I Love Typography

Sunday Type

National Feijoa

Is it really Sunday again? Well, for some of you it will be Saturday, so here’s your Saturday/Sunday—or better still— Weekend Type. Oh, but first a quick announcement: the great response to the announcement of FF Meta Serif took us beyond the half a million page views. Thanks to everyone for being a part of that; more importantly, thanks for your contributions, your enthusiasm and support.

OK, so on with the show. Those of you who read the FF Meta Serif piece will know the name Kris Sowersby; he’s one-third of the trinity that worked on the serif version of Spiekermann’s ubiquitous FF Meta. I’m not sure which one he is, but I guess that Erik Spiekermann is the Father, so he’s either the Son or the Holy Ghost.

For those of you who don’t know Kris, he’s a professional type designer from New Zealand, and the man behind the typographic design studio KLIM (not to be confused with KLM, the Dutch airline). He’s also the designer of the sans serif National,

national-klim.gif

National is a deceptively simple sans serif with subtle quirks in the details that give it a distinctive—but not distracting—personality.

and the gorgeous serif typeface, Feijoa:

feijoa-klim.gif

For those who like to drool over type designers’ sketches, then head on over to Kris’ sketches page (go fetch a napkin first).

kris-sowesby-moleskine.jpg

Kris has kindly agreed to review some typefaces here on iLT, so stay tuned. I’ll try to arrange an interview too.

Other news:

Upon reading the So You Want to Create a Font series, Dan Reynolds a student on Reading University’s MA in Typeface Design (also designed Morris Sans and is Linotype’s Editor of Font Content), sent me some great links to additional resources:

Student blogs:

Paul Hunt | Sébastien Sanfilipp | Alice Savoie

and a site showcasing the work from the MA Typeface Design class of 2007.

gina.png

You can read Dan’s own TypeOff blog here.

Well, time for me to get back to writing Type Terminology: Old Style, the follow-up to the Humanist article.

Oh, just one more thing (almost forgot): I’ve created a few desktop wallpapers and a RSS Feed Desktop Widget. If you’d like to share the love, then why not make your own desktop wallpaper and upload it.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

veer-ilt-logo.png


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  1. “Blogs of fellow students:
    Paul Hunt | Sébastien Sanfilipp | Alice Savoie”

    Nota Bene: Paul and I are MATD students in Reading this year, but Sébastien studied at KABK in The Hague last year (and this year, too?), so he isn’t at Reading. And Alice was in last year’s Reading MATD course, so she isn’t a fellow classmate of mine either, unfortunately ;-)

  2. Thanks for the article. And thank you very much for the wallpapers. I am now using the yellow ilovetypography one. I can’t wait for the Old Style article!

  3. Dan
    Thanks for the clarification (and for the links).

    Webarmy
    Pleased to hear you have some love on your desktop :)

  4. Chris Perardi

    I’m absolutely in love with National. It’s rare to see a grotesque with an italic that actually has some sort of personality. And it’s great it has real small caps and oldstyle numerals.

    Now, if I can just convince my boss to free up some money in the budget for typefaces…

  5. Hmm … Feijoa. Exotic name. Interesting type. Large x-height. Don’t know if I like that. Gina is a little nicer. Smaller x-height, which I like. Mostly, tho’, there’s is something so familiar-looking about it. What is that? Have I seen it in some major in-your-face everywhere campaign or something?

    I, too, cannot wait for the Old Style article. Truthfully, I was expecting/hoping I’d be reading it by now. I’ve come to realize my preference for types is Old Styles. I think I mentioned Palatino was the first serif I used repeatedly—still do for correspondence—and Adobe Garamond was the first font package I purchased way back in 1990.

    I think it’s the low contrast between thick and thin strokes that really gets me to favoring Old Styles.

    Anyway, John, do keep up the good work.

    Oh, and a question about National. There’s a sturdiness I see in the letters—I guess it’s the squareness of the characters’ proportions. And yet there’s a playfulness, too, I think, evidenced by the lowercase “l” and how the “h” is taller than cap height. Was National designed for play?

