the society I live in. That translates into the work with certain longings, fears and conflicts. With the current political situation in my country, where resources exploitation is done irresponsibly, I feel the need to try to preserve nature as it is today, and that has made my work revolve over the theme of natural landscape in the last few months. The Colombian landscape is diverse and complex, its richness and difficult geography are at the centre of our political issues, such as the distribution of the property of land, displacement of villages and not sustainable ways of resource’s exploitation. In that sense, there is a political background to this subject; maybe my work is not ‘political’ per se, but my way of thinking around this subject is by making it something central, something alive and of importance.

The landscape became an interesting subject to me as I started noticing how important was its role in many Colombian movies at different times. In these movies, the landscape is almost a character; so present in the psyche of the ‘actual’ characters and influent in the development of the story. 

What’s the process behind your work?


Experimentation has been very important to the process, if not the process itself. In this project, I make decisions as I go and I think and plan while I make, and that has worked so far. I’m making digital and analogue paintings (watercolour and oil pastel), once finished, I combine them in the computer in Photoshop and start to experiment with motion in Premiere. Later, I make the music/sound for the images, trying to give them more texture or depth.

Please explain the concepts behind your moving image piece.

In this piece, I want to explore if it’s possible to tell a story through no dialogues or human characters, but only by moving images of landscapes. Animation allows me to see and show things differently, to exalt certain aspects and to give life to things that appear to be asleep; with this technique I believe I can explore how this entity can be seen not just as a setting but as a character, with its own timing and course of actions. Furthermore, it revolves around the question of, what is landscape without a human figure to which we can measure it?