By Josh Kornbluth
Book Design by Thomas Christensen



Futura, first issued by the Bauer foundry in 1927, was designed by Paul Renner. It is an extremely geometric sans serif, although currently available versions are less radical than Renner's original design, which sought to reduce letterforms as much as possible to basic lines, circles, and squares (in Renner's original design the r was simply a line with a point where the spur would be). In Futura, the t and the j, for example, are perfectly straight lines, without the usual tails or curves, and the a is reduced to a single-story form, which was unusual for its time; likewise the g has an open tail. For a quarter century after its introduction, Futura was the most popular sans serif typeface, but in the fifties Helvetica and Universe began to be used in its place (if not more humanist sans serifs, such as Gill Sans or Optima).
      I never thought I would use Futura as a text font, but I think it works for Josh's book. The main problem with Futura and other geometric fonts is that, since they are based on an "architectural" rather than a calligraphic model, they provide little forward movement for the reader - usually one wants a font that tends to pull the reader along. Futura, on the other hand, acts more as a brake to the reader. I thought this would work for Josh's book, which is a collection of comic performance pieces. In Josh's brilliant performances, nearly every sentence is punctuated with laughter. The unit of composition is more the sentence than the longer structures that are the building blocks of most writing. On the page, the reader tends to move too quickly through the punchlines, so I theorized that Futura's braking effect would benefit this text. In addition, the typeface has a kind of Bauhaus/Russian contructivist association that I found comical in this context.

I found the cover image, "Long Live the Brotherhood of the Peoples of the Caucasus"by M. Kochergin, in Stephen White's The Bolshevik Poster. I made up a prototype cover much like this one, which I thought was hilarious. But when I showed the cover to Po Bronson he said it was "beautiful" (!?) but he didn't think it was funny. So to make the comic intent clearer I took the stork image from a drawing program I used to use frequently, Arts and Letters, and modified it in Photoshop to include baby Josh in his red diaper. Oddly, one of things I had trouble with was getting the black background in the stork image to perfectly match the black background of the rest of the cover
The back cover. On the front and back covers, I wanted to use the bright basic colors of the cover image, and I wanted a kind of manic quality, so I let myself go in the treatment of the blurber's names, the drop caps, etc. I tested the bar code and found it would still scan with the yellow background. Where the price usually goes, I put "$12.95 U.S. CAPITALIST DOLLARS" and I headed the blurbs of Josh's performances "REVIEWS OF PERFORMANCES FROM DUPED IMPERIALIST PRESS" (I used Quark's font modification capabilities to stretch this copy vertically, for fit and humor). Ellen Towell, Mercury House's marketing director at the time, was appalled. She felt that I was out of control, insisting that "It's Josh's job to be funny, not yours." I removed the offending lines. But Josh had seen the cover with them in it and insisted that I put them back. (I guess I got my moment as a comedian after all.)
The title page spread, sort of--sorry about the funky scans but I didn't want big files that would be slow to load. All sorts of font manipulation, but basically Futura, along with some Tekton that looks forward to the the blackboards in The Mathematics of Change.
Copyright and dedication pages. The dedication page picks up the big line motif from the title page and anticipates the part opening pages, with their bottom aligned text.
A part opening page. (The curtain rises.)
A text spread from the Mathematics of Change section, including one of the blackboards. (I know it's illegible here - I'll show it larger below. The blackboards were difficult to do. In performance Josh is contantly erasing and modifying the blackboards. I had to capture and freeze moments throughout the piece. This book uses running feet instead of running heads. I like them and use them every now and again, but when I tried to use them on a job for Heyday books, the publisher, Malcolm Margolin, objected. I guess they seem less traditional to other people than they do to me. Of course, that's fine for this book.
A part of one of the blackboards. They don't really show up well at this resolution. The typeface is Tekton, which was the best thing I had at the time for suggesting chalk-drawn letters. Maybe today I would use comic sans, just to piss off the typeheads.


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