Designers love to say that they hate Comic Sans. It makes them feel sophisticated and discerning. To admit any fondness for Comic Sans is the equivalent of saying you like to eat canned string beans and fried Spam sandwiches. You might, but you don’t tell anyone. So, it is refreshing to learn that designer Vincent Connare drew Comic Sans while he was Microsoft in 1995 and is proud that it has become an iconic symbol familiar to designers everywhere. Indeed, there are thousands of unknown type designers around who produce respectable fonts that no one uses, can recognize on sight, or can name. Comic Sans will live on, just like Helvetica and Bodoni.
A few days ago Meta Design/Font Shop founder Erik Spiekermann expressed his displeasure in a tweet: “Cannot stand that Trump uses my #FFMeta @ FontShop: (only in the background, but still) he only deserves Arial.”
That led Roger Black to tweet: “Trump does not deserve Arial.” Others chimed in that wingdings and dingbats were more appropriate for The Donald. From the incensed outcry of type lovers, one would think that Spiekermann had been violated or defamed by Trump. Type-loving tweeters had very specific views on what kind of personality deserved to use a humanistic sans-serif font that conveyed a calm, reasonable presence, and it wasn’t the bombastic candidate. For the sake of truth-in-typography, we suggest a more suitable option for Trump – Comic Sans.
Over the past four decades, New York-based designer Louise Fili has returned often to Paris, camera in hand, to document the signage of the Parisian streetscape. Graphique de La Rue is what Fili calls her “typographic love letter to Paris.” From the classic neon that illuminates bistros and cafes to the dramatic facades of the Moulin Rouge and the Folies Bergere to Hector Guimard’s legendary art nouveau metro entrances, Fili shows us the sensuous elegance and dazzling beauty of Paris street signs. This book is a sequel to her Graficadella Strada: The Signs of Italy, which is equally sumptuous.
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For the 14th consecutive year, typophiliac Kit Hinrichs has indulged his fascination and love of beautifully designed type by creating a typography calendar, featuring fonts that have caught his fancy. As before, he has overlaid all the faces featured in the year’s calendar to create the “365” name. Kit is convinced that other typophiliacs are so keenly aware of typefaces that they can spot the fonts in the 2016 “365” name on sight.
For better or worse, here’s the quiz. Match the typefaces called out in the circles with the names above. To find out if you are right or if you just want to skip this exercise, see the answers after the jump. If you want to learn more about each typeface, buy the 2016 calendar and read the descriptive blurbs about each face.
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The beauty of Old World craftsmanship is expressed in this Home Run King bat trophy commissioned by Nike. Featuring the exquisite lettering and design of Salt Lake City-based Kevin Cantrell and New York-based Juan Carlos Pagan, the trophy is designed with a typographic treatment that circles the entire circumference of the bat. Richmond, Virginia-based firm, Big Secret, handled production, engineering the artwork to be laser-etched around the bat’s circumference in a seamless finish.
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Columbus, Ohio-based Danielle Evans, who goes by the firm name Marmalade Bleue, pursues a quirky design genre – food typography. She uses food ingredients to create very ephemeral letterforms, such as in a “Food for Thought” video for Target stores.
On her Marmalade Bleue blog, Evans explains how her approach differs from others who have used food ingredients as a writing medium. “Food type had been used sparingly as one-offs in the past, all of which utilized the materials incidentally without applying a typographer’s touch,” she says. “The novelty of food as lettering trumped the presentation and legibility of the forms. I chose to apply my background in illustration, sculpting, and painting to create letterforms with dimension, play of light and edges, and happenstance flourishes with personality.”
Describing her methodology, Evans adds, “Rarely do I use typefaces or fonts to influence my work, instead I rely on the materials to dictate the best course. I’ve chosen a symbiotic relationship with my materials, suggesting rather than forcing their direction. Lettering allows for incidental flourishes and ligatures associated with calligraphy, the true nature of my work.” Intriguing and beautiful.
