A geometric sans from Positype, a contemporary grotesk by Josh Finklea, a carefree sans from Kyle Wayne Benson, a bold brush script by Fenotype, a lively face from Fontsmith, a hand drawn family by PintassilgoPrints, a friendly sans from FaceType, and a happy script by Wiescher Design.
Designed by Neil Summerour
Clear Sans is a rational geometric sans serif — clean, geometric and precise.
Designed by Josh Finklea
A contemporary version of the traditional grotesk sans serif. Post Grotesk reduces the typical rigidness of a grotesk through subtle additions of personality and uniqueness.
Designed by Kyle Benson
Tide Sans’ fresh, carefree, look makes you almost forget that you’re staring at a monitor and not on the beach.
Designed by Emil Karl Bertell
No. Seven is a bold brush style script family of three weights.
Designed by Jason Smith
A clear, stylish and structured sans serif with swooping curves of openness which create a lively, flavourful character.
Designed by Ricardo Marcin & Erica Jung
Undersong brings 13 fancy hand drawn stackable fonts which can be combined in many, many tasty ways.
Designed by Marcus Sterz
Adria Grotesk is a friendly sans serif that comes in 7 weights & charming upright italics.
Designed by Gert Wiescher
Felicità was designed with happiness in mind.
In the spring of 2012, Stefania Malmsten became the new Creative Director of Swedish fashion & culture magazine Rodeo. Stefania was living in New York at the time, working with Swedish and American clients from the collaborative workspace Studiomates in Dumbo, Brooklyn. She had decided to move back to Sweden where she had started her career with designing iconic magazines like Pop and Bibel.
Stefania is known for the attention to typography in her design work:
“I’m very passionate about photography and I’m very passionate about typography. I never wanted to choose between being a graphic designer and an art director and that’s why I love working with magazines and titles for film. Working with Göran on this project has been very luxurious, creating almost like a main character for the magazine.”
For the redesign of Rodeo Magazine Stefania chose Lyon and Benton Sans, two stylish yet traditional text faces. In contrast, she needed something more expressive for headlines, drop caps and graphic elements.
“I created a strict 12 column grid and nice legible styles for the main typography but I felt I needed something to interfere with this. Rodeo wanted to keep it’s big format (245 x 330 mm) and there was something about these big pages… I got this idea of a line that went through the whole magazine, like someone had been writing with a thin pen over the grid system.”
To explain her ideas, she made a mood board which became the creative brief for the typeface. The plan was to create a monoline script, but definitely not a traditional one.
When the project started Göran Söderström was on parental leave and had limited time to work with the project, but this was a rare opportunity he couldn’t pass up. Göran explains:
“I’ve always admired designers and art directors who have the courage and vision to not settle for existing type and instead work towards something new. This is quite uncommon in Sweden, but suddenly it happened.”
Göran jumped at the chance to work with Stefania, whose work he holds in high regard. In the beginning he received photo updates with inspiration Stefania had found on the streets of New York.
After some time Göran responded with some sketches he thought could work. Stefania, who was still in New York, replied with more sketches and comments — the collaboration was in motion.
This project needed a font editor where the letters could be drawn with open contours (rather than closed shapes) and with a possibility to test different line thickness live while editing. The new font editor Glyphs had a function that could work but it was not behaving quite like Göran wanted. Amazingly, Georg Seifert (the inventor of Glyphs) added the missing functionality in a matter of days and suddenly the whole project became more concrete. Now letters could be drawn with just a single stroke and exported with varying stroke weight.
Every idea was tested, but somewhere the line had to be drawn; was it supposed to be a typeface or a set of illustrations? Naming this typeface was also bit tricky, but in the end it was named after what it was – lines.
Line comes in 5 super thin styles. With the formula 100, 65, 40, 25, 20 it’s easy to create compositions with same stroke weight across different point sizes. This was also a feature from Rodeo. Stefania was working with three styles in three different sizes, looking as if they were coming from the same pen.
We deliberately avoided making an OpenType showcase out of this font. There’s an exquisite joy in unpacking a new font, similar to that of a Lego set. Rather than large, extravagant glyphs, the final typeface consists of a basic character set with some alternate letters, plus a large number of modular embellishments which attach to letters in different ways. The embellishments (or krussiduller in Swedish) are perfect for starting or finishing words, and some are flexible enough to do both. And just like the possibilities with Legos, this brings huge variation to the typeface.
Letters from Sweden has a new website in the works and Line will be available from our new webshop very soon. Until then you can send us an email if you’re interested in licensing Line for desktop, web or apps.
Stefania Malmsten is an art director and a graphic designer with clients mainly in the fields of art, fashion and film. She was one of the founders of Pop and Bibel magazines in Sweden and is a former art director at Vogue Hommes International in Paris. Stefania Malmsten received The Berling Prize, Swedens most prestigious graphic design-prize, for 2006. On the fourth of July 2013 Stefania founded the new design studio Malmsten Hellberg together with designer Ulrika Hellberg. Stefania is currently the Creative Director at Rodeo Magazine in Sweden.
Göran Söderström is the founder of Letters from Sweden and has been designing type since 2006. He is self taught and has previously published his work through Psy/Ops, Fountain and FontFont. At FamiljenPangea Göran has designed custom typefaces for ATG, ICA, LO, SEB, WyWallet and others. His commercial typefaces are used pretty much all over the world by companies like Red Bull, Pitchfork, The New Republic, SVT and Expressen. One of Göran’s typefaces has been carved in stone.
Text, photos and illustrations: Copyright © 2013 Stefania Malmsten & Göran Söderström. All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the authors written approval.
Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story
Publisher: (Limited edition) Blue Pencil Editions (2008), MIT Press, Hardback
Author: Paul Shaw
Design: Paul Shaw and Abby Goldstein
Reviewed by: Alex Cameron
It is hard not to simply gush about Paul Shaw’s Helvetica and the New York City Subway System: The True (Maybe) Story. For a life-student and consumer of design history and culture publications, it ticks so many boxes that to ‘merely’ enjoy it is really quite easy. While there has been much said about Helvetica+ since its publication in 2011, readers might wonder why a review, so late in the day is worthwhile. Like all good design books, each time one returns to it new things seem to come to the fore. But more important than this, I believe there have been some important omissions in the discussions and reviews since the publication of the MIT Press edition.
Firstly, some notes on its design. The format size of Helvetica+ – 285mm (w) x 245mm (h) – immediately suggests that this is primarily a book to study, and not necessarily read in transit. Both the text content (including substantial notes and captions) and that of the photography, illustration and type specimens deserve so much more than a mere flick through. The format size is ample and allows a decent reproduction size for the documentary-style photographs as well as the illustrations. The majority of the photography is in black and white, as befits the time, but skilfully included color reproductions, of artwork from other projects and clients gives the story added context.
This choice of format also allows for an effective typographic arrangement between the central narrative text, numerous (and learned) notes, captions and images. Furthermore the generous use of white space is a welcome contrast to the monochromatic content of the photographs. The design of Helvetica+ is overall of a good standard. But for this reader a small but significant typographic detail lets the design down. The choice of AG (Akzidenz Grotesk) Old Face for long-reading text is an odd one in any circumstance. In this instance it is no less so. AG Old Face tells its own peculiar and idiosyncratic story. Made up from a number of sans serifs of varying weights and widths each drawn by different designers, it was brought together decades later – in haste if not indifference. The result of which included a differing weight ratio between capital and lower case letters – more by (un)happy accident than design. It was not intended for, and doesn’t lend itself to setting for long-reading text. While of course setting Helvetica+ in AG Old Face makes some ‘historical’ and contextual sense – in that Standard (Akzidenz Grotesk) Medium features strongly throughout this story – nevertheless, I believe it is no less problematic.
I wouldn’t wish to hold Shaw (the designer) and Goldstein to the idea of ‘invisible typography’. I would nevertheless suggest that the annoying ‘polka-dot’ or ‘peppering’ effect caused by its optical and technical deficiencies, when set as long-reading text is simply not worth the historic reference being made to the reader.
The setting of the text ragged-right offers some compensation for the peculiarities of AG Old Face and its overly wide (default) word spacing. That said, one would hope that this doesn’t override the impact of the other purposeful design decisions made by Shaw and Goldstein.
While of course the contribution of design in adding to and aiding (transforming) a scholarly work is crucial, but it is to the writing we will now turn. Helvetica+ is a fine contribution to graphic design history and so deserves attention within the design community and more broadly.
Shaw’s latest piece of typo/graphic design history has rightly received exceptional citation from some significant design writers and practitioners in the US and Europe. The back sleeve of the dust jacket includes some high praise indeed from the likes of Michael Bierut who tells us that it is, ‘…one of the best pieces of design history I have ever read’. Erik Spiekermann is no less enthusiastic saying, ‘For transit and type nerds alike, Paul Shaw’s book is the Bible’, with Tom Geismar adding that it is, ‘…an amazing piece of research.’ They are all names readers of I Love Typography will surely be familiar and people who know what they are talking about. Interestingly there is a glowing short review alongside by Kenneth T Jackson who offers Helvetica+ as, ‘…a unique perspective…’. Jackson’s is a name that will likely be less familiar to the same readers. He is both Editor-in-chief of the Encyclopaedia of New York City and President Emeritus of the New York Historical Society. From the point of view of the necessary maturation of graphic design history, it is a well placed and important inclusion. Shaw has written a book that just might do what all design writers must aspire to – reach an audience beyond the ‘confines’ of the design community (practitioners, educators and writers). He has, by this important inclusion shown his commitment to doing just that.
Of course Shaw’s readership for Helvetica+ will largely come from ‘design-land’. In part this is because the subject is of the design community, but it also speaks to designers who are hungry for insight, knowledge and direction. But, if graphic design is to be recognized and engaged with as a significant cultural player, then a broader readership is crucial. It is on this question, above all others, that Helvetica+, and all that has come before and will after, must ultimately be judged.
Periodically, the question ‘what kind of design history’ comes into sharp focus in the form of thought-provoking contributions to design conferences, talks and published writing. It is a crucial question and one that needs and deserves continual assessment.
In general terms, an expansive graphic design history is desirable and necessary. But it will be developed alongside reference books, visual case studies, personal profiles, technical writing, criticism, design journalism and theory. Fundamentally, whichever form it takes should, ‘do justice to the complex processes of interrelations and interaction between them’, as historian and historical theorist E H Carr would have it. People need to be placed center stage and their relationships, choices and goals understood in historically-specific contexts.
Shaw’s intervention is a conscientious and critically minded reading of design history, beneath which the true (maybe) significance of events are unearthed. Shaw treats the reader as one capable of understanding that the business of design – even at this level – is not a simplistic or utopian process, where each design decision follows an even better one. In this regard Helvetica+ is an important contribution. In terms of approach, Shaw gives an account of some decisive moments in design history and has refused to gloss over the cracks. For many designers, part of their day-to-day creative struggles revolve around resolving multiple and competing interests, untangling webs of confused business decisions, colossal egos and seemingly immovable organizational and financial forces – well before attending to matters of a visual kind. Giving a qualified, accurate and critically unambiguous account of the role of design and designers is the least we should expect from design history; unfortunately this is not always the case.
