This Month in Typography

Welcome to this month’s roundup of typography related info and entertainment. Today, we examine the art and science of crafting fonts, wonder about the future of libraries in the digital age, discuss the future of graphic design, delve into the history of curly letters of Amsterdam, talk with experts about the recent hand-lettering boom, research the health effects of typefaces, run down the history of the tilde, clarify commonly abused typography terminology, and more.

Designing Obsidian

A couple of months ago, we featured Obsidian in this column — a typeface that was arduously crafted via algorithms to get amazing shading effects. In this video, Andy Clymer talks at length about the creation of Obsidian.

Microsite for Benton Modern


A lovely website showing off a lovely set of webfonts. Benton Modern was developed by Tobias Frere-Jones while working on newspaper type. Benton Modern sports styles for small text, medium sizes, plus display variants in four widths.

Algorithmic Typeface Generation


Kyuha Shim, a researcher in computational graphic design, is using computer science to automate the design of typefaces. In one of Shim’s projects, type is created in real time via user keyboard gestures. Change the gesture, change the result. Check out Shim’s website for a bunch of lovely examples of his work.

Typography Experts Weigh in on the Hand Lettering Boom

Hand Lettering

There has been a veritable explosion of hand lettering recently. AIGA‘s Angelynn Grant interviews experts Ken Barber, Martina Flor, and Ale Paul, in order to get a handle on the trend.

How Do You Design the Library of the Future?

oxford reading room

Can a library — an actual brick and mortar place with actual paper books — compete with the Internet? Oxford University is going all out, with its Weston Library, an £80 million refurbishment project. Even the chairs have been specially designed (by the designers of the 2012 Olympic torch), to make sure that when readers tilt forwards, little noise is made. Beautiful.

Digitisation at the Bodleian Libraries

Speaking of Oxford’s libraries, here’s a video about their digitization efforts.

Jessica Lichtenstein’s Word Sculptures

Jessica Lichtenstein - POP

Jessica Lichtenstein fills bold, rounded letterforms with Japanese-inspired comic book art, “creating her own imagined fantastical landscapes infused with a highly sexualized environment”. You can read more about Lichtenstein’s work on her bio page.

The Curly Letters of Amsterdam

curly letters

Ramiro Espinoza and Rob Becker have just released a lovely new book about the curly lettering that can so often be found adorning café windows across the city of Amsterdam. 212 pages of black and white photography and research.

The Healthiest Typeface


In this article from The Atlantic, Cari Romm investigates the notion that when creating health information documents, style (including typography) can matter as much as substance. In a 2007 study examined here, Harvard researchers “found that patients had a better understanding of how to take their prescription drugs, as well as benefits and possible side effects, when the labels included larger fonts, lists, headers, and white space.”

Masters of Letters

Chip Kidd

Five heavyweights of graphic design and visual communication weigh in on that holiest of grails: the perfect typeface. Mat Maitland, Eddie Opara, Sagi Haviv, Edwin Van Gelder, and Chip Kidd are all briefly interviewed.

The Cooper-Hewitt Typeface


Designed for use in the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, and released under the SIL Open Font License (which means the Cooper-Hewitt fonts are free and open source), this condensed sans serif family is a thing of beauty. The family, designed by Chester Jenkins, consists of 14 members, ranging from thin to heavy, with italics. Download your copy today!

Popular First Names in Calligraphy

Beautiful calligraphy in motion.

Typography & Lettering Awards


Print Magazine’s has announced the winners of its new Typography & Lettering Awards. Entries were judged by letterer and illustrator Jessica Hische and letter designer and design historian Paul Shaw, who pored over entries in hand lettered work, typeface design, and typographic pieces. Cheers to the winners!

Glitched Helvetica


If you’ve ever spent much time in Adobe Illustrator, you’ve run into a scrolling glitch that leaves interesting artifacts on the screen as you scroll past the boundary of your window. Well, this clever person created an entire alphabet out of Helvetica and the results of Adobe’s glitch. Some lovely results!

Font Matcherator


Fontspring has joined the font-matching fray with a new web app that takes an image with type and figures out what font was used. I tried it and it was spot-on with two samples. Some of your other options out there include MyFonts.com’s WhatTheFont, Fonts.com’s Fonts by Sight, and Identifont.com.

Font Drafts

font drafts

A new app (in beta) that will let you sketch glyphs on your iOS device, and export them to your font editing software. There’s not much info up there now, but I’m definitely curious…

An Interview with Richard Heap


Designer Richard Heap visited Guatemala City, stayed for four years, and discovered some beautiful urban typography while he was there. He took pictures of the lettering he found, and turned those images into digital lettering in Adobe Illustrator. The black and white photographs next to the black and white typefaces are stunning.

The Secret Life of the Tilde


Keith Houston examines the history of the (perhaps) 3,000 year old tilde. Spoiler: “[T]he tilde was and is a tittle par excellence, a mark used to modify the sound or meaning of a letter. It was so exemplary of the form, in fact, that the word ’tilde’ itself arose from ‘tittle’ sometime during the nineteenth century.”

The Decorator’s Assistant


Scans of The Decorator’s Assistant, Volume III, 1848 — “A weekly record of painting, sculpture, popular science, etc.” There’s tons of great lettering within these 868 pages.

Rounded Type


Typographer Ferdinand Ulrich writes about rounded type. He tracks down one of the earliest occurrences of a typeface with rounded corners to an 1838 specimen book. Apparently, milling round letterforms in woodtype was easier than cutting sharp angles.

Typography Cheatsheet


An illustrated guide (along with copy-pasteable glyphs and Mac and Windows keyboard shortcuts) to using smart quotes, apostrophes, dashes, hyphens, accented characters, and tons of other typographic symbols. Thanks to Jeremiah Shoaf for this excellent resource!

Typographica’s Favorite Typefaces of 2014

Typographica Best of 2014

Better late than never! Typographica chooses its favorite typefaces of the previous year. It’s a large list, with some lovely faces on it.

Starting an Online Archive of Type Specimens


A forum thread started by Ralf Herrmann about the possibility of starting a comprehensive online archive of type specimen scans. Chime in if you have any thoughts.

Graphic Design Doesn’t Exist Anymore

design doesn't exist anymore

What does it mean to be a graphic designer in a world that is in transition? A world where old economic models are under fire, established institutions are in danger of disappearing and fundamental social behaviours are changing. The documentary The New Design Landscape dives into this question.

Robothon Keynote Address

Petr van Blokland opened the 2015 Robothon (a triennial conference on font software and font technology) with extrapolations about technology, type and tools.

Clear Definitions for Commonly Abused Terms

Blog-Definitions typography

Type is not lettering; a typographer is not necessarily a type designer; a typeface is not a font. Spread the knowledge (or the pedantry, depending on your point of view)!

Typographic Embroidery


Effie Jessop does embroidery, much of which is crafted from lettering, much like typewriter or ASCII art. Apart from the very cool art Effie produces, one thing stands out on her website: One can earn a BA in Embroidery at Manchester Metropolitan University. Who knew?

Edited by Alec Julien.

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