This Month In Typography

Welcome to this month’s roundup of type-related info and entertainment. Today, we learn some important typographic pronunciations, figure out how to work with layered web fonts, watch Mark Simonson talk about offset lithography, revisit the 1970 New York City Transit Authority graphics standards manual, see what medieval scribes were doodling in the margins of their texts, read up on the printing trade in India, check out some fonts based on the handwriting of the homeless, see a typewriter modded to use Comic Sans, learn how to make graffiti using moss, and much, much more.

The Pronunciation of European Typefaces

How do you pronounce Futura, Frutiger, Eurostile, Univers, Neue Helvetica, and other European typeface names? This video will tell you.

Specimens of Chromatic Wood Type and Borders (1874)


Some select pages from the exquisite Specimens of Chromatic Wood Type, Borders, Etc. (1874), a specimen book produced by the William H. Page wood type company. Chromatic types, which were made to print in two or more colors, were first produced as wood type by Edwin Allen, and shown by George Nesbitt in his 1841 Fourth Specimen of Machinery Cut Wood Type. It is William H Page’s book, however, that is considered to be the highpoint of chromatic wood type production.

Full-Size Reissue of the NYCTA Graphics Standards Manual


The 1970 NYC Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual (a beautiful piece of graphic design history, designed by Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda), recently got funded on Kickstarter and will be reissued as a full-size book. You can see archival photos of the original manual here.

Type Talk: Gerard Huerta, Master of Hand Lettering

Basic CMYK

Gerard Huerta is one of the most highly-respected and accomplished lettering designers working today. The work of this self-described designer of letterforms cut his teeth designing album covers and logos for the likes of ACDC, Ted Nugent, Blue Oyster Cult, Rick Derringer, Bob Dylan, The Isley Brothers, George Benson, Stephen Stills, The Charlie Daniels Band, and more. Since then, the scope of his hand lettering and typographic illustration has expanded beyond the recording industry to include mastheads, magazine covers, posters, movie titles, branding and graphic identities for advertising and other promotions – even watch dial design!

Huerta is interviewed by typography maven Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio.

Implementing Layered Web Fonts

Layered fonts allow us to do some really neat things, giving us some unique flexibility when it comes to our design. But did you know that you can layer web fonts? Most people have an inkling that it is possible, but as soon as they start to implement it, all kinds of red flags get raised about duplicate content and keeping our markup lean. So, what is the most reliable way to use layered web fonts without hurting our SEO with duplicate content?

Aura Seltzer on Her Typographic Dating Game


Aura Seltzer — designer, typographer, developer — created Type Connection in 2012, a type-pairing system in the guise of a game. Fun and beautifully done, it’s also useful and educational. She is interviewed here by the folks at Typorn.

London Foundry Offering Free Font Trials


An interview with Dalton Maag, which has recently created a font licensing model that offers fully functional fonts free of charge, to be used in pitches and design developments, or for students to use in their academic projects.

Medieval Doodles Prove That It’s Goode to Scribble in Ye Margins


Stick men, scribbles and 1,000-year-old smiley faces adorn the margins and blank pages of the world’s oldest manuscripts. Erik Kwakkel, from Leiden University in the Netherlands, is interviewed about these medieval doodles, here.

New Book: Responsive Typography: Using Type Well on the Web


Responsive web design helps your site maintain its design integrity on a variety of screen sizes, but how does it affect your typography? With this practical book, graphic designers, web designers, and front-end developers alike will learn the nuts and bolts of implementing web fonts well, especially how to get the best appearance from type without sacrificing performance on any device.

Size Matters: Balancing Line Length And Font Size In Responsive Web Design


As we refine our methods of responsive web design, we’ve increasingly focused on measure (another word for “line length”) and its relationship to how people read.

A23D: A 3D-Printed Letterpress Font

The story of the birth of the world’s first uniquely designed, 3D printed Letterpress font.

New Font: Algo FY


Algo FY is a type with broken ductus and a very heavy nod to blackletter, though quite light in appearence. Available in three weights: Light, Regular, and Black.