But Helvetica+ seems to do just that by placing questions of a typographic and aesthetic nature in a commercial context, where often chaotic forces emerge from multiple directions and sources. The decisive design decisions – which at first might appear mere personal preference – are shown to be based on a contemporaneous and concurrent industry best practice and an exacting attitude towards typographic standards.
This contention is drawn out further through introducing key signage design schemes that preceded, and undoubtedly influenced, the NYC project. Shaw’s account further illuminates the role and impact of the wider design community in transforming practice. Internationally, mass transportation sign systems were being designed for some significant high profile clients: Heathrow Airport (UK) by Colin Forbes, British Railway by Jock Kinnear and Margaret Calvert, Milano Metro (Italy) by Bob Noorda and Schiphol Airport by Benno Wissing.
Throughout this period designers were communicating and critiquing each other through type. Even if unwittingly, they were nevertheless contributing to the consolidation of typographic orthodoxies through the medium of mass-signage design. As Helvetica+ points out, type designers certainly had their own unique take on Akzidenz Grotesk or Helvetica. They altered the length of ascenders/descenders, replaced angled terminals with horizontals, increased the x-height and modified the weights of whole families.
At the same time, practitioners and design writers shared important moments of coactivity. Shaw notes the significance of two seminal books on signage, Nicolete Gray’s Lettering on Buildings (1960) and Mildred Constantine and Egbert Jacobson’s Sign Language for Buildings and Landscape (1961). These along with a dynamic design press meant more attention and legitimacy was being paid to this new and increasingly influential field of graphic design. Articles and follow-up comment pieces appeared in the mainstream press, illustrating the cultural influence and impact of design on society more broadly. It was an exciting moment that stressed the mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between design criticism and practice.
Throughout the 60s, 70s, & 80s (indeed to date) in all major mass transportation sign systems the ‘grotesque’, sans exception, was the undisputed heavy-weight champion of the design world. It was less a question of which typeface and more one of in who’s hand it was fashioned – a typographic truism that is often overlooked.
All the above considered it makes the inclusion of a seven line paragraph on page 102 quite perplexing. Shaw writes, ‘Why did the MTA abandon Standard? At the time Helvetica’s popularity was on the wane as its widespread use since the early 1970s had induced boredom and backlash. Postmodernism had effectively exposed the subjective nature of the Modernist notion of neutral, rational and universal design and, in doing so, had undercut the principle reasons that many designers had given for choosing Helvetica over all other faces’ (p. 102).
In the first instance this is out of step with the rest of the book in terms of its literary and investigative tone. Like a sign in the NYC Subway System set in Roger Excoffon’s Mistral, these words simply don’t belong. Intellectually it is wholly inadequate. While contesting and challenging events from a particular interest or point of view is no bad thing – indeed we could do with more contestation around key issues and events – but in this instance the claims made by the author deserve and demand more than a mere seven lines of text and a few references. This crucial question, of understanding the dynamics of the shift from Modernism (and its near 100 year history) to Post-Modernism (and its comparatively short history) has hardly been dealt with by the social sciences never mind the design writers cited. To consign a significant cultural movement to the dustbin of history in such a way is at best wishful thinking but at worst overly simplistic and counterproductive.
But as disappointing as this is I would urge that instead we concentrate on all that is good about this book.
At his most engaging, Shaw’s writing takes the form of classic investigative journalism – it is as if we are being let into important secrets (which indeed we are). The dogged and committed research that Helvetica+ demanded must have had the author wondering if it was all worth it. Of course it was! Its publication has made design writing a little richer. It has also raised the bar and thus set an example. It is a complex story that has been obscured by self-interest, myth and the passing of time. Shaw has done an exceptional job in unraveling and revealing the real dynamics of the process and the professionalism of the designers at the center of this story.
It was March 2nd, 2011, and I was fifteen-years old. I was in the clouds. My font family, Expletus Sans, had just gone live on the Google Webfonts Directory (now simply called Google Fonts). Plenty of positive feedback and a generous reward from Google had made me expect a lot of it. But it didn’t take very long before I started laughing at the high regard I once had for Expletus Sans, and its silly name. The elegance I once saw in it was soon mixed with a decent dose of clumsiness and amateurism. However, Expletus Sans did provide me with the motivation and opportunity to invest in my skills, and keep designing typefaces.
I decided to make sure I was going to up my game and nail every single detail in my next typefamily, named Proza, which I had already started working on. The story of Proza starts with Garamond Sans, its short-lived predecessor. As the name suggests, Garamond Sans was intended as a sans-serif companion to Garamond. Looking back, it already had a lot of the characteristics that would later define Proza. It was far from flawless, though.
Learning type design all on your own seems impossible to me. Starting out, you need experienced eyes to point you at your mistakes in order to learn and move on. With limited time and money at hand, the online forum typophile.com provided the experienced eyes I needed. So, just as I had done with Expletus Sans, I started a thread with some images of Garamond Sans, asking for opinions.
As I continued work on Garamond Sans, it took up a life of its own, and moved further and further away from Garamond. I started to become aware of the underlying calligraphic structure in any humanist font, which translated into a more coherent and polished design. When I had left the skeleton of Garamond behind, a new name had to be invented. ‘Sensa’, derived from ‘sensational’, worked fine for a while, but turned out to be too similar to Nick Shinn’s ‘Sense’. Moving on, ‘Proza’, which translates to ‘prose’ in Dutch, seemed like a good name.
My goal for Proza was to be interesting and elegant at large sizes, and highly legible at text sizes. I had done very little research into legibility, but it seemed to me that my experience as a reader was also worth a lot, so I approached legibility in a more intuitive manner, making plenty of test prints along the way.
The first thread about Proza Black (called Sensato Black, at the time) came shortly after that. You might wonder why I went straight to Black, rather than doing a Bold first. Well, since I learned about the magic of interpolation (generating intermediate styles based on two extremes), it seemed a lot quicker to design the Black style, and generate the bold and other weights through interpolation. In hindsight, it might seem even more efficient to design only the Light and the Black weight, and generate the Regular the same way as the other weights, but that would have made me lose control over the overall design. The Regular is called ‘regular’ for a reason, you see.
In January in 2011, I started work on Proza Serif. Since Proza has its origins in a humanist serif, I thought it would be relatively easy to create a contemporary serif companion. As happens all the time, it turned out not be as easy as I thought. Designing Proza Serif gave me a better insight into some of the weak spots in Proza, though, helping me to improve the design.
I continued to expand and improve on Proza, but found it terribly difficult to settle on a degree of contrast. In a wave of youthful naivety, I decided not to settle at all. Instead, I made a high contrast, and a low contrast version, based on the same skeleton and the same number of nodes. I named the high contrast variant Proza E. The idea was to use interpolation to create Proza A, B, C, D, and E, together with all the weights and italics, forming a gigantic sans-serif super-family.
Throughout the design process of Proza, I constantly shifted work from one style to another. This chaotic method of working might seem incredibly ineffective, but helped me to create a better design for all of the styles, because they are all related. Underlying problems in one style, can become much clearer in another style. In may 2011, the first version of Proza Italic was done. I wanted it to differentiate clearly from the upright, while still maintaining a similar feel and a high degree of legibility. It should be somewhere half-way between the slanted italics of grotesques like Univers, and the italics of other humanist sans typefamilies, like Fred Smeijers’ Quadraat Sans, which almost appear to come from a different type family. I also put quite some effort into Swash Caps, only to ditch them again some time later.
In July in 2011, I finished an early version of Proza E Black. This design was incredibly hard to get right, which also made it incredibly pleasing when I finally got it (sort of) right.
Shortly after that, from the 25th until the 29th of July, I went to a type design workshop in Urbino, led by Bruno Maag and Jonathan Pierini. Despite being by far the youngest in the workshop, I had a great time, and I continued work on Proza. After a remark that Proza E “looks like it needs serifs” it was transformed into a brand-new Proza Serif. The feedback for the low-contrast variant of Proza was very positive, though. The last day of the workshop, when all participants were having dinner together, Bruno invited me for an internship at Dalton Maag. Completely overwhelmed by his invitation, I asked him if he would have made the same offer without the wine we’d been drinking. Cheeky, I know.
Between the workshop and the internship, I kept on refining and improving Proza. The incredibly simple idea that glyphs should clearly look like they’re supposed to look, also when printed poorly, printed tiny, or seen through worn eyes, led to some design changes. For example, the triangular space between the arch of the n and the stem, at the top-left, was increased in size, to remain crisp and clear at small sizes.
After the workshop, I redesigned Proza Black from scratch. The Regular weight had changed so much that the old Black no longer worked.
In April 2012 I put together the Proza type family for the first time. Without the high-contrast version, that is. Proza E was put in a drawer to rest, together with Proza Serif.
After having worked quite long on the Proza family, my eyes were craving for something else, so I started work on a new type family, called Richard. This would have been completely irrelevant to this story, if it wasn’t for the critique I got on a thread on Typedrawers.com. After it was rightfully made clear that Richard looked too much like TEFF’s Lexicon, which I accepted immediately, Proza was suddenly also accused of looking too much like Adobe’s Cronos. I didn’t agree then, and I still don’t agree now.
In 2012, during the summer holiday, I went to London for my internship at Dalton Maag. My stay in London exceeded all my expectations. The employees at Dalton Maag were incredibly kind, and the office was incredibly large, filled with an incredible number of designers and type technicians. The fridge, stuffed with an incredible variety of Ben & Jerry’s, was also a nice bonus. One of the first things I did was to ask some of the designers what they thought of the similarities between Proza and Cronos, and all of them concluded there was enough room between the two, so I decided to leave the comments on typedrawers.com behind me and move on. The brilliant eyes of Ron Carpenter helped me to raise Proza to the next level, resulting in some changes in the design, a far more extensive character set, and perfect spacing and kerning, packaged in smoothly working font files.
After my internship, I worked on finalizing Proza, as well as a new version of Proza Serif. Proza is now released through Bureau Roffa (available for licensing at bureauroffa.com). A completely redesigned web-version is in the works.
To conclude this story, I need to thank some people. If it wasn’t for the help of these people, Proza would never have been what it is today.
Dave Crossland from Google, for his trust in me and Expletus Sans. Nick Job, for his extensive feedback on the early versions of Proza. Alexei Vanyashin, Irina Smirnova, and Isaías Loaiza, for showing an early interest in my designs. Tal Leming, for his generosity and help with Prepolator. Ramiro Espinoza, for his help with the technicalities of font design. The Dalton Maag crew, for good company, help, and advice. My family and friends, for supporting me.
By Jasper de Waard
A geometric script by Kyle Wayne Benson, a technical workhorse from Hold Fast Foundry, a lined display by TipoType, a classic grotesque from Parachute, an upright script by Stephen Rapp, a contemporary family from PSY/OPS, a geometric sans by Nootype, and an elegant script from Misprinted Type.
