Mightier Than The Sword

The designer duo behind letteringvscalligraphy

Letteringvscalligraphy.com is a battleground between the techniques of lettering and calligraphy. Each day, dueling graphic designers Giuseppe Salerno and Martina Flor are challenged to draw or write a single letter of the alphabet. A referee selects the letter and any other attributes to be conveyed; the typographical volleys are then uploaded and the status of champion conferred by the site’s readers.

Typophiles of either school are well represented by these seasoned Berlin combatants: Giuseppe studied calligraphy in his hometown of Torino, and Martina took her Masters in type design at the University of Buenos Aires. Whence the acrimony between the arts of calligraphy and lettering? What are their favorite designer type logos? Which letters would they save from a capsizing ship? Read on to find out.

What are the most salient differences between lettering and calligraphy?

G: There are a lot of differences, but we've always simplified it by saying that lettering is drawing letters and calligraphy is writing letters…

M: While Giuseppe writes the same thing repeatedly until finding the right shapes, I aim for the same by doing iterations or refinements on the same design. Sometimes lettering tries to emulate handwriting or calligraphy but many times it is completely detached from calligraphy.

What was the genesis of this project?

G: The aim was to publish a beautiful library of letters, more like an alphabet with both techniques …

M: It is an excuse to produce work that could inspire others and our selves.

Fashion houses have some of the most beautiful typographic logos. What are some of your favorites and why?

G: Rick Owens' logo is definitely one of the best. I love his signature – the style reminds me of handmade lettering. It's just awesome!

M: I would go for YSL logotype. I like that it has a longer and a shorter version.

Imagine that the alphabet was on a sinking ship. You are holding three lifejackets. Which letters do you save, and why?

G: “A”, “F” and “R”. A is for amor, the F reminds me something very dynamic and fast. And I love the R because of its swash; it’s always nice playing with it.

M: The “O”, “I” and “N”. They have enough information to reconstruct the whole alphabet again!

Do letters have personalities? If so, what is the personality of a "Z" or a "B"?

G: For me the Z is like a sharp sword, very clean, spiky, angry and dangerous. B is like soft bubblegum, full of curves, muscles & power.

M: Personally I think they don't. The author can only add this value, like everything else: a car is just a car, and the designer makes the car have a certain look.

As people are less and less induced to learn how to write script, are we losing anything as a culture?

G: We are going into this direction, technology makes us waste time instead of developing our skills, like learning something new or doing physical exercise. Teaching people how to write beautiful letters is not common anymore, but I have to say that a lot of people love going to calligraphy classes and they are getting very popular.

M: I think we no longer need handwriting as a tool to communicate or to document things, like we used to. Nowadays we can use tools that are faster and easier to use. As much as I like penmanship, I think this is the course of technology. However I think calligraphy as a practice will not die, rather the opposite: it will live as a form of art.

Look straight ahead don’t stop don’t pose