  6. kris is so stupidly talented, it’s just not fair. his stuff is all gorgeous. can’t wait to break down and license National myself. i’m glad i updated my blog just now as i see you’re linking to it! just don’t try to snoop around the rest of the domain, ’cuz there’s really nothing else there yet. oh, and if you care to follow more students’ progress in this year’s MATD program in Reading, i have links to the blogs of Mathieu Réguer and David Crossland on my site.

  7. Uh, I love those ligatures in Feijoa. They are a little unconventional, (sp & im) but they look great. Thanks for the tip. (EDIT: Oh, I just checked the link that you posted and found out that the font preview does not like ligatures. But it looks nice anyway.)

    Something completely unrelated: I just had a look at the capitalisation of your articles. Do you have any rules for this? I just wrote a weblog post about proper capitalisation in headlines and it seems that there no rules at all. It would be interesting to hear your input on this.

  8. A nice read for a Sunday evening. Also, some nice eye candy for the type designers. You guys have a some great stuff, I wish there was a program like that in my area.

    Keep up the great work Johno, looking forward to the next article.

  9. Kia ora folks,

    Thanks for all the kind words!

    Steve: “Hmm … Feijoa. Exotic name. Interesting type. Large x-height. Don’t know if I like that.”

    Perhaps this the same sort of initial reaction that you had to Meta Serif?

    “Was National designed for play?”

    I am not sure that I understand this question, sorry.

    Squawk: “They are a little unconventional”

    Totally! Bear in mind that the are purposefully decorative, and can only be activated via OpenType-savvy apps.

    —K

  10. Sorry, Kris, I was wondering whether National was designed to be used in a playful context, perhaps for display ad work promoting “fun” products.

    See, I’m trying to get a handle on sans serif types. To me, they almost always seem to have more expressed personality than serifs, which almost always strike me as more button-down, perhaps because they are often used for longer stretches of text. So I tend to wonder whether sans serifs are created for particular projects when designed, and then wind up being released for general consumption.

    In the case of National, the “high-top ‘h’” and the “l” with the curving bottom both seem kind of light-hearted and playful to me, so I wondered whether I was seeing something that the designer intended or was just having a reaction of my own.

  11. Nice roundup as usual, John. I’m surprised that it’s already the weekend too. Now, I think I’ll take a moment to put a wallpaper together. (I like your idea on the goodies page comments)

    @Kris
    Great work! You have some beautiful typefaces. I always like looking at sketches and early impressions, gives me an idea of how you plan out your type — something that might come in handy should I ever take the dive!

  12. I like the little flourishes on Feijoa between the… kerning pairs? The little bit between the sp and im in the sample above. They are very unique! Kris, since you’re reading here, what was the inspiration for this face? Oo! I typed my name into the sample box on that link. It’s so beautiful! I don’t see exactly what it is, but this is a very elegant font to me. The serifs on the italic version look too sharp to me, though.

    How does one find inspiration for a face? Those sketchbooks were very cool. Thanks for sharing, John!

  13. Boo, the comment editing isn’t working. I just wanted to add that I absolutely can’t tear my eyes away from the AR initials (it’s not really a monogram… is it?) in those sketches from Kris’ notebook.

  14. I would never have thought of an “i-m” ligature before; I’m surprised how well it works; I don’t recall ever seeing one before; not even Mrs Eaves Just Ligatures has one.

    I think I’ve fallen in love with Feijoa’s lowercase “s”; it’s beautiful. If typefaces were sold by the glyph, I’d start with that lowercase “s”.

    Stephen
    Although I quite like Gina, it doesn’t quite look like the finished article (perhaps I’m wrong); Feijoa, on the other just looks like a typeface that has taken ages to create (I don’t know if that’s true, though I suspect a great deal of love when into it; and remember, I’m not a type designer). Ah, I’ve got it! This is what I mean: Feijoa looks like the typeface of a perfectionist. That’s what I was trying to say.

    Personally, I see National as a workhorse—and more of a Shire Horse than a pretty little pony. It’s pretty no-nonsense. I think it’s summed-up perfectly in that quote I took from Kris’ site:

    National is a deceptively simple sans serif with subtle quirks in the details that give it a distinctive—but not distracting—personality.

    I like just about anything that is “deceptively simple”—it is the most elegant form of ‘deception’.

