GIRVIN [and Tim Girvin's] Legacy of Calligraphy

The Dance of the pen—the drafted thought—and the illustration of language

It’s an intriguing observation—the idea of the rhythm of speech—people talking, listening to words and expressions of thinking—the journey of minds, and the trails of their contemplations: the voice of the mind, transcribed graphically.

Still, the translation of this vocalization comes back to the alphabet, how that is expressed. The alphabet, in a string of cultural expressions, from the Middle East, north to Eastern Europe, Central Europe and the United Kingdom, south to Africa—through 2500 years—becomes an expressive tool that interprets that thinking—
in a fluent range of reflective graphical resonance.

GIRVIN [and Tim Girvin's] Legacy of Calligraphy

And this expression has its own kind of movement, the dance of the pen that, in the cultural contexts of time, governance and leadership, political character, imbues the drawing of these characters with their own particular qualities.

GIRVIN [and Tim Girvin's] Legacy of Calligraphy

You can learn more about the politics of script here—Stanley Morison’s theory of the integrative behavior of Christianity’s influence on letterform type, as well as the political implications. Or, to the study of the history of the alphabet, the research of palaeography or perhaps my largest influence—
the readable pdf—David Diringer’s The Alphabet.

GIRVIN [and Tim Girvin's] Legacy of Calligraphy

For anyone studying the alphabet, the interpretations of language in myriad forms, it’s a fascinating journey—and so too, it’s something further to consider the nature of the word calligraphy which, relevantly to beautiful interpretation of thought—is just that: the Greek word for calligraphy is καλλιγραφία (kalligraphía) and is a combination of two Greek roots: κάλλος (kállos), meaning “beauty,” and‎ γράφω (gráfo), meaning “to write.”
Think beautiful thoughts and they can be interpreted.
As such.

I’ve believed in the teaching of calligraphy for designers as a principle study in structure of the alphabet. I started that in college, 1977, actually. And in those classes, I used to integrate music with the alphabet, teaching people to draw the alphabets in the rhythm of the melody, the cadence of the strokes matching the pace of the music.
You can see that demonstrated here. The piece at the header of this blog was delivered in a tube to the design shop of Herb Lubalin in 1977, and published, back then, in U&Lc, the magazine his office published—the 1978 edition.

GIRVIN [and Tim Girvin's] Legacy of Calligraphy

I started drawing at home, with my mother, Lila Girvin and, as she knows, I liked to draw and make the sounds of what I was drawing, while I draw. I’ve been teaching that sonic drawing to my grandchildren—especially drawing monsters. And buildings, waterfalls and creators—most importantly, vehicles.

That early work set a course of the hand for me, the hand-made, and that which the mind can dream and the wrist can bring forth to a state of personal aliveness. I kept at it. And even later, I continued drawing—my assignments and reports in school mixed with text and illustrations, shining stories and ideas. In college, that idea of linking text—words in storytelling with pictures in visual narration continued to evolve. Curiosity lent direction—I’d keep moving out, to new stories, new worlds
and historical re-imaginings.
These became books.

From the books came other studies.

Like the curious questioning:
“what is the history of how these books were made?”

A golden geometry—which has driven our book design ever since.

GIRVIN [and Tim Girvin's] Legacy of Calligraphy

As I walked back down those pathways—
the ancient libraries, the mystical corridors,
the misted boulevards of scholarship—
my heart opened.

That was one opening.
And there were others.

And that’s the point in the exploration of ideas and ideals in imagining: there are moments in your life when your heart flowers, it opens up to a learning, an idea, an inspiration and it lies—opened—and forever altered.

Calligraphy was that, too, for me.
Making beauty, seeking more beauty.

That link for me—words and drawings, combined, led me all the way to high school and college. At New College [Sarasota,FLA,] before The Evergreen State College, and my journey to Reed College, I studied marine biology and comparative physiology.
I made science project journals—drawings and lettering.

GIRVIN [and Tim Girvin's] Legacy of Calligraphy

With a sidebar in medieval History. And other journals, books, and geometric interpretations.