Designed by Kyle Benson
Millie is a stressed, geometric script who spends her days as industrial lettering and her nights paired with blackletter on the patches of motorcycle gangs.
Designed by Mattox Shuler
Forged from geometric and technical styles, Industry stands sturdy and strong.
Designed by Vicente Lamónaca
Arya is a display typeface, based on Roman proportions. It has three versions, differentiated by the amount of the drawn lines.
Designed by Panos Vassiliou
Das Grotesk was inspired by earlier nineteenth-century grotesques, but it is much more related to American gothic designs such as those by M.F. Benton.
Designed by Stephen W. Rapp
Baghadeer is an upright connecting script brimming with personality.
Designed by André Simard
Carouge is a contemporary typeface that has a classical twist.
Designed by Nico Inosanto
Radikal is a geometric font dedicated to the research of purity.
Designed by Eduardo Recife
Very similar to ornamental penmanship, but uses slightly longer ascenders & descenders, and modest shading.
An ambitious text family by Schizotype, a feature-rich face from URTD, playful forms by Outras Fontes, a versatile sans from Fontsmith, modern styling by Thinkdust, a transitional face from MCKL, a minimalist slab by Mostardesign, and a sober text family from Fountain.
Designed by Dave Rowland
The slanted styles of Urge Text exhibit a certain bipolarity, the tops of glyphs having a standard italic form, the bottoms of glyphs being more Roman in their construction.
Designed by Ondrej Jób
Odesta has seven feature-rich weights with built-in small caps, swash alternates, and contextual alternate initials & finials.
Designed by Ricardo Esteves Gomes
Unique playful forms and a condensed structure, Progressiva is ideal for texts that require some personality and titles with great visual presence.
Designed by Nick Job & Jason Smith
Inspired by the thought “it doesn’t have to be like this” FS Hackney is meticulously honed to perform in exacting conditions. Refined, assured and very versatile.
Designed by Greg Ponchak
Clear-cut edges and modern styling give Monolite the attitude it needs to leave a lasting impression.
Designed by Jeremy Mickel
Superior Title is a high contrast transitional typeface, a kind of missing link between Bodoni and Times.
Designed by Olivier Gourvat
Metronic Slab Pro is a slab serif typeface with a technological and minimalist look for text and headlines.
Designed by Rui Abreu
Aria Text is the new text version of the lyric Aria. More sober and rational, Aria Text was designed for books. The decoration mannerisms, extreme contrast, the italics angle, among other attributes of the original display typeface were now tamed and rethought towards readability and transparency.
A space saving serif by TipoType, a geometric sans from FontFont, a handpainted face by PintassilgoPrints, a workhorse family from Typotheque, an elegant serif by Nootype, a legible slab from FontFont, a contemporary gothic by Talbot Type, and a chic serif from Typonine.
Designed by Fernando Díaz
Quiroga Serif is designed for continuous text — legible at medium and small sizes, with great space-saving. Optimized for 6, 8, 10 and 12 points.
Designed by Hannes von Döhren & Christoph Koeberlin
New meets old meets technic, FF Mark is not an average geometric sans. Strong, simple, bold and created with utmost consideration and precision.
Designed by Ricardo Marcin & Erica Jung
Swiftly painted on paper and carefully translated into a font.
Designed by Peter Biľak
Lava was designed for magazine use, but far transcends its original application. It’s a no-nonsense workhorse typeface that can handle large quantities of text with ease.
Designed by Nico Inosanto
Felice is an elegant serif with a humanistic touch.
Designed by Michael Abbink & Paul van der Laan
Designed by Adrian Talbot
Kilburn continues in the fine tradition of fonts such as Franklin Gothic, News Gothic and Trade Gothic offering a contemporary interpretation of the condensed sans-serif — functionality with personality.
Designed by Nikola Djurek
Engineered for chic, highly elaborate typesetting. Nocturno is broad-shouldered and heavy-armed: the rolling, dark silhouettes of its characters create a soothing yet forceful impression that serves to anchor words, no matter where they appear.
PS: The new Codex T-shirts are now available!
Our daily lives are full of noise, but when we immerse ourselves in reading, it seems to disappear. But what if the shapes of the words we read also contain perceptible noise? Does it disrupt the reading process, or do we learn to filter it out?
When I was in elementary school I really didn’t like conventional Persian typefaces. They seemed very noisy with their inelegant spacing and lack of even minimal kerning. Mechanical typesetting systems had proved to be ill-suited to reproducing the graceful, historic shapes created by calligraphers, who had far more flexibility in drawing and combining letters. And these awkwardly adapted letters were directly transferred to digital typesetting systems as well, with the result that a whole nation had to adapt to a new type of writing system that was aesthetically inferior to and less readable than traditional handwriting.
Negative Space in Persian Calligraphy
The beauty of Persian calligraphy lies in a complex system that developed over centuries, finally culminating in the Nasta’liq style. It includes principles that govern not only how letters and words combine, but how negative space is managed to produce consistent text lines and consistent text colour throughout those lines. For example, the principle of Khalvat va Jalvat (Persian for “expansion and contraction”) governs the position of individual letter combinations to distribute the negative space throughout the lines so every word has the same grey. This is similar to letter spacing and kerning in roman scripts, but much more complex because the heights of individual connections change dynamically to harmonise the negative space around the letter fusions. Another important principle, Savad va Bayaz (“white and black”), governs how letters and letter combinations should be shaped to produce an even pattern throughout the text; it deals with the proportions of letters and the relationship between the black space of the letters and the white space of the counters. Thus far, digital emulation of all these parameters has proven impossible or impractical, and although some digital Nasta’liq systems are available today, none even comes close to fully emulating the complex balance of handwritten script.
Another important feature of Persian calligraphy related to the management of negative space is the use of diacritics. Naskh, the calligraphic style from which most Arabic/Persian typefaces are derived, was created for writing long passages of the holy Qur’an, and its design incorporates diacritics, which not only avoid ambiguity when reciting the text, but also shape the negative space around the words. When Naskh letters were adapted for mechanical typesetting they were stripped of their diacritics, but the design of the letters remained unchanged, violating the principle of Savad va Bayaz and unbalancing the negative space. On the other hand, using diacritics is no panacea, as demonstrated by the countless inscriptions with awkward diacritic placement. Furthermore, Nasta’liq is largely written without diacritics, managing negative space either by defining it with an abrak (Persian for “tiny cloud”) or by slanting the baseline to allow letter combinations to stack and better fill the space.
Some calligraphers say that abrak is only ornamentation of the layout and has nothing to do with the negative space. But so often when we remove the abrak we can notice that the calligrapher wasn’t able to perfectly manage the negative space and used abrak to hide the lack of good letter spacing and adherence to the basic principles of Persian calligraphy.
Redesigning the White Space
Computer typesetting and the limitations of the OpenType system impose multiple compromises on Arabic typefaces. In fact, using OpenType to create a conventional Arabic text typeface with balanced white space is nearly impossible due to the fact that the correct positioning of the dots is determined by the word shapes, not the letter shapes. Furthermore, elements of the letter shapes (such as the horizontal position of the baseline and the structures of the connections between letters) are also dynamic, tied to the shape of each word and the surrounding words as well. Thus redesigning the letters to make the white space beautiful presents a significant challenge.
Harir is designed to take advantage of the horizontal lines created by the stroke contrasts. Counters are larger, bringing their upper parts into alignment with these black zones, and dots are also placed in these zones wherever possible. This emphasizes the black zones and creates two parallel white zones, leading the eye smoothly across the text. Noise around word shapes is reduced, letter combinations are more consistent, and the essential structure of the conventional letterforms is preserved.
Sketches and the Design Process
Generally, the structure of Harir is based on Arabic/Persian typefaces like Nazanin and Mitra. (I can’t overemphasize how much the works of Tim Holloway have been an inspiration for me.) I based the calligraphic elements on the Nasta’liq and Naskh styles, drawing occasionally on Thuluth calligraphy as well. The stroke cuts are angled, and the beginnings and ends have the same angle. After I finished the design I noticed that the letterforms had also been influenced by contemporary automobile designs.
Early versions of Harir used a straight baseline, but I eventually switched to a curved baseline, which is more elegant and more typical for handwritten text (especially in Persian culture). I didn’t create discretionary ligatures; they would have created irregularities in the text pattern like “speed bumps” that would slow the reader down. I started with the bold font, generating seven versions during the design process and making minor changes to the typeface at every stage. Afterwards I proceeded to the regular and finally the optical sizes.
When I saw Robert Slimbach’s elegant, modern Warnock Pro I realized that we didn’t have anything like it for Arabic script. In Harir, I worked not only to create more solid, attractive word shapes, but also something delicate, like the calligraphy pieces of Mirza Gholam Reza Isfahani, the master of Siah Mashq or “black exercise” pieces. These works are not created primarily to be readable, but to display combinations of letters in perfect balance and elegance. There are other calligraphers who have created very graceful calligraphies for text purposes, and their works have also influenced me profoundly.
I wanted Harir to be legible both at text and footnote sizes. I redesigned it to work at smaller sizes, and made some adjustments to improve legibility, following the example of Mirza Mohammad Reza Kalhor, the Persian calligrapher who adapted Nasta’liq style for newspaper lithography in the 18th century.
In Harir Caption, the white space of counters is virtually untouched, while the stroke contrast is reduced, the spacing of dots and diacritics is increased, the teeth are raised to make them more visible at small sizes, and letter spacing is increased to prevent letters from merging into each other. Eventually I ended up with two weights, adjusting them to three different sizes: Display, Text and Caption.
A world of global communications demands fonts that support multiple languages and scripts. After Bahman Eslami completed Harir, Peter Biľak developed a special version of Lavato serve as Harir’s Latin character set, perfectly matching its weight, rhythm and contrast. Designers of non-Latin typefaces are often forced to adapt Latin design principles when they want their fonts to work well in multilingual settings. This can result in distorted letter shapes that deviate from the script’s tradition and heritage, impairing readability. Harir and Lava provide a unique combination that enables professional-quality multilingual (Arabic, Latin, Greek and Cyrillic) typesetting with no compromises.
Erik van Blokland developed tools that made kerning and mark positioning in Robofont a piece of cake. Adding and modifying right-to-left kerning on large character sets is very fast, as is adding marks for Arabic vocalisation.
Harir is not merely a technological solution, but is designed to make text reading a smoother and more pleasant experience on screen and in print.
Lava: Voice of a Magazine.
In Spring 2012 I started working on Works That Work, a new magazine which launched in February 2013, and as strange as it may seem, one of the first things that I started working on was its typeface.
This was because in the early stages of a previous magazine, Dot Dot Dot, co-founder Stuart Bailey and I had tried to find a suitable form for our content by creating a series of customised typefaces, modified versions of Gill Sans, Plantin and Trade Gothic, for example. But as the magazine matured we changed our approach. We commissioned Radim Peško to produce a text typeface, Mitim, whose successive iterations were used in issues 11–20. Mitim, with all its features, flaws and limitations (a single typeface with no extra styles) became an integral part of Dot Dot Dot’s identity, and the magazine finally found its true voice.