    It’s the balance that it has achieved that makes it work: giving it some character without making the ‘characteristics’ dominant. Goodness me! I can’t write for toffee today.

    Hamish
    Good to see you. I’m expecting a desktop wallpaper from you that will change the world as we know it. But don’t be nervous about uploading it.

  15. “Is it really Sunday again?”
    My thoughts exactly John. I can’t believe how fast the time flies these days. Nice article though. I really need to get my hands on that Feijoa typeface. :) Good stuff!

  16. Robert
    If you do buy it and use it, be sure to let me know. Enjoy what’s left of the weekend.

    And about the time flying. I once read of it as the concertina effect: as a child of say 10, one has (for the sake of this example) 70 years left. So at aged 10, the passing of one year can be expressed as a fraction 1/7 (of the total time until we meet our sell-by date). By age 38 that fraction becomes approximately 1/4; as the denominator falls, time is perceived to pass more quickly. Just a thought.

    And on that happy note, I’m banning myself from the comments for the rest of the day.

  17. —Steve

    “Sorry, Kris, I was wondering whether National was designed to be used in a playful context, perhaps for display ad work promoting “fun” products.”

    Even though that was not the intention at all, I am pretty sure a good typographer could use it to convey playfulness if necessary.

    To me, they almost always seem to have more expressed personality than serifs, which almost always strike me as more button-down, perhaps because they are often used for longer stretches of text.

    Interesting. I don’t really think that a typeface can be more ‘button-down’ just because of serifs. There are many sans serifs that are more serious than serifs, & vice versa.

    So I tend to wonder whether sans serifs are created for particular projects when designed, and then wind up being released for general consumption.

    Again, I’m not sure this is necessarily true. It may even be the other way around, as sans serifs seem to outsell serifs. Just sort this list by Top 10 for an idea.

    In the case of National, the “high-top ‘h’” and the “l” with the curving bottom both seem kind of light-hearted and playful to me

    Oh, this is just following the convention in most serif (and many sans-serif faces these days) of having a cap height lower than the ascender height. I find that in a text face a lowered cap-height is much nicer to read, especially in languages like German where a lot of capitals are present. The tail on the ‘l’ is merely to help distinguish from ‘I’ and ‘1’.

    —Lauren

    I like the little flourishes on Feijoa between the… kerning pairs?

    Those are decorative ligatures. Sort of like fancy versions of ‘functional’ ligatures like ‘fi’.

    The serifs on the italic version look too sharp to me, though.

    They really are no sharper than the serifs on the Roman!

    I absolutely can’t tear my eyes away from the AR initials (it’s not really a monogram… is it?)

    Those are sketches for an (unfinished) tattoo for a friend. The reason is quite personal, so I can’t tell you what they represent, sorry.

    —Hamish

    I always like looking at sketches and early impressions, gives me an idea of how you plan out your type 

    Don’t be fooled, I am definitely a digital designer! I don’t really plan with sketches, but they are helpful to quickly rough out certain letterforms.

    —K

  18. Kris, I kind of interrupted my thought. I meant to say that I thought serif types strike me as “more button-down” because they’re used for long stretches of text in books, reports, articles, etc. If they’re too much the attention-getters, they throw the reader off from reading through.

    Sans serifs, on the other hand, I think are mostly for display where they’re supposed to leap out and haul readers in. That’s why, I guess, there are more sans serifs—there’s really only so many ways to calmly bring long stretches of words to readers. But for advertising and other display situations, marketing people fall all over themselves trying to find the newest way to get readers, prospective customers, to read their copy. That makes for endless opportunities for new display typefaces.

    I think.

  19. Stephen
    As far as I’m aware those lower cap’s have been pretty popular for about 500 years. The Humanist (Venetian) types had cap’s that were about the same height as ascenders; however, if you look at the Garaldes (the Old Style types, from c. 1495), you’ll notice that, in general, the cap’s are a little shorter than the ascenders (and better for it).

    Here’s an example (above Goudy Old style [a Garalde]; below Caslon [Venetian]):

    cap-height.png

  20. I was aware of the ascenders rising a tad above the cap height, but that “h” seems way more than a tad higher than the “C”. Maybe it’s just to my eye?