GIRVIN [and Tim Girvin's] Legacy of Calligraphy
GIRVIN [and Tim Girvin's] Legacy of Calligraphy

If you study the history of the book, then you examine the palæography of the evolution of the scripted word, then you reach further — you’re reading ancient languages and disciphering their draftsmanship. You might ask, as did I — what tool created these ancient words, and what is the meaning of these distant voices — what is the history of this word?

With that, knowing more, I made another flowering point in meeting Lloyd Reynolds, a kind of maestro of the lettero/typo/calligraphic arts at Reed College. I’d drive down there in Ruby, my 1959 Red Dodge Pickup—hang out at Reed, Lloyd’s house, Portland, browse his fabulous library. Talk to his classes, offer demonstrations.

GIRVIN [and Tim Girvin's] Legacy of Calligraphy

Everyone recalls Apple’s relationship to beautiful type, desktop publishing and gorgeous design—and likely, this points to Steve Jobs for one. Jobs, back then, credits Lloyd Reynolds with being his typographical mentor in embodying the design of font systems at Apple.

And that is how, too, I met and worked with Mr. Jobs—through that flowering, a momentum of discovery.

At Stanford, I walked up to Steve and said—“hey, you went to Reed, do you remember Lloyd Reynolds?” With some follow-up notes and wildly calligraphic art in the mail, he said, “hey, can you come down here tomorrow — talk to us?” That was the beginnings of “how the mouse works — can you draw with it?” I did, and went on to a string of other works for Steve Jobs and Apple — Mac, Performa, WWDC for 4 years in a row; then NeXT.

But this is before slightly my time at Evergreen — I was focused on one fluid craft — the calligraphy of the Italian Renaissance, a kind of exemplar of classical intention, flowing and lively — the epitome of muscular movement of the hand, in a tradition and transition of nearly 2,000 years of evolution, the 16th century to be exact. And that arrival came at the transformation of hundreds of hands — calligraphic handwritings — that coursed from pre-Christian Greece, through Imperial Rome, through the Carolingian Renaissance, the dark ages of Medieval Europe, the age of the Italian Humanists — and finally, the Italian Renaissance of the 14th-16th centuries. I drew them all on great rolls of butcher paper from the Graphics Lab at TESC.

But I wasn’t looking for duplication of paleo-scripts — I was reaching to illustrate language, to make it shine.

I went to study: Paris, Bremgarten bei Bern, Frankfurt, Offenbach am Main, Salzburg, Oxford, Cambridge, NYC, to Moscow and Tallinn, looking, exploring, learning and sharing — at the feet of masters of design, lettering arts,
calligraphy, type design, book design and signage.

That journey was a cumulative gathering that spoke to rekindling and teaching small workshops at The Evergreen State College, as a way to help with my student expenses.

GIRVIN [and Tim Girvin's] Legacy of Calligraphy

How that journey might be extended lies in the notion of what, and which, opens the heart of the flowers of discovering.
Now, decades later, I teach other students, designers at Girvin, the brand strategy and design firm.

GIRVIN [and Tim Girvin's] Legacy of Calligraphy
GIRVIN [and Tim Girvin's] Legacy of Calligraphy

This year, for Girvin, that’s 50 years of work.

And at The Evergreen State College, for me, it was, and is, about discovering—and recovering—those flowers of discovery,
the foliation of ideas, the instances of opening.
And in that journey, that exploration—the flowering—life changes—forever.

GIRVIN [and Tim Girvin's] Legacy of Calligraphy

What happens is that once
that cultivation starts—the quest to learn about beautiful writing,
the gorgeously made, hand-crafted calligraphy, it continues,
if you’re listening.

I go back, listen to what’s learned, and
I go forward towards the quest for more beauty.
I am looking for the patterning of flowers
that have opened my heart.

It’s its own geometric patterning.

GIRVIN [and Tim Girvin's] Legacy of Calligraphy

I help.

Tim | GIRVIN | Strategic Brands
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