It was clear from the start that Works That Work would be a much more ambitious project: not only would it stretch across multiple platforms (online, eBook, PDF and print), but its content would also be available in various configurations. The typeface would be the sole constant characteristic, identifying the magazine regardless of whether a reader purchased a single article online or a complete issue in print. I wanted the typeface to be the voice of WTW — confident enough not to need to show off, with the comfortable, relaxed manner of an engaged storyteller, ready to handle long stories, but also small captions or titles. I named it Lava.
At that time I was planning to design the magazine myself — it seemed logical, since I was choosing the content, designing the typeface, fact-checking the texts, fine-tuning each story. As the work progressed, however, it became clear that the design of the magazine was important enough to be a significant project, in and of itself. So shortly before the magazine was announced, I approached Susana Carvalho and Kai Bernau and asked them to design it. The design brief I gave them was unusual in that its sole stipulation was Lava; everything else was left up to them. In Susana and Kai I found partners willing to engage with both form and content, and they became Lava’s first users. They learned to work with this new tool, made it an integral part of the magazine, and also provided valuable feedback, identifying bugs and quirks that were fixed one by one.
Since the magazine would be read both in print and on screen, Lava was designed to perform optimally in both high- and low- resolution environments. Lava looks closely at system fonts such as Times and Georgia and aspires to work on screen as well as they do. In print, Lava delivers something that default UI fonts usually lack: refined details, finely tuned proportions and meticulous spacing that let the reader forget about the typeface and pay attention to the text.
Lava has now been used in the first two editions of Works That Work magazine, giving us plenty of opportunities to test and improve the whole family. Making a single-purpose font is a relatively quick process, but creating a versatile tool like Lava that works across different platforms, languages, sizes and styles is a lot more complicated. After over a year of testing, we now feel confident enough to release it publicly as a no-nonsense workhorse typeface that can handle large quantities of text with ease.
Lava was designed for magazine use, but far transcends its original application.
by Peter Biľak
Xavier Dupré is a world-renowned type designer. After studying calligraphy and typography at the Scriptorium de Toulouse, France, he collaborated with Ladislas Mandel. Since then, he has established himself in Cambodia where he designs typefaces with as much freedom as possible. He appreciates Licko’s creativity, as much as the fluidity and calligraphic tensions in Slimbach’s works, and the simplicity of the design of Carter or Unger. Xavier began type design on screen but then moved back to pencil drawings on tracing paper and even painting with gouache.
Can you talk to us about your training?
From the age of 15, I spent three years in an applied art training scheme, that exposed me to different types of creation, even though I had been drawing and painting for a long time. Then, I trained in graphic art in Paris. At this time, I met Olivier Nineuil who greatly encouraged me to persevere and invested his time to explain to me some of the essentials; like the simplicity which we should aim for when designing a character. Then, I felt I had to further my training in order to learn how to draw letters, because I was already creating lots of fonts that were as clumsy as they were impossible to use. Furthermore, I realized that the work of a graphic designer in an agency was going to be very boring. Therefore, I went to the Scriptorium in Toulouse, in order to specialize in the letter. I was lucky to receive tailor-made teaching thanks to Bernard Arin who quickly understood my aspirations. I was able to learn paleography, all the Latin scripts since the Roman capital, without much constraint. I was making a font every time I studied a new writing style. Besides, I was making more experimental personal fonts. During my stay in Toulouse, I met José Mendoza, then Gérard Blanchard who left me with very good memories, and my teachers Bernard Arin and Rodolphe Giuglardo whom I still deeply respect. Their teaching was founded on the basics of graphic design rather than that of communication. They made me focus, that I might avoid moving in more fanciful directions, and they led me to discover type for text.
It is during this period that I met Ladislas Mandel, on the occasion of a group visit to his home in Provence. Shortly thereafter, I started to collaborate with him in order to help him digitize humanistic characters he drew in his spare time. Working alongside Mandel allowed me to understand his way of thinking, to get to know better his theories on the evolution of scripts. I did not always agree with him, especially when it comes to sans characters. Mandel considered that there was humanistic writing on the one hand and sans like Univers or Helvetica on the other hand. It was difficult to get him to recognize the interest of humanistic sans and their multiple variants that appeared in the past few years. His approach has influenced and still influences me. He allowed me to see typography differently: the importance of letter proportions and their differences as well as the psychology of readers.
You are one of the few contemporary type designers who expresses his admiration for living type designers…
We all have conscious or unconscious influences. Why not mention them? My influences are diverse. To start with, there are French designers that left their mark on my formative years, like Ladislas Mandel or José Mendoza, who were held in high esteem in the teaching of the letter at the time in France. They left a strong mark on a few French designers too. Afterwards, I liked type designers who are different like Matthew Carter, Roger Excoffon, Eric Gill, Zuzana Licko, Martin Majoor, Jean François Porchez, Robert Slimbach, Gerard Unger, Hermann Zapf. The difficulty when you give out names is that you forget some. All the great designers are of interest to me because each of them manages to create a harmony and a subtle style recognizable from very simple forms: letters. Licko’s creativity has always impressed me, as much as the fluidity in calligraphic tensions in Slimbach’s works, the simplicity of design of Carter or Unger. The audacity in the choice of forms, as well as the accuracy in the designs of Porchez have often attracted me.
What influences do you draw from your environment?
It is difficult to know what are the things from daily life that may influence a typographic design. Sign is an abstract design; furthermore, it is imbued with occidental culture when it comes to Latin characters: therefore inspiration is above all Western. I never wanted to mix anecdotal details that are reminiscent of eastern scripts because I consider that each script is something very particular or unique, without much in common with the others. Indian, Chinese or Latin inspired scripts are in radically different spheres. A Thai sans, like Frutiger designed, will have some signs in common with a Latin character but intrinsically remains a Thai script. It has actually happened that I wanted to reuse elements found in vernacular characters, but I never made very good use of them. Many of them actually stay in my sketchbooks. My life in Asia has more of an impact on my way of seeing society, seeing life in general, than on my work in particular — it is far more global. The connection I have with Cambodia is very particular because it is above all a family history. My great-grand-father was in Indochina a hundred years ago and my grand-father is buried in Phnom Penh. My father was born in Saigon and lived a few years here.
How would you see yourself in terms of belonging to a school?
I am part of a French school because I was trained in France by French teachers. I am conscious that some of the shapes I draw come from this affiliation. However, today influences are globalized, for me as well as for most young designers. It is difficult to differentiate between all of them. The training at Reading University (UK) is a good example because students and teachers come from across the whole world. Personally, I work in a very independent manner. I am not closely linked to a style, to sponsors who have defined sociocultural criteria. Further, what with not being active in France, and being published mostly by foreign foundries, I don’t know if it is possible to say that I am part of the renewal of the French scene. It’s been 12 years since I published my first characters and it is at the same time that I started to live in Asia: it is possible to link my typographic life with my life abroad!
Type designers often mix a few activities. How does it work for you?
I don’t need to work on assignments, even though I do it in very particular cases. It is very lucky, because that gives me a lot of freedom on a daily basis. Actually, I don’t work full time because I do sports in the morning (yoga or swimming) and I like to take my time to live. It happens occasionally that I make lettering or identity work but in general, it is with people I know well. I avoid assignments linked to commercial imperatives which I cannot control, and where deadlines are always too short. I take a lot of time to be happy with the shapes that I draw and I need to take the time to mature my characters. Besides drawing characters, this year I did the layout of a children’s book, and I used the occasion to use FF Masala and FF Masala script. It was a collaboration with a publisher and a writer I know well. This is the kind of work which is rather pleasant and gives me a little break from letter design.
You worked for a few foundries: what differences do you see?
In the past, I chose publishers who were renowned in the market. Today, I know with whom I want to work and my choices have narrowed. The collaborations with Emigre or FontFont are very different and may change from one character to the other. For Vista Sans (Emigre 2005), I was asked to work a lot on corrections. Afterwards, Malaga was accepted as is by the same publisher. At FontFont, the characters are accepted with barely any modification in the design, even though later on, in-house technicians work a lot on the production (kerning, hinting, adding additional glyphs like some diacritics, generating the fonts in different formats, checking compatibility). Sometimes I would have liked to receive feedback in order to improve some inconsistencies. I think that at FontFont, technicians have a lot of respect for the formal choices of the designer. At Typofonderie, they are very demanding in terms of glyph design and above all kerning (which takes a lot of time!) without changing the nature of the designer’s work. It is an enriching collaboration.
Can you tell us a bit about the way you design?
Actually, I like the characters that ‘leave a mark’ on the page, fat letters with massive serifs, like you see on the humanistic or slab characters. These have a roughness which gives them a lot of strength. In the case of a text character, I generally start with the regular roman but, in some cases, when the character is more fit for titling or short text use, I like to start with the bold, like I have done on FF Masala or the Mislab. I initially draw some lower-case a-e-i-l-n-o-d, then the others and always v-w-y-z then x finally. The diagonal lowercase are less interesting in my eyes because they don’t have curves. Then I work on the uppercase, the numerals and all the signs required of a font.
You are from the generation that designed with digital tools straightaway. Has this impacted the way you design?
I started type design on screen but then I moved back to pencil drawing on tracing paper and even painting with gouache. This allowed me to sharpen my eye and see that the fluidity of a curve is not easy to find. We may understand black and white masses more easily with real material at the end of your fingers. By hand, I designed differently, I added more small details, I had difficulties synthesizing the shapes. Vector design helped me to simplify lines. I have always had the calligraphic shapes in mind and, from time to time, I take up a felt-tip brush or a calligraphic pen to write a few words when I need to understand the tension in a character. I never took to the stylus and graphic tablet to draw directly on screen, but it’s possible to obtain good results. Usually, I draw by hand on the touch-pad of a laptop. When it comes to drawing in general (nude, life drawing, still life) — I got back to it last year — and I always come back to paper with great pleasure. Being a bibliophile and collecting old posters, paper is rather important to me.
Can you talk to us about the Mislab in particular?
I had been wanting to design a slab character that was not derived from a sans like Vista. On a 1940s US cinema poster, I found a slab that had an interesting impact and that was the starting point. I erased some shapes that were too geometric, re-calibrated the proportions and sizes of the serifs. The title was set in bold italic. Thus, I started with this weight and I immediately did the bold to see how it looked. For the lowercase, I made some attempts with and without the vertical serifs on the letters c-s-z, but I quickly kept the version without serifs. I kept the serifs on the z because it is a letter without curves, and without serifs it’s a sans — in contrast to the curved letters, a or e which work as a slab, even without serifs. Furthermore, there is hardly enough space to include them. I also tried semi-serifs on the letters v-w-x-y but I came back to more structured horizontal serifs. Vertical serifs have a tendency to close letters and decrease their legibility. It is for this reason that most slab characters don’t have any serif on the a or e. On top of that, in humanistic scripts (even in the Carolingian minuscule), these vowels don’t have serifs. The starting stroke (attaque) on the a may translate as a drop but a straight serif looks heavy. This lack of serifs allowed keeping a horizontal weight (at the top of a-c-s, at the bottom of c-e-s) which gives Mislab this humanistic characteristic. For the italic I kept full horizontal serifs – the norm is to make more cursive serifs – that accentuate this ‘horizontality’ and gives the italics more stability. Despite the rigid shapes and the very sober design, Mislab maintains the warm and convivial aspect of humanistic scripts.
