Summer 2016

The unsung stencil master

William Addison Dwiggins: Stencilled Ornament and Illustration (Expanded Edition)

By Dorothy Abbe and Bruce Kennett
Princeton Architectural Press, 2015, $29.95, £15.99

W. A. Dwiggins (1880-1956), the US designer best known for his typefaces Metro, Electra and Caledonia, has always been an anomalous figure in the history of design. He gets a brief nod in textbooks because he is commonly credited – wrongly in my view – with coining the term ‘graphic design’, but his actual work tends to be ignored. Part of the problem is his love of lettering and decoration, two aspects of design that were swept aside by the new typographers. Although Dwiggins has gained cult status in the past two decades, his new admirers tend to be confounded by the prevalence of ornament in his work.


Cover designed by Paul Wagner.
Top: Spread from William Addison Dwiggins: Stencilled Ornament and Illustration (Expanded Edition) showing geometrical elements, textures and designs.


Paul Shaw, letter designer, design historian, New York

Read the full version in Eye no. 92 vol. 23, 2016


Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues. You can see what Eye 92 looks like at Eye before You Buy on Vimeo.

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