  21. I have to agree with Steve a little bit. The ascenders on the lower case h, b, d, ect. seem a little high. I went to the link and tested out some words, but it’s hard to really tell whether is hinders the font or not without actually setting and printing the face.

  22. Boy, I go away for a few days and look at all the excitement I miss… Spiekermann checks in; half a million page views; another Sunday…

    @Kris — Lovely work!

  23. John, Sorry it is a bit off-topic but can you put a list of TOP 10 books (in the new post) about typography? You write about many of them and I would like to put them on my TO-READ list but I need to know priorities - which to buy first etc.

    Thanks

  24. Top 10 books? Uh oh…there’s a touchy subject ;-)
    Everyone has their own top 10 list. And bottom 10, I’d guess. I suppose a list would be “John’s Top 10,” but since this is his site, that would be ok.

  25. Okay, Paul, I don’t have a list of ten, as many of mine are more specifically about book design. But John’s list above is terrific, though I must admit I have not read either the Robin WIlliams or the Felici book. But I absolutely recommend adding Walter Tracy’s Letters of Credit to any such list.

  26. Cody
    I guess Kris is the one to answer your question. However, I’ve just taken a look at the PDF sample for National (40 pages!) and those ascenders don’t appear to get in the way; perhaps they imbue the text with a little more rhythm.

    Alec
    However, I don’t believe there’s any causal relationship there. Good to see you back. Hope all is well.

    Paul
    Dan is right when he says that any such list will be subjective; I have an idea of a list that can be ordered different ways depending on one’s field(s) of interest and level. In fact I might write several lists, each aimed at different fields of interest, e.g. one for grid and layout “freaks”; one for the type design “nuts”; one for the type history “people”; and another general type list.

    Stephen
    I’ll review the Felici book here some time. Alec has written a review of Cheng’s book, that I’ll post soon too.

    Everyone
    If you have your own top 10 list, then mail it to me.

  27. > In fact I might write several lists, each aimed at different
    > fields of interest

    Now, this may turn into quite an excellent bit of assistance for readers.

    Don’t forget the great lists already out there, like the Book entry on the Typophile wiki (especially the Typophile-recommended Triumvirate. Also nice is the different-than-the-wiki Typophile Books section.

  28. Johno
    Like I said ;) Without a printed sample, no way to tell.

  29. Err… my link to the Typophile Wiki entry on books leads to KABK instead!?

    Here is the link as text :(
    http://typophile.com/node/12157?

  30. Sure, I am aware that everyone has its own top 10 and I think this place is perfect for a few options:
    - John writes his own lists as he suggests - that will be very useful as there are people with different knowledge reading this blog
    - John organises a kind of pool where people vote for their own top 10
    - John upload a system that allow users to write their short reviews for different books

    There are two reasons I am asking for that:
    1. I have a very limited time (my son has just been born) and I discovered on this place that I love typography too and want to learn from experts. It would be a perfect summary of John’s experience supported by our views and comments.
    2. As I enjoyed Erik’s Spiekermann lecture, I was thinking about: “Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works” and I went to Amazon but the reviews I found were quite negative.

    Thanks for your response.

  31. —Steve

    I was aware of the ascenders rising a tad above the cap height, but that “h” seems way more than a tad higher than the “C”. Maybe it’s just to my eye?

    is answered by:

    —Cody

    I have to agree with Steve a little bit…but it’s hard to really tell whether is hinders the font or not without actually setting and printing the face.

    It always strikes me as odd when folks look at a few letters & make decisions. If it is a text face, which National primarily is, then it should be judged at text sizes. That is why pdf & printed specimens are issued. It is like listening to a 3 second clip of a 128kb MP3 track and deciding that “I don’t like the album”!

    —K

  32. I’ve been lurking for a good two weeks and today’s the day I de-lurk myself! First off, may I just say, this is a fantastic site and John, you do a most excellent job. Wowza.

    OK, my main query is for Kris, actually, who seems to be becoming a regular contributor, at least for the comments. I was playing around at the link for Feijoa (by the way, I’ve had New Zealand Feijoa vodka, and it is really yummy! But not as delicious as this typeface) and for some reason those delightfully-flirty ligatures don’t work. I’m not a computer or a typography whiz, so perhaps I’m missing a really obvious reason why this is so. Or not..?

