The recent success of the Adobe Systems Hidden Treasures project is one way that graphic designers have been able to forge connections with the past when looking for new creative outlets.


Resurrecting famous type styles from Bauhaus art schools and crafting digital recreations of the brushes of Edvard Munch are just some of the ways that the venture has been able to bring the tools and knowledge of the past into the present for designers in the modern age. Following along this trail of updating the present with the artistic qualities of history is the Letterform Archive of San Francisco. A not-for-profit museum and design library, the LFA offers a wealth of resource materials for designers, publishers and any member of the public who has an interest in following the trajectory of different graphic styles over time.


The LFA was founded by Rob Saunders, a private collector of graphic design artifacts for over 40 years. Opened in 2015, the gallery now boasts a catalogue of over 50,000 items that include calligraphy, lettering, and posters as well as film, music and book designs. Understanding that there would be a great benefit to having their collection digitized, librarian Amelia Grounds and her staff have undertaken the task of starting the Letterform Online archive. The LFA is hoping to have this online catalogue of its archives ready for the public sometime in 2019, although an online beta version can be accessed by contributing members of the organization now at letterformarchive.org.

Taking a quick look at some of the artifacts that are available at the LFA, either through an in-person visit or a quick look through their website, it becomes obvious what an important resource this digitization will be. Everyone with an interest in graphic design has experienced that moment where something from the past really catches your eye. It could be a psychedelic 1970s concert poster, or a postmodernist book cover, or something as simple as an original NASA logo from the Apollo program. What programs such as the LFA archive and the Adobe Hidden Treasures project are looking to do is to make those connections to the past more frequent and more usable in the modern world.


The utility for graphic designers of all kinds is obvious, but these digital tools are also a perfect way for businesses like Ultimax to interact with our clients. We don’t just want our designs to be crafted in order to have business success with advertising and promotion, we want them to be a reflection of who our clients are and what they like. With the availability of resources like the LFA archive, we can offer our customers a collection of striking and dramatic design concepts from the past century at the click of a button. These designs can be easily perused and looked over in order to find inspiration and develop artistic concepts that are truly unique and interesting. They are also a perfect teaching tool for educators in the world of graphic design. Drawing from the decades of different collections in the LFA archive, it will be simple for teachers to track changes in design styles through popular examples, which will give students perspective on how these historical styles were developed and used.