India’s Dying Printing Tradition


Calcutta was the hub of India’s printing trade in the 19th Century, but with the advent of desktop publishing the industry has modernized and the old hand-printing practices have died out.

Typographic Housewares from House Industries


Known throughout the world as a prolific type foundry, House Industries has made a considerable impact on the world of design.

Furniture Typeface: Interiors


From designer and art director Joel Wolter comes Interiors, a 3-dimensional type experiment on a large scale.

A Typeface Created From Carved Out Japanese Books


Yoshihisa Tanaka and Ryuta Iida created an “oratorical typeface” entirely carved from Japanese books. Meticulously cutting through page after page, the artists managed to create a 3-dimensionally layered alphabet. There’s something poetic about deconstructing an entire book to reveal a single letter.

Homeless Fonts


Homelessfonts is an initiative by Arrels Foundation to create a collection of typefaces based on the handwriting of homeless people living on the streets of Barcelona. Profits then go to helping some 1400 people supported by the Arrels Foundation.

The Development of Balto


Balto is Tal Leming’s take on a classic American Gothic typeface style. Read all about Balto’s long, painstaking development here.

Woodcutting a magazine: Little White Lies 42: The Lawless Issue

In a hearty salute to the self-made ‘moonshiners’ at the center of John Hillcoat’s downhome bootlegging caper, Lawless — the cover movie of Little White Lies issue 42 — in keeping with the film’s authentic tone and aesthetic, the cover, section headers, feature titles and illustrations have all been hand-carved from Japanese plywood.

Smart Medieval Bookmarks


This post introduces various ways in which monks and other medieval readers kept bookmarked their books.

Waiting for the Bus


Waiting for the bus just got a bit more fun with this large ‘typography’ sculpture recently unveiled in Baltimore. Created by Madrid-based artists Emilio Alarcón, Alberto Alarcón, Ciro Márquez, and Eva Salmerón.

Let’s Talk About Margins


Reach for a book. The dedication and earnestness of those who made it is revealed immediately in the margins. If the margins feel questionable, be suspicious. Other corners were likely cut. All authors should have a Margin Clause in their contracts. Objection, your honor. Never be fooled by a fancy cover. Always remember: Covers are just there to protect pages with beautiful margins.

Louise Fili’s Homage to Italian Typography


A slide show of American graphic designer Louise Fili’s homage to Italian typography, including elegant signs for trattorias, pasticcerias, cinemas, and more.

Tim Brown — Universal Typography

A talk from Tim Brown focusing on traditional typographic principles, while also embracing progressive enhancement. Tim explains how fonts, CSS, web-enabled devices, and user contexts coexist. He then reevaluates what it means to successfully set type — and covers routine decisions about typefaces, font sizes, and white space.

Bézier OCD; Or Why You Should Know About Point Placement


This is a must-read for anyone who creates fonts, and works with Bézier curves. The suggestions here to keep nodes at extrema, handles vertical or horizontal, use explicit inflection points, balance the handles and so on aren’t just workflow optimizations: they’re methods to overcome technical problems.

What is the Oldest Book in the World?


Erik Kwakkel shares his quest for the elusive answer to this question. (Spoiler alert: He finds out that there is no answer to the question. But the ride along the way is very interesting.)

Experimental Letterpress from Adobe


To mark the 25th anniversary of Adobe Originals, the type team decided to produce a unique poster that would celebrate both the classic and the innovative sides of the program. Caleb Belohlavek, principal product manager for Adobe Type, asked John Caponi, a creative director in the Adobe Studio, to tackle the project.

Nihon Typeface


Nihon Typeface is an ornamental japonism type family with 24 fonts and more than 30.000 ligatures. Nihon attempts to build a bridge between western and eastern typography.

Michael Bierut, Graphic Designer

Michael Bierut talks about his mentor Massimo Vignelli, how the internet has changed the way we do design work in the 20th century and what makes a logo endure.

Thai Press Typography


This post is about Thai type styles, namely looped and loopless styles in current typographic practices in the Thai press.