For the design of the Mislab, what role did the specimen play?
I always make personal layouts like fake magazine covers on which I try out my characters. This allows me to see whether the fonts work well in context. For the Mislab specimen I had a lot of fun doing this typographic world map and I spent a lot of time on it. I am passionate about maps of the globe and maps in general so this idea came to me quite naturally. It must not be taken literally, because I had to cheat to include the name of each country on each continent. Names are clearly not on the exact place of these countries, they are actually placed continent by continent. In fact, I realized that Africa has a great number of countries and that Europe includes a lot of microscopic countries (especially since the break-up of the Balkans). When I had space, I added regions like Siberia or Louisiana. Then, the size of the name more or less equates with the size of the country. Capitals or city names allowed me to show the small caps. When the country uses a language with Latin script, I kept the language of the country (Guiné-Bissau in Portuguese vs Guinée Équatoriale in French and Peru in Spanish). I used English by default for countries where the script is not Latin (China, North Korea etc.). In the end we have a very important range of sizes from 4.6 for Bosnia to 151 pt for Russia, which demonstrates the characters in a wide range of sizes.
How do you see your evolution as a designer? Do you think you will ever work on a Didone, which is very different from your style (straight axis, few calligraphic phases)?
I would like to make more characters that can be used in books. Of course, I try to create original shapes, but above all I try to create a functional family, and this is already far from being easy. Each new creation is a personal challenge. A priori, Didones are not among the characters that attract me because I find them difficult to read for text but I can appreciate them in titling where they are usually very elegant. It is not on the agenda at the moment but it is always interesting to give oneself new challenges. Formally, I like the duality between flexibility and rigidity – one may say softness and aggressiveness – and it is likely that I will follow that path for some time. Loose scripts, by this I mean those that reproduce handwriting, like Just van Rossum’s FF Justlefthand have always interested me too: I even have quite a few waiting in the ‘drawers’ of my laptop…
By Dàvid Ranc.
Xavier Dupré’s biography:
After studying in France, applied arts in Valence, graphic design in Paris then calligraphy and typography in Toulouse, Xavier Dupré worked between 1999 and 2001 as lettering artist and type designer in a packaging design agency. In 2001, he moved out of France (he has notably lived long periods in Asia where he settled again recently) and published his first typeface: FF Parango. Since then, Xavier has built a very impressive body of work including another twelve typefaces with FontFont (FF Reminga, FF Tartine Script, FF Jambono, FF Angkoon, FF Absara, FF Absara Sans, FF Megano, FF Sanuk, FF Masala & Masala Script, FF Yoga, FF Yoga Sans); three with Emigre (Vista Sans, Vista Slab, Malaga) and most recently Mislab with Typofonderie.
Xavier has also received numerous awards including three consecutive Certificate of Typographic Excellence from the New York Type Directors Club (2004: FF Angkoon, 2005: FF Absara, 2006: Vista Sans).
An American Gothic from Type Supply, smooth and balanced forms by Typefolio, an innovative face from Optimo, an Art Deco inspired gothic by Neil Summerour, a dynamic slab-serif from FontFont, a calligraphy style face by Great Lakes Lettering, a brush flavoured script from Fontfabric, and a hand-lettered family by Debi Sementelli.
Designed by Tal Leming
From casual to authoritative, classic to contemporary, passive to aggressive, Balto is ready for the job.
Designed by Marconi Lima
Petala Pro combines readability with a gentle but strong personality, the smooth and balanced forms share space with expressive ink traps.
Designed by Maximage
Developed over the past four years by the Swiss design studio Maximage, Programme is an innovative typeface which is based both on calligraphy and computer programming.
Designed by Neil Summerour
Inspired by the Art Deco movement popular at the time of its creation, Directors Gothic was designed with an eye toward expanded utility for use in advertising headline and smart corporate materials.
Designed by Jan Maack
FF Marselis Slab crossbreeds geometric and humanistic forms, creating a freshly dynamic slab-serif family.
Designed by Molly Jacques Erickson & Dathan Boardman
Asterism is a calligraphy style font with a moving baseline and lots of shining personality.
Designed by Evgeny Tkhorzhevsky
Braxton is a brush flavoured script family characterized by excellent legibility in both web & print.
Designed by Debi Sementelli
Cantoni is a hand-lettered family with a variety of standard and alternate characters that play together well.
A contemporary serif from Klim, a hand crafted family by Laura Worthington, a modern classic from Linotype, a transitional serif by Canada Type, a technical sans from The Northern Block, a handmade face by LeType, a humanistic sans from GarageFonts, and a beautiful script by Insigne.
Designed by Kris Sowersby
Contemporary, curvaceous Latin detailing on a Scotch skeleton.
Designed by Laura Worthington
A large and rare undertaking, Charcuterie is a family of ten distinct yet related typefaces, many of which have their own font families, and three decorative / ornamental typefaces.
Designed by Toshi Omagari & W.A. Dwiggins
The long awaited update of the 1929 modern classic by W.A. Dwiggins. Seven weights, from ultra thin to extra black, plus six condensed weights. Each has an italic counterpart for a total of 26 fonts.
Designed by Patrick Griffin, Kevin Allan King & Georg Trump
Designed by Jonathan Hill
Precise curves are met with straight lines and tapered angles to produce a fresh, technical typeface.
Designed by Gabriel de Souza
Only You Sexy is handmade, stylish, modern and multilingual.
A clean, friendly humanistic sans design with good contrast.
Designed by Jeremy Dooley & Cecilia Marina Pezoa
A five weight script typeface that offers a variety of options for you to design beautiful things.
A brush script from Sudtipos, a unicase face by Latinotype, a graceful script via Fairgoods, an optimized serif from Nootype, a plump display by Fontyou, a functional sans from The Northern Block, a strong family by Colophon, a modern rounded sans from Typedepot, another exotic face by Fontyou, and a delicate sans from Tipo Pèpel.
Designed by Joluvian & Alejandro Paul
Based on two calligraphic styles: italic and brush pen.
Designed by Eli Hernández & Daniel Hernández
Grota is grotesque, unicase and exceptional. A very expressive font inspired by hand lettering.
Designed by Alejandro Paul
A feminine, graceful script whose thicker horizontals create a wave-like rhythm. A Fairgoods Exclusive.
Designed by Nico Inosanto
A serif font family optimized for small sizes. It is very sober and simple, with a classic appearance at first sight but the curves and details like the serifs make it very different.
Designed by Franck Montferme & Gia Tran
A new plump typeface with fancy alternates.
Designed by Mariya V. Pigoulevskaya
Functional, rational, utilitarian and subtle in its nature, Kizo is a geometric condensed sans-serif inspired by urban modernist architecture.
Designed by Anthony Sheret & Edd Harrington
Archive’s strength and character lies in the feeling that it has already existed, or simply that it has been through a multiplication process prior to the viewer seeing it.
Designed by Alexander Nedelev & Veronika Slavova
The rounded addition to Centrale Sans family.
Designed by Gregori Vincens, Bertrand Reguron, Gia Tran & Alisa Nowak
An exotic typeface with crazy ligatures.
Designed by Josep Patau Bellart
A humanistic skeleton, dressed up with a hand-made mechanical suit.
A sultry script from Positype, a new level of trimming by Letters from Sweden, a confident sans from Rene Bieder, compact headlines by Typodermic, a layered family from S-Core, a new sans by Wiescher Design, a handwritten serif from La Goupil, and a classic didone by dooType.
Designed by Neil Summerour
Packed with alternates to play with… enough to turn you on and satisfy.
Designed by Göran Söderström
A monospaced version of Trim in 5 styles.
Designed by Rene Bieder
A nine-weight neo-grotesque family ranging from sharp and fine thin cuts to muscle-bound and strong heavy weights.
Designed by Ray Larabie
Built has one job: making solid, compact headlines onscreen.
Designed by Hyun-Seung Lee, Dae-Hoon Hahm & Min-Joo Ham
Core Circus is a layered type family consisting of seven 3D effect layers, eight 2D effect layers and one shadow effect layer.
Designed by Gert Wiescher
Pleasant flow and a warm touch combined with great legibility.
Designed by Fanny Coulez & Julien Saurin
Naïve is a handwritten serif with a poetic and unusual feeling.
Designed by Eduilson Wessler Coan
Encorpada Classic brings the best features of the Didone genre, but with a 21st century look and feel.
Calligraphic flair by DSType, a geometric stencil from Talbot Type, a tempered sans by MVB Fonts, a warm slab courtesy of Dada Studio, a fluid script from Sudtipos, some hand-drawn lettering by Mike Rohde, an art deco inspired face from Tilo Pentzin, a vintage sans by Hold Fast Foundry, geometric forms from HVD Fonts, and a tribute to Ladislav Sutnar by Suitcase Type Foundry.
Designed by Dino dos Santos
Aparo appears to be a very simple bold italic roman typeface, but it has plenty of calligraphic flair, including swashes, collision detectors, alternate characters and a very extended character set.
Designed by Adrian Talbot
Not strictly a stencil font given that several characters are not stencilled. The design has more to do with achieving each character from a single stroke, or series of single strokes.
Designed by Mark van Bronkhorst
A tempered sans-serif somewhere between a humanist and a gothic, MVB Solitaire captures a 21st-century neutrality.
Designed by Michał Jarociński
Its warmth comes from subtle details, classical proportions and traditional forms, while its harmonious structure prevents distraction while reading.
Designed by Alejandro Paul
Rolling Pen runneth over with alternates, swashes, ligatures, and other techy perks.
Designed by Mike Rohde
Designed to be practical, to convey the human character and quirks of Mike Rohde’s normal handwriting and unique hand-drawn lettering with the benefits inherent in digital fonts.
Designed by Tilo Pentzin
High Times takes its inspiration from the eras of Art Deco and Art Nouveau but with a radically contemporary approach.
Designed by Mattox Shuler
This vintage sans takes queues from classic war and workforce posters.
Designed by Hannes von Döhren
Based on geometric forms and influenced by classical 19th-century faces.
Designed by Tomáš Brousil
A tribute to the typography of Ladislav Sutnar.
An energetic upright from Type Together, a geometric sans by Lucas Sharp, a neutral sans from Wordshape, a graceful script by Giuseppe Salerno, a family full of character from Exljbris, a good humoured face by OurType, a Japanese inspired family from Thinkdust, a soft script by Maximiliano Sproviero, a Eurostile inspired sans from TypeManufactur, and a friendly family by Nootype.
Designed by José Scaglione & Veronika Burian
A young and energetic upright italic that approaches readers with hip and somewhat elegant charm.
Designed by Lucas Sharp
With its sheered terminals and true italics, Sharp Sans combines the appealing typographic compensation of the grotesque, with the plump circular bowls of the geometric.
