Steven Heller’s Font of the Month: Hopeless Diamond

Jonathan Barnbrook can always be counted on to design a typeface where you get more than what you see. In 1991 he named a font Exocet, his protest of missiles the English Navy was lobbing at a small island during the folly of Margaret Thatcher’s Falklands War. This 2009 family, Hopeless Diamond, bears that name not because its beveled edges resemble the facets of a diamond (which it does), but despite an obvious 19th-century wood type aesthetic, it is also the nick-name of the futuristic B-2 stealth bomber, formerly the U.S. Air Force’s state of the art ‘invisible’ weapon of mass destruction — the plane that looks like a bat wing. Hopeless Diamond (a riff on the legendary Hope Diamond) was coined by test pilots who found flaws with the disappointing performance of what has become a major part of America’s airborne arsenal.

As a typeface, however, it’s both stealth and jagged in appearance. The X-height for the lowercase is equal to the upper case, save for a few ascenders, but that gives it at once a sleek and engraved look. Although all the members of this family work best at sizes starting at around 50pts, smaller sizes have charm too. In the 70pt range it is tops as a display type that flies off the page. Designed by Barnbrook and Marcus Leis Allion, Hopeless Diamond symbolizes, for me, a high energy command center, with all aspects working in harmonic precision.

Whatever we users may read into Barnbrook’s type designs (notably his 1992 medieval-influenced family, ironically named Manson) that was used on scores of gothic and horror genre books and record covers, type is always an empty vessel filled with and given meaning by others. Although Hopeless Diamond references both a valuable machine and a precious stone, its virtue is entirely in its eye-popping letterforms, whatever they’re used to represent.

Font of the Month: Hopeless Diamond
Designers: Jonathan Barnbrook & Marcus Leis Allion Foundry: Barnbroook Fonts

Steven Heller is nothing short of a legend in the design community. Award-winning graphic designer, author and editor of hundreds of books (yes, 100s!) and one of the world’s foremost authorities on graphic design history; and arguably its best design commentator. Follow Steven on the must-read The Daily Heller and read his latest book, Growing Up Underground: A Memoir of Counterculture New York.

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