Typography, Automation, and the Division of Labor: A Brief History

J. Dakota Brown
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“Typography was born in the mass-production mechanism of the printing press. It has thus always been implicated in automation—and, thereby, in the distinctly modern dynamics of overwork, underemployment, and runaway production.”

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In this compact illustrated essay, J. Dakota Brown reinterprets the history of graphic design by situating it in the history of capitalism.

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Beginning in the early industrial era, Typography, Automation, and the Division of Labor: A Brief History traces the rise of the design professions alongside the gradual fragmentation and decline of the printing trades.

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Along the way, Brown re-reads the trajectory of the modernist “machine aesthetic” as a series of historically-specific reactions to the changing economic and technical realities of typographical practice.

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This dual contribution to labor history and design history incorporates the crisscrossing perspectives of design professionals and production workers,

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modernists and postmodernists, bosses and union reps, and materialist thinkers from Adam Smith to El Lissitzky.

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Fall 2019
designed by Jack Henrie Fisher
plates edited by J. Dakota Brown and Jack Henrie Fisher
softcover, 36 pp., black and red risograph, 6.8 x 11 inches
Edition of 300