Letter lover Alexander Tochilovsky is a New York City-based graphic designer that divides his time between teaching typography and graphic design at The Cooper Union and curating the Herb Lubalin Studio Center of Design and Typography. Not only is he the co-founder of the Typographics, a design festival for people who use and love type, he’s also the co-founder of Type@Cooper, a post-graduate certificate program where he continues to teach the history of typeface design. Over the years, he’s curated a number of exhibitions at The Cooper Union, including Appetite (2010), Pharma (2011), Type@Cooper (2012), Image of the Studio with Athletics (2013), and thirty (2015). In this week’s Friday Five, typography connoisseur Tochilovsky lets us in on a handful of things he loves.
1. Archives & Research
One of my main jobs, aside from teaching, is curating the Herb Lubalin Study Center, which means I get to spend a lot of time in a design collection digging through lots of wonderful old design ephemera. It’s a job I really enjoy as it allows me to connect graphic design to the greater culture, of which it is an inextricable part. Archives are essential to our understanding of the past. They enable us to better understand the present, and to anticipate the future. I have found many lessons relevant to today’s contemporary design practice in the archives. It makes one realize how timeless design can be. It’s simply a matter of finding the right lens to view a piece through, then carving out time to devote to close examination of the material. The world needs more archives.
2. Films from the early 1960s
There is something magical about the period of European filmmaking of this era that is very seductive for me. It’s nostalgia for a period in time that was anticipating the energy and change of the late 60s. There was a relative distance from the horrors and destruction of the Second World War. On a purely superficial level, films from this era simply ooze coolness. How can one not love them? I find so much inspirational material in them, in the modern stories, and the gorgeous cinematography, and the wonderful scores. Lately, I’ve been watching Japanese films from this same period and have discovered a whole new realm of stories and visuals. It’s an endless journey.
3. Typefaces & letters of all sorts
I’ve had an affinity to letters ever since I came across a book about a Soviet-era typeface designer. I must have been 12 at the time. It didn’t really make sense back then, but I was curious to discover that it was someone’s job to make the letters that we read–they don’t just come out of nowhere. It all made more sense once I began studying graphic design. For me letters are not merely vessels of language, of communication, they also reveal a lot about history. Especially letters found in urban environments. They can indicate the history of a place, and reveal a history of people who occupy or used to occupy a particular space. It’s very hard for me to not notice all of the amazing letters out there. It makes walking down the street a tad slower, but infinitely more rewarding.
4. Food & cooking
Good food is essential. It doesn’t have to be complicated in order for it to be good. Food prepared with care and passion is all it takes to make something exceptional, something transcendent. Food is also a bonding experience for me. A meal allows me the time and intimacy to get to know the people I’m sharing it with. My wife and I try to cook at home as much as possible, as it’s a really good way to reset after work, but at the same time to be reminded of the beauty of the creative process. Food is also one of the main reasons my wife and I travel.
5. Travel & walking
I’m fortunate to be married to someone who adores traveling. I’m also really lucky that she’s an amazing planner. We travel as much as our schedules allow, and I can’t imagine not being able to do so regularly. Getting away from New York regularly is essential for us. It makes us appreciate all of the things that our city has to offer. It reminds us to continue to explore it. We do a good deal of walking in every city we travel to. It gives us a chance to understand the dynamic of that city better, and to see how people live. The famous sights are important to visit, but so are the place where people live. Walking is also an excellent way to spot letters.