    Also, on the Top 10 books idea: I’m pretty new to typography, having started researching it only a couple of weeks ago. I live in a fairly remote area (Cape Breton Island, anyone heard of that? : ) ) and so I’ve been ordering books from the library in dribs and drabs. So far I’ve read a Robin Williams book (I like her wit!), The Non-Designer’s Guide to Type, as well as the fairly dated TypEncyclopedia, (not by Williams). I’ve just ordered Bringhurst’s book Elements of Typographic Style from the library, and am eagerly awaiting its arrival. All this is to say that I’m one more reader who would love some Top 10 action on this blog someday soon.

    One more thing: how does a humble reader produce those great hand-made smiley faces? Are they John-exclusive?

    Now I’ll quit, while I’m ahead. Love the blog! Keep ‘er comin!

  33. Leah, Now I know where you live! Nice location.

    Regarding John, thanks to his blog I got into typography and I love. One thing, John - how many hours a day do you spend on the blog (with all email replies etc.)?

  34. Hi Leah. I just recently saw pictures of Cape Breton for the first time, courtesy of a fiddling fan who goes up there every year. Beautiful place. Winters must be fun ;).

    I read Williams’ book years ago and really liked it. It was a nice introduction to the subject.

    Anyhow, welcome on board. Stick around and soon you’ll be a bona fide type nerd!

  35. Wow there are a lot of comments after just one day! John, how do you keep up with these lightning fast conversations?! Geez!

    Kris, ah! Ligature. That’s the word I was looking for. Still trying to memorize all these type terms. You’re point is well taken about listening to a 3 second clip and dismissing the whole album. I’ve never thought about it like that before. I hope you don’t feel put out (or put off) by our comments. I’m really impressed that you came over here to discuss with us! It’s neat to have a type designer among us and I’ve been very interested in your replies to everyone. I hope you stick around! I think we can all learn a lot from you. Thanks for stopping by :)

    Alec, Type NUT. I am not a nerd, thank you! ;) Glad to have you back!

  36. Kris
    I think I’ll introduce a new strap-line in the header: Print it and see.

    Leah (formerly known as the lurker)
    “De-lurk”. That’s one for me to remember. Well, good too see that you did indeed de-lurk. Welcome to iLT.

    I didn’t think those smilies were so great; but I didn’t think those bright yellow Messengeresque ones quite fitted in. I just opened the original smiley pic’ — from the images directory — and used some punctuation marks. Anyone is welcome to use them.

    Paul
    That’s a good question. I’ve never counted, but it’s 20 hours a week, plus (including time to research and write the articles, answer email inquiries, comments, etc.). I may have to slow down a little over the next two weeks as I’ll be in the UK on business.

    Lauren

    …how do you keep up with these lightning fast conversations?!

    That’s easy: sleep deprivation ;)

    PS: off topic, but just had to mention it. Hamish has just created a gorgeous scrabble-esque iLT wallpaper.

  37. John, where in the UK are you going to be? If near Manchester, maybe we can have a Double Latte!?

  38. Paul M — Yes, ‘tis, quite.

    Alec — Well, since you hate long winters (according to your website), I guess you wouldn’t like Cape Breton. It’s beautiful all year round, in my opinion, but our summers are what bring the tourists. Thanks for the welcome, and I look forward to being a certified Type Nut and/or Nerd… I’m sure it’s grand no matter what it’s called.

    LaurenMarie — I’m with you on enjoying having access to real live type designers … it’s pretty cool.

    John — This is really going to make me stick out as naive, but… what image directory? The way I got these smiley faces to work was by copying and pasting the source code. Am I missing something totally obvious here? (It wouldn’t be the first time. )

  39. Paul
    I’ll be in and around Bristol and Bath. You know that part of the country?

    Leah
    I’ll send you a mail to explain.

  40. John — that’d be grand, thanks! And if not, if you’re too busy, no worries.

  41. Leah
    I’ve sent you that mail. Shout if you have any more questions.

  42. maret

    When I opened the sketchbook my stomach got butterflies, no lie. It’s so beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

    previous post: At last! FF Meta Serif

    next post: History of typography: Old Style

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