Jim Williams is a senior lecturer at Staffordshire University, where he compiled an excellent series of student handouts about typography. In 2010 the handouts were featured on Creative Review’s blog which generated interest from publishers. The handouts have now been published in book form as Type Matters. Williams is well qualified to write this title; he has worked as a typographer and designer since 1982 and has taught design at Staffordshire University for eighteen years.
If you’re like me and use the margins in books for commentary (‘Interesting idea.’ or ‘The author is insane!’), cross-references (‘see also Book X by M. Malaprop.’), and comparisons (e.g. ‘cf. p.58.’), then you might also share my frustration: In many, if not most books, the margins are just too small.
The story begins in 2006 with a trip down Route 66. Day in, day out, I looked at U.S. traffic signs that were either set in the old, somewhat clumsy “FHWA font series” or the new Clearview HWY typeface. Approaching the signs, I would often test myself: which typeface works best from a distance, and which of its features or details might be responsible for its performance. I had so many more questions than answers. Surely every professional type designer has at least an inkling of how a signage typeface should look: Probably it sports a rather clean sans serif design, open counters and a rather large x-height. But which x-height works best, and why? What is the optimal stroke width? A monocular or binocular g? Should the design be somewhat condensed to permit more information on a sign, or rather should it be relatively wide so that individual letters are more easily differentiated?
I remember a conversation from back in my student days where my typophile friends and I debated what the ultimate typeface of the twentieth century was, a typeface that summed up all of the era’s advancements and knowledge into a coherent whole, one that would be a reference for years to come. Helvetica was one of the candidates for its sheer ubiquity, proof of its overall acceptance. Another, more subtle proposal was Jan van Krimpen’s Romulus, one of the first typefaces to have related Sans and Serif versions. And another, my personal pick, was Univers by Adrian Frutiger.
The day before leaving for India I had a client photo-shoot — pretty simple, no lighting — to show that choosing your bike over your car is good for the world and is also safer. And then I got on a airplane, pretty much setting an entire gas station on fire to study typography at Type Camp in India.
Based near Burford, Oxfordshire, Fergus Wessel is a letter cutter producing fine memorials that can be seen throughout the UK, including St Paul’s Cathedral. Naomi Chapple interviews him in his workshop on his love of lettering and, in particular, the relevance of good typography in his work.
Save our signage
Recently, I posted an interview with type designer Verena Gerlach in which she laments the disappearance of shop signage & lettering (sources she’d used to design FF Karbid). Shops change hands, old signs are taken down or painted over and, in the process, numerous examples of wonderful lettering are forever lost. And that got me to thinking about their ‘digital’ preservation. As a keen user of Instagram, I see hundreds of great photos of signage and lettering, many of them geotagged.
Honesty in form is one of the major tenets of modernism. In other words, a design should accomplish a narrowly defined function in the simplest manner possible. This belief is extolled in many design disciplines, including typography. In 1931, Eric Gill wrote:
FF Ernestine is Nina Stössinger’s debut release. Wide & open letterforms sporting slab serifs, & a generous x-height ensuring its legibility even at the very smallest sizes. Topped with stylistic & contextual alternates, arrows, & two sizes of smallcaps — this is quite the recipe for a charming, robust, & versatile text face.
Available in four weights — Light, Regular, Demibold, & Bold — with complimentary italics, & even an Armenian counterpart, drawn by Hrant Papazian. For further information, visit the FF Ernestine mini-site, or FontFont.
The Week in Type
Welcome to another ‘week’ in type. So much is happening, I can barely keep up. If you haven’t already read it, then head on over to Typographica for their brilliant list of 50 favorite typeface releases of 2011. A great list and some fine reviews. Really like Typographica’s use of FF Quadraat. I am working on my own list of ten typefaces, to be published within the next two weeks.
by Taro Yumiba
By Taro Yumiba
How and when did you become interested in typography & type design?
At university I majored in graphic design. I used to leaf through typeface catalogs in search of letters to use in my poster design assignments. However, I could never find any typefaces that matched perfectly what I had in mind, so I began making my own. I was lucky enough to have access to a Macintosh and Fontographer 3.1 at the university lab. At that time the Macintosh wasn’t particularly popular, and few knew how to use them. I found it great fun making fonts from scratch. It took me some time to get used to drawing letters on the computer, but I can still vividly recall the excitement when my font first appeared on the screen. From that instant, I was hooked on designing type.