The first book issued by Hyphen Press, in 1980, was Norman Potter’s What is a designer. It set out an approach that we have maintained since. Without a question mark in the title, the book proposes as much as it asks and answers. It suggests that design is an activity, a verb rather than a noun, and that design is illuminated by literature, art, music. At the same time, Norman Potter suggested, design means technique, craft skills, human interactions, and assimilation of information; the book included lists of useful addresses, with telephone numbers.
In the 1990s we began to concentrate on our home ground of typography, but trying to see it in wider contexts. Books such as Jost Hochuli’s Designing books and Karel Martens: printed matter / drukwerk also represented, in their very manufacture, an encounter with the European continent. We work from London but look over the Channel towards countries and cultures that maintain stronger industrial craft skills than are available in the UK.
Recent developments include a loose series of small-format paperbacks, consisting of works that have proved themselves: among these titles are (again) Potter’s What is a designer, the second edition of Robin Kinross’s Modern typography, and Gerrit Noordzij’s The stroke. Against the grain of contemporary publishing, with its incessant search for The New, we enjoy rediscovering existing but overlooked works and bringing them back to public attention. We are also expanding horizons beyond typography and design, following the hints thrown out in What is a designer. With Morton Feldman says we declared an interest in music; since then we have established our own CD label, Hyphen Press Music. At the same time we pursue new writing and new scholarship in our home ground of design.
A warning, if you are thinking of approaching us with a proposal for a book: we do not publish much, are choosy about what we do publish (we have to live with a book for months before it gets finished, and so the incipient book needs to be good company), and further – we are struggling to deal with a backlog of several books that have been taking much longer than we anticipated. So, while it’s always interesting to know what people out there are busy with, the answer will almost certainly be ‘sorry, no’.
We work from a shared building in North-West London: here.
The first Hyphen Press website was designed by Eric Kindel, with construction by Jonathan Pagel; it was launched in summer 1998. In summer 2000 the site was relaunched in essentially the same visual form, with construction and design development by Matt Patterson.
The present website has a new look and many new features. It has been designed and constructed by James King and went online in April 2007.
The Hyphen extra website was added in summer 2010. This was designed and constructed by Jane Cheng.