Monday, January 11, 2021

American Calligraphy #3: Utopian and Usonian

ABCs of the USA: The stories behind America's most distinctive calligraphy styles.   

Since its arrival 400 years ago, the Roman alphabet has been Americanized in dozens of different versions, by letter artists seeking new ways to reinterpret its clarity, gravitas, and air of permanence.  Among them, architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) believed that America should move beyond the inherited architecture and letters of Europe, to evolve its own styles.  He called this style "Usonian" (United States of North America), and based it on the landscapes of Midwestern prairies, Southwestern deserts, and new cities. Like all American architects, he designed for an idealized future. 
A type style based on Wright's alphabet. 

Wright also insisted that everything in the built environment should harmonize, encompassing textiles, furniture, doorknobs, hinges, and the letters and numerals in the street sign. Often he designed a unique alphabet for a particularly important building. 

The letters USA (above) are shown in Wright's signature color, "Cherokee Red." He incorporated a red square with his initials into many of his buildings, drawings, and publications.         

A typical FLW wall tile from Taliesen (left)

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