Designed by Ian Lynam
40 weights of neutral, yet formally nuanced grotesk typefaces that take inspiration from Helvetica, Akzidenz Grotesk, Univers and the original metal types from Switzerland.
Designed by Giuseppe Salerno
Rhythmical and full of grace, Starburst is a fusion between calligraphy and typography.
Designed by Jos Buivenga
An economic running sans-serif with a lot of character, suitable for all kinds of publications, apps, and websites.
Designed by Thomas Thiemich
A typeface of warmth and good humour, with italics that are nothing less than sunny and delightful.
Designed by Alex Haigh
A brand new Japanese inspired type family, originally influenced by early swiss geometric-style sans-serif faces that were popular throughout Japan during the 1970s.
Designed by Maximiliano Sproviero
A soft chancery cursive turned into a script, loaded with complete sets of alternates, ligatures and ornaments.
Designed by Georg Salden
Rolls belongs to the Eurostile font style, which was created in the seventies by Aldo Novarese.
Designed by Nico Inosanto
A soft and friendly 16 style semi-squared family.
Ahhhhhh…! That wonderful aha moment when we see the spark in our students’ eyes—when they realize that typography reaches far beyond the font list under the type menu on the computer. The tricky part is getting to that aha moment! When students are learning about typography, is it far too easy for them to simply type out words, choose a typeface and go. The problem is, some novices stretch the type until it becomes so oddly distorted that it looks like a reflection from the “fun house” mirror; some may increase the size larger than the design was ever intended to be; some load free fonts that are so poorly designed with awkward shapes and spacing that one who knows and appreciates typography can actually feel the acid in his or her stomach turning; some simply use Myriad on their designs because it is the default typeface (a good reason to suggest never to use that typeface unless it is backed up with a very good reason). The ultimate goal is for our students to love, honor and respect typography, but getting to that point can be an arduous task and sometimes a painful experience.
As educators in the creative field, we are on a continuous quest to seek new means and methods to communicate, enlighten and connect with students. Today’s youth desires constant stimulation, enjoys multitasking and prefers group activities to individual pursuits. They are extremely accomplished with software and digital communication but less so with interpersonal communication and making things with their hands.
Today’s graphic design students are completely immersed in technology, which makes it a challenge for them to relate to pre-digital typography. In order to make pre-digital or analog typographic and printing techniques and processes more luring, relevant, understandable, and tangible, a collaborative and integrated experience called the “Typographic Carousel” was developed. To date, each year the Type Carousel event has been held on the campus of Rochester Institute of Technology at the Innovation Center, where undergraduate and graduate students, along with faculty members from across campus have participated. The range of disciplines represented at the Type Carousel include graphic, interior, industrial, and new media design, photography and print media, and illustration, studio art, and business and engineering.
This experiential workshop takes the form of a carousel set of exercises, where participants move in groups from station to station in twenty-minute intervals until they have completed the circuit. While at the stations, called Terminals (for obvious associations to typography), participants work together with the assistance of a Terminal Guide— an individual who is knowledgeable with the subject matter— to experience various pre-digital or analog typographic techniques and processes. The following names were selected to identify the techniques and processes at the Terminals:
TRADITION TERMINAL = Calligraphy
TACTILE TERMINAL = Letterpress Printing
TERMINOLOGY TERMINAL = Letter Structure Terminology
TARGET TERMINAL = Typeface Identification
TRANSFER TERMINAL = Transfer Lettering
TRANSCENDENT TERMINAL = Conceptual Lettering
The techniques, processes and activities for the terminals were selected to provide participants with interactive opportunities for firsthand exploration and experimentation while showcasing the diversity of pre-digital or analog alternatives to producing letters and typography— in addition to providing reinforcement of historical information and terminology. The activities were selected for their appropriateness to the venue, the time limit of the event and ease of transportation, set-up and tear-down. We also felt it was important for the participants to work cooperatively in a group setting and to allow for physical movement with the format of the Type Carousel to best address the learning styles of all.
The Type Carousel was designed with a pedagogical synthesis using a learner-centered environment at the base. Participants will learn about the pre-digital or analog techniques and processes through direct experience and active participation; through “doing”. Making connections or bridging through integrated learning is critical to the retention of information. Since individuals learn in different ways, it was important to incorporate all learning styles into the event. We all have preferences in the mode in which suits us best: auditory, visual, tactual, and/or kinesthetic. 1 By using these basic modes in the Type Carousel, participants absorb the information readily and with enthusiasm. As educators, one of our main goals is to strive to effectively teach all types of students so they can learn, and to present information in ways in which students will be more able to integrate and assimilate that knowledge for future application. We have found that the Type Carousel experience provides students with connections between the past and present, along with the various methodologies in a way that they enjoy, and which makes the subject matter more palatable, interesting and memorable.
In addition to gaining firsthand experience, participants also gain knowledge about each technique or process through interaction with the Terminal Guide, written instructions and signage that includes source materials by practitioners and experts. The Type Carousel addresses a number of issues relating to today’s digitally native students. It provides a high degree of stimulation and opportunities for multitasking and group interaction. It also provides the opportunity to improve hand skills (beyond pushing the buttons for a video game). Finally, The Type Carousel experience introduces students to alternative ideas and approaches to creating and manipulating letterforms and typography, broadening their resourcefulness, creativity and problem-solving capabilities. This in turn will encourage students to bring these pre-digital or analog techniques and processes into their coursework and personal projects.
This firsthand interaction makes letters become tangible, exciting, important and meaningful— even sexy— in a way that doesn’t happen in studio lectures. We have discovered that students not only love working with their hands and traditional methods, but they crave it! This pre-digital or analog information is exciting and new to them, and it’s so rewarding to see their engagement and enthusiasm. Many participants commented on the relaxation and the enjoyment of working with their hands slowly with intent and purpose and they were able to accept that there was no delete key or undo command. This is in stark contrast to the hectic pace of working on the computer and other digital media with which they are so familiar, confident and competent. Where the digital realm embraces speed and instant gratification, the analog realm embraces interaction and process. Sean Manchee, one of the participants, summed it up well when he said, “The computer facilitates quick and easy results, but it’s incredibly easy to set and forget without really looking at the small nuances, complexities and relationships of the forms. I think all designers should have hands-on experience with letters.” 2
TERMINALS AT THE TYPOGRAPHIC CAROUSEL
TRADITION TERMINAL = Calligraphy
The inclusion of calligraphy at the Type Carousel was an obvious choice. Calligraphy means beautiful handwriting. All typefaces that we use today trace their origins to hand-written letterforms. Typefaces either pay homage to handwriting in their design, or they are a reaction against handwritten forms. For example, Humanist typefaces reflect handwriting while Geometric typefaces are departures from handwriting.
Looking to the past, before the invention of movable type, all books were produced by highly skilled scribes who created beautiful letters in distinctive styles called hands, using a range of tools such as chisels, quills, brushes, nibs and various types of pens with hand-ground inks on animal skins (parchment). With the introduction of letterpress printing, Renaissance typographers adapted these handwriting styles and systematized them into movable type, a set of elements that could be re-arranged and reproduced. 3 Without looking back, typographers created metal alphabets that reflected both cultural values and the technological capabilities of the time.
The lasting influence of handwritten letters in typography is evident in the shapes and weights of strokes, stress and contrast within letterforms, serif shapes and in the systematic design of alphabets. Although calligraphy has long been replaced by printing methods for broad-based communication, it is still widely used for artistic expression and to create a certain aesthetic in a wide range of applications.
The value of learning calligraphy during the process of becoming a designer or typographer was best expressed by the late Steve Jobs, during his 2005 Stanford University Commencement Speech:
Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and sans serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would never have had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later. 4
A world of designers and typographers are very thankful for Steve Job’s appreciation and respect for calligraphy and typography. Can you imagine — especially in those early days of computers — having to look at the clumsy and awkwardly spaced typography found on platforms other than the Mac?
At the Type Carousel, participants are encouraged to make some beautiful letters using the model sheets, calligraphy markers and paper provided. They use tracing paper over the Chancery Cursive model sheets to trace the letters of their names or to form words. The Terminal Guide provides instruction on the proper way to hold the marker— at a 45° angle to the vertical in order to obtain the correct stroke width. Participants are then encouraged to follow the model sheet without tracing letters to create words.
A student calligrapher serves as guide of this terminal along with support from Kris Holmes of Bigelow and Holmes. The Terminal Guide assists the participants as needed.
The objectives of this terminal are to reinforce general typographic concepts such as stroke weight, stress, letter, word and line spacing and systematic letterform design and structure by having students draw letters by hand.
Participants have remarked that calligraphy is much more difficult than they had expected, but they are very proud by the work they produce. Students often mention that they now notice the similarities between hand-drawn letters and typefaces from this hands-on experience. Many students say that they find it relaxing and said that they would like to continue their practice by taking a calligraphy course so they can incorporate it into their design work.
TACTILE TERMINAL = Letterpress Printing
Letterpress is a great activity for the Type Carousel and students overwhelmingly love it— in spite of the need for a tremendous amount of patience, time, effort and skill necessary. For those readers who have not had the opportunity to try letterpress, it is a printing method in which individual metal or wood typographic characters are organized in reverse reading order, inked, and placed on a 0.918” high press bed, producing a right-reading relief image on paper.
Letterpress printing was first introduced with Gutenberg’s press in the mid-fifteenth Century. Letterpress printing in its evolving variations was the most common method of printing until the mid-nineteenth century; when the introduction of newer technologies such as Linotype and Monotype machines eliminated the need to set type by hand one letter at a time.5 Letterpress has been superseded commercially by offset and digital printing, but its tactile, de-bossed quality still holds a place in specialty projects such as books, posters, artist broadsides, fine art editions and wedding stationery, and is enjoying a resurgence of interest among printers, designers and artists using traditional metal and wood type as well as with digitally-produced typography using polymer plates. Its growing popularity can be seen on DIY sites such as etsy.com, where individual artists are selling products using traditional and digital letterpress printing. Hatch Show Print in Nashville, Tennessee, one of the oldest continuous running letterpress shops in the United States, currently produces over 600 jobs annually for country music, vaudeville and circus show posters. Jim Sherraden, the chief designer and manager of Hatch Show Print, believes in “preservation through production”6 and believes that one of the benefits of sharing the art of letterpress with the digital generation is to “create today’s archive for the next generation, and to welcome this art into the twenty-first century.”7
For the Type Carousel, participants are encouraged to “get their hands dirty” and make an impression as they “ink up” the type and pull posters with the assistance of Terminal Guides Steven Galbraith, Curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at RIT, and Amelia Hugill-Fontanel, Assistant Curator, using their small Sign Presses. Past Type Carousels have also benefited from the assistance and expertise of Tony Zanni of Dock Two Letterpress in Rochester, New York.
Students use a Line-O-Scribe Sign Press to pull posters that are custom-designed for each Type Carousel event to keep as reminders of the experience. Wood and metal type specimens are provided so participants can encounter the type firsthand— nothing more appealing than being able to hold and caress a big juicy Clarendon bold lowercase “a” in your hand!
