Desktop

Desktop

Cover for Desktop: The Culture of Design, Melbourne, August 2015. Offset printing, 230 x 260 mm.

Josef Albers (1888–1976) developed his Kombinations-Schrift, a stencil lettering system based on ten units, when he was teaching at the Bauhaus during the 1920s. In the early 2000s, Paul Elliman (b.1961) reworked the letterform for a ouija board he made to contact the spirit of Albers, who had, after fleeing Nazi Germany and settling in the United States, once headed the same graphic design department at Yale University where Elliman was teaching then.

Elliman was an important teacher for us at Yale, and we remember he claimed to have “improved” on the Albers system, or at least to have pushed it further: his version used nine units only, doing away with one from the original ten-unit set; and it also had a slightly “humanist,” open feel to the characters, compared to the more symmetric and neo-classicist Albers.

As an homage to both teachers — Albers being an indirect influence — we made our own version of Kombinations-Schrift, trying to improve on the precedents. The subtle humanist flow of the Elliman model has been made more consistent, and some of the characters were revised or reverted to the Albers model for better legibility. We also added some characters and punctuations that were missing from either set.