"Il pleut"  by  Guillaume Apollinaire
translated through our Intertype C4

This is a good example of a project that defies working within a normally accepted set of guidelines. Our Intertype C4 linecaster is intended to significantly speed up the time required to handset a line of type. We slowed that down about 50 times.

This piece was done for a British-based publication entitled It's a Small World. It has been operating for 60 years producing with some number of people, etc.

Somewhere you need to know the Helmut Krone "Shelves" story. In a nutshell, Krone said to me that you need to know the answer before you know the problem. You need to experiment and then just put those ideas on your "idea shelf." When you get a project, pull an idea down and massage the problem until it fits."

Helmut Krone, one of my favorite couple of historically important art directors, once said to me, “You need to know the answer before you hear the question. Then all you have to do is rework the question to fit your answer.” I use to talk to my students about having ideas “on the shelf.” You constantly look for them. What could you do with this? How might this be applied? You get a picture in your head and then you put it on the shelf, to call down later when you need a solution. Doing the pieces that have little obvious value, because you can do so many of them and because they don’t carry much pressure, can offer important leaps in creativity in some future project. 

Suffice it to say that the original concrete poem by Apollinaire was on one of my shelves as a strangely haunting visual image.

I had 2 ideas on my shelf (among thousands) that came together.

  1. I had a haunting mental image of the Apollinaire poem, "Il pluet", shown in the inset in the photo above.
  2. Can you do optical letterspacing on an Intertype linecaster?

Here is the sequence of thoughts that got me to the idea shown in the image above. All told the thought process took me something like 4 seconds. The physical process to get the image ready for printing took about 9 hours.

  1. I needed to print my page (front and back) for "It's a Small World"
  2. For some reason I was drawn to the word "small" in the book series title.
  3. Periods are small
  4. It would be interesting to understand how to achieve more interesting typographic options on our Intertype with manual letterspacing
  5. I could just replace the letters in Apollinaire's poem with periods.

That's all folks. It strikes me that it would be pretty cool to do the actual poem on the Intertype and maybe even do it in handset type and just compare the results. Maybe a student was to try an afternoon diversion (though the Intertype page would take longer than an afternoon).