In addition, examples of the California Case and other organizational tools are provided to show how a letterpress print shop functions and the Terminal Guides explain the process beautifully. Participants are able to experience firsthand by setting up lines of type using a composing stick and the type provided, setting individual letters in reverse order to better appreciate and understand this skill. Additional benefits to the Letterpress Terminal are to reinforce terminology related to printing and typography. The participants are always eager to learn more about letterpress printing through internships and workshops at letterpress shops in the area and on campus to incorporate this into their projects.
TERMINOLOGY TERMINAL: Letter Structure Terminology
Any discussion about letterforms has to begin with a basic knowledge of the terminology; otherwise “talking points” are lost if you have to say “this little curly thing on the end” instead of saying the “the ear on the lowercase two story g”. In order to make this terminal more interesting, we posed it as a game with word boards and Velcro pieces with terms on them that the participants had to attach in the correct spots. In order to make it more memorable, we made the comparison between letter structure (anatomy) and human and animal “body” parts. It is critical that typographers are familiar with these terms, as this information is essential to understanding the systematic approach to alphabet design and to the creation of typefaces and original alphabets.
Terminology to identify typographic characters, such as alphabetic letters, numbers and glyphs, has evolved from calligraphy through the history of typography from metal type to the digital age. Anatomical terms describe components of letterforms and include words such as ear, eye, tail, lobe, spine, and foot. 8 This is far from an exhaustive list, but it provides the context that there are many terms to be learned before one can be considered an informed designer or typographer.
As mentioned by Willen and Strals, “All letters are not created in the exact same way, but common steps are at the heart of drawing letters for typefaces as well as custom lettering treatments.” 9 Furthermore, an understanding of the systematic anatomical design of similar letters such as n, m, h, r, u, is the foundation of handwriting, lettering and typography and leads to the most legible and systematic letterform design and structure. The objectives of this terminal are to reinforce anatomical and other typographic terms that have already been discussed in studio or lab, and to see how much knowledge students have retained.
For this terminal experience, participants try to correctly identify the terms in the time allotted. The guide for this terminal is an advanced level design student who provides support but no answers!
This is a difficult terminal for most participants, which provides evidence that introducing these terms in the studio does not necessarily correspond to students making the connections or recalling the information. For the participants who had never been in a typography class, we give them “cheat sheets” with definitions and explanations of the terms so they can hypothesize where each Velcro piece should go. Although the challenge is tough, students really seem to enjoy the collaborative and interactive nature of the task.
TARGET TERMINAL = Typeface Identification
The ability to identify a typeface by name and to recognize its unique characteristics is an essential skill for designers and this terminal proved to be a challenge and eye-opening experience for most. Any typography lover knows (or should know) that each typeface is created to serve a specific purpose and is most effective if used properly. For example, Times Roman was designed by Stanley Morison for the London Times for ease of reading. Other typefaces, such as Verdana, designed by Matthew Carter, are designed to specifically address the needs of screen use.
From the beginning of typeface design, alphabets have been given names or numbers by their designers or manufacturers. Familiar typefaces include Times New Roman, Century Schoolbook, Futura, Gill Sans and Helvetica. Typefaces regularly undergo subtle transformations and redesigns as needed to meet the needs of each technological development, and as required for legal licensing. In addition, typefaces are now designed specifically to meet the needs of print use or screen application. In order to make quick and effective typographic selections for projects, it is critical that designers can identify typefaces by sight and are familiar with the intended purpose and specific characteristics of typefaces. For example, identifying similar typefaces such as Arial and Helvetica can be a challenge, but a designer or typographer should be able to do so with ease. Helvetica is a print face and Arial is intended for screen use, and this difference must be recognized. In addition, designers and typographers must be able to select and use typefaces that will be most legible and effective utilizing the designated communication and the intended target audience. The uniqueness of each typeface and its intended purpose is expressed eloquently by Will Burtin, American Graphic Designer and Art Director,“Each typeface is a piece of history, like a chip in a mosaic that depicts the development of human communication. Each typeface is also a visual record of the person who created it-his skill as a designer, his philosophy as an artist, his feeling for…the details of each letter and the resulting impressions of an alphabet or a text line.”10
Participants at the Typeface Identification Terminal are provided sheets containing the same word produced in two similar typefaces. The objective is to correctly identify as many typefaces as possible in the time allotted. Students are not allowed to use any digital devices to assist them, but they are allowed to look at printed sheets of many complete typefaces for assistance if necessary (i.e. cheat sheets). To correctly identify similar typefaces, students are encouraged to study the following characteristics in order to make their identifications: serif or sans serif structure, Old Style, Transitional, Modern, Egyptian or Contemporary family relationship, serif design and structure, and other factors such as lowercase a and g structure and Humanist or Geometric Sans Serif configuration.
The guide for this terminal is an advanced level student who assists if necessary. The objectives of this terminal are to demonstrate that selecting typefaces from the font list alone is not enough to become familiar with the intricacies of letterform design and to encourage students to become more invested in and knowledgeable of the difference between print fonts and fonts designed for screen application.
This activity is always a challenge for most participants without considerable assistance from the list of typefaces we provided to choose from. Clearly, using typefaces from the font list is not sufficient for students to really see the intricate details that identify typefaces. The most difficult pairing to identify correctly is generally Memphis and Rockwell.
TRANSFER TERMINAL = Transfer Lettering
You might be wondering, why would we include transfer lettering at the Type Carousel? For those of you who are over the age of 45, you might ask, “who in their right mind would want to go back to those days of rubbing down type?” Before the desktop computer, transfer lettering, also known as press type or rub-down lettering, was used for making comps to show clients how a layout would look. Transfer lettering is type that is rubbed down with a pencil or other sharpened tool one character at a time. It may surprise you that the participants love this terminal!
Transfer lettering was introduced to help designers and boardmen create “comps” of printed materials for approval by clients without resorting to the cost and time of working with metal type. Each transfer lettering sheet contains characters of a typeface at a specific point size to be rubbed down individually with a burnisher, pencil point or similar object. The effective use of transfer lettering requires an understanding of letter and word spacing and baseline alignment. Transfer lettering was largely replaced by the computer, but is still used by artists for small-run posters, screen-printing and paintings and posters, and is enjoying a resurgence of interest by scrapbook artists for personal messaging. Limitations in using transfer lettering include color, typeface choices, point size and the number of letters provided per sheet.
The experience of putting letters down one at a time is recalled fondly by Steven Heller, American Graphic Designer, Writer, Critic and Educator. “I was so happy to forget that process. But you know what? The press-down experience wasn’t half as bad as I remembered it. In fact, it was kind of a Zen-like pleasure to revisit the old vellum sheets of black-and-white letters I once so delicately placed on illustration board when metal or phototype was unavailable or too expensive.”11
While at the Transfer Terminal, participants are provided with pencils and a wide range of transfer lettering sheets from which to choose to write words on graphics paper. Reminders are given to create consistent letter, word and line spacing and to align letters on the baseline properly. These considerations are critical to reading comprehension of text. Since all letters and numbers are different forms, the negative spaces between combinations must be individually considered in order to create a consistent and legible rhythm in text.
An undergraduate or graduate student experienced with transfer lettering serves as the guide for this terminal. He or she observes the work being done, and makes suggestions in the process. The objectives of this terminal are to have students practice skills in letter, word and line spacing and baseline alignment. Transfer lettering is a great way to reinforce these skills, and we knew that this would be a fun way to test this at the Type Carousel.
True to form, this is always a very popular terminal. Students really enjoy working with the transfer lettering and many want to know where it can be purchased— in fact some students are fascinated by it and asked endless questions about it. Some students have a difficult time placing the lowercase two story g correctly with relation to the baseline, indicating that although they work with typefaces everyday on screen, they are not looking carefully at typeface design structure and placement. This has been an astonishing finding for us.
TRANSCENDENT TERMINAL = Conceptual Lettering
To reinforce the idea that letters can be found in all shapes and sizes, we included the Conceptual Lettering Terminal. Challenging what a letter is and what a letter can be, conceptual typography uses letters and words to communicate a message to an audience. Letters can be found objects, results of figure-ground experiments, and made of any material, means or media. Conceptual typography requires a concept to begin and then the sky is the limit! The work of Catherine Griffiths, Jenny Holzer and Stefan Sagmeister exemplify the power that can be expressed through typography using scale, materials, media and message.
Typographers and designers are inspired by familiar and sometimes mundane objects in the environment in the creation of new typefaces. Conceptual Typography refers to the creation of letters from familiar objects in order to communicate with the viewer at an intensely personal level. Stefan Sagmeister is known for making letters out of such diverse objects as tree limbs, sugar, bananas and coins to communicate his ideas.
Participants at this Terminal are encouraged to use the eclectic supplies of everyday objects (such as toys, organic objects, household items and office supplies) that provide sources of inspiration to create a series of letters and/or words of their own design. The Terminal Guides are there to prompt and spark ideas for the participants to help them get beyond the obvious and familiar notion of what a letterform must look like while reminding them that letters must always remain identifiable as letterforms.
Students enjoy this terminal because it is relaxing with no right or wrong answers. Twenty minutes is a very short time for participants to loosen up and really play with the various materials, but students have told us that they have begun to look at letters anywhere and everywhere as a result of this experience, which is a great thing. In addition, they have begun to create letters in their class projects using found objects as their source of inspiration.
LOOKING BACK AND FORWARD
Now that we have conducted three Type Carousel events, we have discovered what does and doesn’t work well for the participants, the venue and the time constraints. We have made adjustments and revisions after each event in order to make the Typographic Carousel a better and more successful event for all participants.
For example, we quickly discovered that some participants wanted to stay at one terminal instead of moving on, so we have established procedures so that all participants are encouraged to visit all of the terminals. We have found that dividing participants into manageable size groups is critical to the success of each terminal. We have divided up the Tactile Terminal (Letterpress) into two lines using two presses, in order to prevent a long wait for participants to pull their posters.
Space and supplies at each terminal are now provided for 10–12 participants to work at each terminal at a time, which is manageable for all activities. If there is a long line at any terminal, participants are encouraged to use large markers and drawing tools on large paper at an adjacent table to experiment with lettering at a large scale while they wait. A variety of large markers are provided for this purpose, including: Hardcore markers; Markwell markers; Sharpie Magnum; Sharpie metallic; Crayola® Slick Stix; Artskills double sided markers. Along with the tools to create new and beautiful letters, we provided a variety of type specimens for the creators to refer to as reference material so they could analyze proportions, strokes and weights. We call this area the Thoughts Terminal (graffiti wall).
We have eliminated the TRANSCRIBE TERMINAL (Typeface Tracing) from the Type Carousel because it was not the right fit for this type of activity. Type Tracing is a beneficial exercise in helping beginning designers, lettering artists and typographers to really see and understand the underlying systems of letterform design, and it is also critical to the process of constructing new alphabets, which students enjoy doing.
