Why me, and what is a type organization for? I'll cut the boring "why me" analysis short; I was asked and accepted, though I'm neither a type designer or famous graphic designer. The second question is much more interesting, and the heart of the reasons I accepted the office. Years ago I was intrigued by Robert Putnam's essay and book about declining "social capital" in America, Bowling Alone. Can an organization like the TDC help build community connections and a stronger society? What is the TDC supposed to be doing? I'm curious, and want to stick around for answers.
Is the TDC like a union or guild? A fraternal organization? A nerdy fan club? As research, I bought the 1967 book A Study of the History of the International Typographical Union, 1852–1966, Volume II, hoping to learn about a real type union. What I learned is that this book will put you to sleep; it is hard to imagine a more dry, uninspiring account of typographic brotherhood. The book records, in fastidious detail, political fights and long speeches, in which orators vied for the most frequent use of emotional, poetic references. The International Typographic Union (ITU) expended a lot of energy striking, squabbling over the existence of subversive secret type societies such as the Brotherhood and the Wahnetas, and whether to join other unions or not. At a time when typography and printing were tightly bound, the union's greatest achievement was construction of a grand retirement home for old and feeble printers and compositors in Colorado Springs.
|The Union Printers Home and grounds in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Note the union logo in the lawn. Not pictured are the estate's herd of cows and over 1,000 chickens. Unfortunately, the TDC office in New York City does not have room for livestock.|
The TDC is not the ITU, which had tens of thousands of members and fought for basic rights, such as higher wages and benefits. However, the TDC retains some similar goals, such as the ITU's mandate to "elevate the position and maintain and protect the interests of the craft in general." The leadership of the TDC is not like the ITU; OK, I have the stereotypical white-guy side part in my hair — always have — but look at the rest of the TDC board. Love of type and design is certainly not limited to people like those below.
|Fred Flintstone's membership in The Loyal Order of the Water Buffalo spoofed the obscure and silly rituals of American fraternal societies.|
|Long live the Thompson Twins!|