The Condensed Typeface Design Program at the Cooper Union is a five-week-long studio course that at first glance, simply teaches the basics and traditions of typeface design. In reality, it was an amazing and intense summer spent with passionate people immersed in the world of type. During the 12-hour days (with breaks!) we studied type history, calligraphy, different drawing techniques, and learned the process of designing and digitizing a font. Most of the program time was spent on a final project in which each of us created an industry-standard OpenType font.
Book review — Inside Paragraphs
I have long admired Cyrus Highsmith, both for his type design (Benton Sans, Prensa, Zócalo, & many besides) and his wonderfully unique style of illustration and lettering. In his debut book, Inside Paragraphs: typographic fundamentals, he brings both of these talents to bear on a single topic, the paragraph. The book might alternatively have been titled ‘Space: the initial frontier’ for its principal focus is what goes on inside — not a book, not a page, but — a single paragraph of text — and as what goes on inside is mostly space, white space, or negative space, it is the ideal starting point for an introduction to the craft of setting type, to typography.
Closing your eyes to see, covering your ears to hear
It has been a while since my last roundup, so buckle up. For those interested, I recently moved 4322.8 km (2686.06 miles) from my home in Japan to my new home in Vietnam. After nine wonderful years in Japan, it was time to move on. The other day I read an interview with my friend and too-infrequent chess partner, Oliver Reichenstein, who pretty much describes my own feelings on reaching Japan.
Stéphane Elbaz is graphic and type designer working in New York and Paris. In 2009 he was awarded the Certificate of Excellence in Type Design from the Type Directors Club of New York for his type family Geneo, recently published by Typofonderie. He is the first typeface designer from outside the foundry to be published by Typofonderie.
In a way, my research into the ‘Amsterdamse Krulletter’ (Amsterdam’s Curly Letter) began eight years ago as I was walking down the streets of what is possibly the city’s most beautiful district, the Jordaan. As every local knows, this area hosts quite a few of the old, traditional pubs that the locals call ‘bruin cafés’ (brown cafés). In urban environments, type designers are always looking at letters, and especially at hand-painted ones. It didn’t take me very long to notice that many of the pubs in the area had their windows painted in a very interesting and beautifully executed script. Later I discovered they had been painted throughout other parts of Amsterdam too, notably also in the De Pijp area.
A wonderfully eloquent and thought-provoking talk by writer-designer-publisher, Craig Mod. After outlining the differences (physical and emotional) between the book as artifact and as digital, he addresses how we might reduce the experiential gap. Well worth 40 minutes of your day.
A sudden bolt of inspiration would makes for an enticing story of a typeface’s beginnings, one that would perhaps be helpful when marketing it. However, in reality, not all typefaces come into the world that way. Sometimes, as was the case for Novel, the idea slowly percolates. Even the somewhat unspectacular name I chose for this family reflects that process.
There are two different interpretations of the concept of the private press. There is an approach that takes the term in a very wide sense. The hallmark of the private press is that the profit making principle is non-existent. Financial gain is not part of the process. The printer produces a book purely for personal satisfaction or for the pleasure of a circle of friends — the ‘book for book’s sake’.
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?