To quote Michael Bierut, Pentagram designer and educator, who says, “I loved drawing letters by hand. I spent years manipulating dummy copy, which informed my work.”12 The computer has brought with it assets and liabilities; it has allowed a wider audience to create “professional” looking type that is not necessarily well designed. At the same time, “graphic designers have replaced lettering artists with digital fonts that can quickly reproduce effects similar, though not usually equal, to custom lettering. The loss of personality and individuality found in handwriting and lettering is an unfortunate side effect of the proliferation of type.” 13
Artists and designers are increasingly inspired to create custom lettering for distinctive logotypes, marks and other applications, and custom lettering is enjoying a resurgence of popularity as a statement of originality and artistry in commercial and personal design work. As written by Chen Design Associates,“Letterforms created by hand (complete with irregular weights and personal foibles) communicate directly to the reader on a human level, making the message that much more accessible.” 14 Designers such as Jessica Hische and Marian Bantjes are recognized for their custom and expressive lettering, and the work of both are highly regarded by artists and designers.
So the need for our students to appreciate and understand letterform proportions, construction and alphabet design is greater than ever. We will have to find other ways to accomplish the hand drawing of letters besides the Type Tracing Terminal.
Unfortunately, type tracing is a tedious process for today’s students, requiring considerable time for drawing and for making corrections. This is also not a particularly stimulating group activity; therefore, this Terminal has been dropped from the most recent Type Carousel events.
Terminal Guides are absolutely essential to the success of the carousel to assist participants and to keep things moving— we make sure that prior to the event we match Guide skill sets and interests as closely as possible to skills required at the various terminals. We provide gifts for the Terminal Guides to thank them for their time. It is also important to award the best performers at each terminal with small prizes, so we collect and purchase items such as design and typography magazines, t shirts, decals, stamps, special markers, etc., as prizes, which are awarded by a raffle of names collected by the Terminal Guides during the event. Students really look forward to getting these prizes.
Since the Typographic Carousel is an annual event at RIT, we must continually include new terminals or activities to engage previous participants and to maintain a fresh approach every year for all participants….and for us!
Thus far, a variety of pre-digital techniques and processes have been explored and there are more options we will explore for our future Type Carousel events. The key is to include activities that are interactive, engaging, time-sensitive and enjoyable experiences. Other processes present some obstacles of transportability, set-up and tear-down procedures and venue restrictions.
Current design trends using letterpress, expressive hand lettering and other pre-digital or analog processes in advertising, print campaigns, web and interactive media, journals and DIY websites and blogs have also fueled student interest , and our Type Carousel has helped them realize how they can do it and that they can do it. This resurgence in “old school” methods represents a desire to return to a more personal and artistic mode of expression and communication than the computer alone provides. We have discovered that students are increasingly taking their hand-drawn and pre-digitally produced images and scanning or photographing them to include in their design projects. It is rewarding and exciting to see students incorporating this more personal visual expression into their coursework and personal projects and embracing analogue processes as experimental tools.
This kind of interactive circuit activity has potential for broader application and populations, and we hope to include pre-digital or analog techniques and processes from other disciplines to reach a larger and more diverse audience. It is also appropriate for team-building exercises for professional groups and organizations to get in touch with their inner type!
By Carol Fillip and Lorrie Frear
Edited by Charity Burgio
Header Photo by Elizabeth Lamark
1. Laura Shea Doolan, Andrea Honigsfeld, “Illuminating the New Standards with Learning Style: Striking a Perfect Match,” The Clearing House,Volume 73, no.5 (May/June 2000): 275.
2. Lorrie Frear, “Point/Counterpoint: The Dance of Teaching Calligraphy in a Graphic Design Environment,” Letter Arts Review Volume 24, no. 3 (Summer 2010): 32.
3. Bruce Willen and Nolen Strals, Lettering & Type, Creating Letters and Designing Typefaces, (Princeton Architectural Press, 2009), 6.
4. Steve Jobs, “Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech.”
5. Ilene Strizver, Type Rules, The Designer’s Guide to Professional Typography (North Light Books, 2001), 20.
8. Ellen Lupton, Thinking With Type, a Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, and Students (Princeton Architectural Press, 2004), 34-35.
9. Bruce Willen and Nolen Strals, Lettering & Type, Creating Letters and Designing Typefaces (Princeton Architectural Press, 2009), 49.
10. Ben Rosen, Type and Typography: The Designer’s Type Book (Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1963), VI.
11. Steven Heller, “Homage to Velvet Touch Lettering.”
12. Michael Bierut, “Designing, Writing, Teaching: Not My Real Job.”
13. Bruce Willen and Nolen Strals, Lettering & Type, Creating Letters and Designing Typefaces (Princeton Architectural Press, 2009), 29.
14. Chen Design Associates, Fingerprint, The Art of Using Handmade Elements in Graphic Design (How Books, 2006), 01.
Bierut, Michael. “Designing, Writing, Teaching: Not My Real Job.”
Chen Design Associates. Fingerprint, The Art of Using Handmade Elements in Graphic Design How Books, 2006, 01.
Doolan, Laura Shea and Andrea Honigsfeld. “Illuminating the New Standards with Learning Styles:Striking a Perfect Match.” The Clearing House, Volume 73, no. 5, (May-June 2000):274-278.
Frear, Lorrie. “Point/Counterpoint: The Dance of Teaching Calligraphy in a Graphic Design Environment.” Letter Arts Review, Volume 24, no. 3, (Summer 2010): 28-35.
Heller, Steven. “Homage to Velvet Touch Lettering.”
Jobs, Steve. “2005 Stanford University Commencement Address.”
Lupton, Ellen. Thinking With Type, a Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors and Students. Princeton Architectural Press, 2004, 34-35.
Rosen, Ben. Type and Typography: The Designer’s Type Book. Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1963, VI.
Strizver, Ilene. Type Rules, The Designer’s Guide to Professional Typography. North Light Books, 2001, 20.
Willen, Bruce,and Nolan Strals. Lettering & Type, Creating Letters and Designing Typefaces. Princeton Architectural Press, 2009, 6, 29, 49.
Delicate yet solid curves courtesy of Sudtipos, a sturdy serif from FontFont, a cosy type family by FDI, a whiskey & gin inspired face from Hold Fast Foundry, tetragonal splinters from Benoît Bodhuin, a Dieter Rams inspired face by The Northern Block, a minimalist sans from Mostardesign, a dotted typeface by Nina Stössinger, a versatile sans from Hoftype, and a new softened slab by Insigne.
Designed by Guille Vizzari
Delicate yet solid curves, serifs and endings give each composition a fine, elegant and exquisite feeling, along with a firm and sturdy look.
Designed by Slávka Pauliková
Based on a detailed study of today’s handwriting styles, the main focus was on transforming handwritten shapes into a serif text typeface, not a script face.
Designed by Sebastian Nagel
Based on the idea of letters with a subtly curved and slightly modulated line. Through this, the typeface has a warm and friendly, almost haptical appearance which brings some kind of cosiness to your communication with type.
Designed by Mattox Shuler
Designed by Benoît Bodhuin
Fractured into multiple tetragonal splinters, rectangular modules slightly spaced, like quartz and pixels.
Designed by Mariya V. Pigoulevskaya
Inspired by the work and principles of the iconic german industrial designer Dieter Rams, who is closely associated with the consumer product company Braun and the Functionalist school of industrial design.
Designed by Olivier Gourvat
A sans-serif with a technological and minimalist look, it has six versatile weights from Air to Black with an alternative glyph set to improve its use in different graphic contexts.
Designed by Nina Stössinger
A dotted typeface loosely based on the 13 punched-out caps on Marcel Duchamp’s 1934 Green Box.
Designed by Dieter Hofrichter
A forcefully drawn monoline face, Qubo is neutral, cool and very versatile.
Designed by Jeremy Dooley
Crafted from Sancoale’s simple geometry, new softened slab serifs provide a lively typeface that conveniently enhances its cousins: Sancoale Softened — a sans with blunted terminals; Sancoale Slab; and, certainly, the first Sancoale.
A deco style numbers font from Joshua Mayfield, a calligraphic text family by District, a ligature packed display face from Nootype, a contemporary stencil by Atlas Font Foundry, a family of contradictions from Typotheque, a flexible gothic digitized for the first time by Hamilton Wood Type, and a single face with 9 fonts within from DSType.
Designed by Joshua Mayfield
Originally inspired by the numerals on a vintage clock face, Roloi is a layered numbers font in the deco lettering style, and includes a full set of automatic clock symbols.
Designed by Galen Lawson
The natural follow-up to the popular Fair Sans — now a text family based on the calligraphic structure and casual construction of its predecessor.
Designed by Nico Inosanto
Fitigraf is a mix between a classical serif font and graffiti street art.
Designed by Christoph Dunst
Designed by Nikola Djurek
The Lumin Family includes slab-serif, sans-serif, condensed and display typefaces, all of which play with the idea of contradiction.
Designed by James Todd
The Unit Gothic series was originally released by Hamilton Manufacturing Co. in 1907. This set of 7 fonts was designed to aid in press room efficiency and its incremental variation in widths gave poster printers unprecedented flexibility in fitting copy while using consistently harmonious fonts.
Designed by Dino dos Santos & Pedro Leal
Diversa is a typeface that takes a very different path from the most fonts, both in terms of appearance and usability. Diversa is a single typeface with 9 fonts within, containing 2760 glyphs, divide in 9 stylistic sets.
A no-nonsense sans from Lineto, a layered type system by Latinotype, a charming hand made face from Voltage LTD, delicate and flowing curves courtesy of Typesenses, a contemporary sans by VirusFonts, a classic titling serif from Domahoka, a Swiss inspired sans by Wordshape, and a modern sans from Nootype.
Designed by Laurenz Brunner
Strikes a balance between conceptual rigour, skilled workmanship and measured idiosyncrasy, resulting in a no-nonsense sans-serif text font with unmistakable character yet universal appeal.
Designed by Daniel Hernández & Paula Nazal Selaive
A typeface made of layers — Trend is trending.
Designed by Ray Fenwick
Painted on a wall by an eccentric Canadian with a paint roller. The result is an unusual combination of straight, evenly weighted strokes and rough, handmade charm.
Designed by Sabrina Mariela Lopez
Wishes Script offers a complete range of possibilities: frames, ribbons, hearts, flowers, ornaments, swashes, endings, ligatures and all the alternates you need.
Designed by Jonathan Abbott, Jonathan Barnbrook, and Julián Moncada
A contemporary sans-serif typeface with an agreeable character, Doctrine Sans is the moderate comrade of the display typeface Doctrine Stencil. By blending elements of twentieth-century neo-grotesque, humanist and geometric styles, Doctrine is at once universal and idiosyncratic.
Designed by Mark Ho-Kane
A classic serif titling face ideal for setting at large sizes; slightly condensed, light, with a very fine weight on its thinnest strokes.
Designed by Ian Lynam
A family of 40 weights of neutral, yet formally nuanced grotesk typefaces that takes inspiration from Helvetica, Akzidenz Grotesk, Univers and the original metal types from Switzerland, yet had a slightly larger x-height for more pronounced legibility.
Designed by Nico Inosanto
The sans-serif version of Selfico, designed by Nico Inosanto in 2013.