The Typography of Speed


Cars and glyphs: They’re not so far apart. In an industry like car manufacturing, where the tiniest difference can make a huge impression, it turns out that that kind of foundational training is indispensable. “In our curriculum at Art Center, everybody has to take typography”, explains Karim Habib, head of BMW design at BMW Group and Art Center graduate. “Those guys are masters of proportion.”

Hugging a Medieval Book


Book historians tend to compare features of the medieval book to body parts. Thus the manuscript’s “head” (top edge) is connected to its “spine” (the back) via the “shoulder” (the area where board meets spine). This post takes this projection phenomenon a step further. It shows how one particular feature of the medieval binding eerily resembles a body part, not just in appearance but even in function: the clasp.

Mark Simonson — The Romance of Offset

Letterpress is all the rage today among those exploring pre-digital graphic techniques, but it was the discovery of offset lithography that fueled Mark Simonson’s imagination as a young designer starting out in the seventies. Here he talks about his early experiences experimenting with and exploring the world of paste up, photostats, Zip-a-tone, and Letraset, and what has been lost in the move from mechanical to digital design and production techniques, and how it might be recaptured.

P22 Specimen Chapbooks


As all media continues to lean towards digital and fewer printed pieces are being made, people still ask for printed type specimens. P22 has decided to redouble its efforts to keep print alive and has started the P22 specimen chapbook series.

Sincerity Machine: The Comic Sans Typewriter

Made by Jess England, the Sincerity Machine is a typewriter that was altered to use the Comic Sans typeface. Here is a short video document of its operation, with some narration about its origins and functions. You can read more about how it was made here.

New Font: Signyard


A nifty idea for a layered font family, decked out in incandescent bulbs, and including separate family members for shadows, bulbs, and bulb shadows.

New Font Microsite: Diogenes


A new microsite featuring the Diogenes typeface, designed by Ludwig Übele.

Gerry Leonidas — Typefaces for Screens

From Smashing Conference Freiburg 2014. Gerry outlines a few notions to keep in mind when looking at typefaces, explains the popularity of some webfonts, and makes a connection to the texts these typefaces are used to typeset. Towards the end of the talk he mentions the impact of globalization on typefaces for the web, and what this means for designers.

TypeMedia 2104 Graduates


Work from this year’s graduates of TypeMedia — a full-time one year Master program held at The Royal Academy of Art, The Hague in The Netherlands. 2014 graduates came from a variety of countries: Alexandre Saumier Demers from Canada, Hugo Marucco from France, Mark Frömberg from Germany, Mark Yehan De Winne from Singapore, Sláva Jevčinová and David Chmela from Slovakia, Nina Stössinger from Switzerland, and James T. Edmondson from the United States of America.

The Woodkit Type System


Woodkit is a type system inspired by wood type and letterpress consisting of three families – Solid, Print and Reprint, each with six distinct styles covering various alphabet designs, components and miscellaneous ornaments. Woodkit supports Latin, Cyrillic and Greek scripts.

DIY Moss Graffiti


Contemporary artists have discovered that street art is not only beautiful to look at, but that it can also be soft and smooth to the touch. Moss graffiti is eco-friendly as it doesn’t use any aerosols; what the “painting” needs is just a dash of water to thrive. Here is a recipe for how to make your own moss graffiti.

Quill: Books Before Print


If you love old books, here’s a new website that gives you a tour through the making of the medieval manuscript: the book produced in the era before print (500-c. 1450).

Seb Lester on Instagram


Think outside the box.

A video posted by Seb Lester (@seblester) on

Craving a regular dose of hand lettered awesomeness? Head on over to Instagram and follow the brilliant Seb Lester.

Apostrophe Now — Jan Middendorp

There was a time when graphic design was about high ideals: improving people’s lives; providing safety and guidance; defying capitalist greed; saving the world. We could use some of that today. The world has become so complex, and the flow of information so overwhelming, that it would be really helpful if designers used their skills to expose its mechanisms — daring to be funny, incisive and irreverent. But most of us cannot cope with so much content. We lecture each other about kerning, M-dashes, apostrophes and Comic Sans. Students revel in cool Klein blue and hipster irony. Professionals complain about the fonts in iOS 7. We consume as if our lives depend on it. Have we painted ourselves into a corner, or can we still design our way out?

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