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.
After more than 10 years, Verena Gerlach has revised and extended her FF Karbid super family, an interpretation of German storefront lettering from the early 1900s. The new FF Karbid is a harmonized redesign of the original typeface. Rounder and less narrow letters lend the shapes more space and balance. Although the contrast was reduced to obtain a harmonious monolinear typeface (without losing its liveliness) it was increased in the bolder weights to improve legibility and achieve a certain elegance. FF Karbid Display is the most obvious spin-off of the original family. More than merely having been assimilated, the letterforms were revised according to a new concept.
More than half a millennium has passed since the invention of moveable type in Europe. It’s now just about impossible to imagine a world without it. That very sentiment is set in ink in this new print collaboration with Stefan Hattenbach. A sumptuous screen-print of gold, white, and black inks on beautiful red Plike paper. A truly stunning print, and perhaps the perfect Christmas gift!
It’s been a while (too long) since the last Week in Type, so without further ado:
Let’s begin with a smile and this great tee from Able Parris:
A lovely short of Robert Warner dancing with his Golding Jobber press:
Another video. This one a delightful spelling video, and some unusual materials for letterforms:
Practice your kerning (or, more accurately, letter spacing) with KernType.
And read Paul Shaw’s comprehensive review.
All you need is a large chainsaw and an even larger piece of ice. Promo video from Monotype for Kobayashi’s Akko:
A little baffled by Google’s foray into Kickstarter projects. Why would one of the richest companies in the world seek crowd-funding for its fonts. The quality of many of the fonts in their library is pretty poor. Perhaps they should stick to investing in technologies for improving screen fonts, rather than publishing more sub-standard fonts in a market that is already bursting at the seams with crap free fonts. See Stephen Coles’ no-holds-barred Roboto is a Four-headed Frankenfont, where he describes Roboto as an “unwieldy mishmash.”
It’s merger/buyout time: First Adobe buys Typekit. Though Adobe fails and fails again when it comes to software, when it comes to fonts, they’ve done well. If they keep the present Typekit team — and they’ve announced that they will — then it’s a really great move.
Then Monotype (Linotype, ITC, et al.) bought Bitstream (MyFonts). Looks like a good deal for Monotype. Not sure what it will mean for customers. Perhaps this is a good time for new players (distributors/resellers) to enter the market?
In case you missed it, FontFont has a page devoted to free fonts, including FF Nuvo Web Medium.
Typographic Design in the Digital Domain: Elliot Jay Stocks interviews Erik Spiekermann:
Great to see the Ludlow Projectt has reached its funding goal. Still time to add your support:
Oded Ezer has a great new Hebrew Typography blog:
Think you’ve seen it all? Leg hair letters (upper- & lowercase):
I gave up trying to find a segue from leg hair to Matthew Carter, so:
Highlights from Paul Shaw’s interview with Matthew Carter for the TDC. A must-see:
How to enable more languages in InDesign CS5.5
FontLab Studio 5.1 released at last. Now compatible with Lion.
What Should I Look For In a UI Typeface? (comments are more valuable than the article).
The trouble with font classifications
Putting the ‘Fonts’ into Webfonts
Seminario de Profundización y actualización profesional en Tipografía
Interactive Typography Effects with HTML5
James Mosley on the Elzevir letter
My Type of Music
The Typography Out Approach
Video interview with Oded Ezer
Still controversial, but if you are in the yes camp, here’s how Ralph Hermann thinks the capital Eszett should be drawn:
Further details on Ralph’s excellent blog, Opentype.info.
New & notable type
A display type that’s as fat as they come. Meet Daisy from Ludwig Übele:
Erler Dingbats is free to download and use for both private and commercial use. The core glyphs are from FF Dingbats. You can read more about it on the FontShop blog, the FontFeed; and download it here.
Importantly, it’s Unicode friendly, mapping to Unicode address U + 2700 through U + 27BF, so you can use it on websites and embed it in apps.
Many more great new releases featured on Typedia.
Have a fantastic weekend.