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This crime story has all the makings of a wonderful BBC Masterpiece Theatre episode. The real-life tale of passion for typography and revenge began in 1916 when an elderly gentleman walked onto London’s Hammersmith Bridge after midnight and began tossing tiny metal pieces of the font used exclusively by The Doves Press into the Thames River. This destruction of typographic art was perpetrated by printer/bookbinder, T.J. Cobden-Sanderson, to keep the font out of the hands of his former business partner, Emery Walker. Both leaders in the Arts and Crafts Movement, Cobden-Sanderson and Walker co-owned the renowned Doves Press, revered for creating exquisite fine arts books set in Doves type. In the contentious process of dissolving their business partnership in 1909, the two men fought bitterly over the rights to the Doves font. Rather than see Walker gain ownership, Cobden-Sanderson laid a plan to make sure that the font could never be used again. Over a period of about six months, the then 76-year-old Cobden-Sanderson set off each night under the cloak of darkness with bits of Doves font hidden in packets and pockets and surreptitiously sprinkled about a ton of the metal slugs and matrices onto the Thames. In all, he made about 170 trips from his bindery to the bridge to avoid arousing the suspicion of passersby.
In this short film by Tom Beal for BBC News Magazine, type designer Robert Green picks up the story a century later and recounts his obsession with recreating Doves accurately and his heroic effort to rescue the sunken metal type.
These typefaces won’t make you as psychoanalytical as Freud, or as brilliant as da Vinci, or as artistic as Cezanne, but they may allow you to channel their creativity while you work.
Harald Geisler, a typographer based in Frankfurt, Germany, raised funds through a Kickstarter campaign to underwrite turning Freud’s handwriting into a digital font. P22 Type Foundry in Buffalo, New York, is also creating digital fonts inspired by the handwriting of famous thinkers. His latest Kickstarter appeal is for developing an Einstein font, as explained in the video here.
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Sweden has joined the ranks of a tiny handful of countries that have adopted their own national typeface. Called Sweden Sans, the font is very Scandinavian in its modern, functional, minimalist look. Created by type designer Stefan Hattanbach in collaboration with design agency, Soderhavat, the font is meant to communicate in a single Swedish voice and in a style evocative of the nation’s design taste.
Hattanbach describes the branded font as “very geometric and modern” and inspired by old Swedish signs that were popular in the 1950s and ‘60s. In an interview heard on PRI The World, Hattanbach said he was particularly pleased with the outcome of the letter “S,” which he explained is a “hard letter to make because it can really fall off and look unbalanced.” He thought that the straight down tail on the letter “Q” looked “pretty cool” too. Overall, Hattanbach felt that Sweden Sans could be described as “lagom,” a Swedish expression meaning “not too much and not too little.”
Sweden Sans does look versatile, but it is still unclear how broadly this national font will be applied. Will it appear on Swedish currency? On official government documents? On government office signage? If regular Swedish citizens decide to use it, will they be violating any legal restrictions. Or if they do adopt Sweden Sans as their default font, will it be viewed as a sign of national pride? The concept of a national font is intriguing, so stay tuned to see how it is used.
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Sadly, the sight of a homeless person holding a hand-scrawled sign asking for spare change has become all too familiar in cities around the world. Barcelona-based Arrels Foundation and The Cyranos McCann ad agency found a novel way to respond to such handwritten appeals. They created Homelessfonts.org to market typefaces drawn by the homeless in Barcelona to businesses for use in advertising and packaging. In different workshops, volunteer design professionals led homeless participants through various typographic exercises, which were then scanned and converted into usable fonts. The fonts are being sold on the Homelessfonts.org website, and collected funds are being used by Arrels to offer shelter, food, and social and health care services to the indigent in Barcelona. Arrels reports that about 3,000 homeless are currently in Barcelona, 900 of whom actually live in the street. Type design is an unusual charitable fund-raising initiative, to say the least, but it has given Arrels the resources to care for nearly half of the homeless in Barcelona.
For the past 13 years, Kit Hinrichs has been indulging his fascination with typography by creating the “365” calendar, featuring 12 different typefaces, one for each month of the year. What makes him happy (in my opinion) is viewing each letterform as its own little sculpture — whereas combining characters into words and sentences distract from seeing typography as its own art form. For the 2015 calendar, Kit asked his design staff to nominate fonts that intrigue them and assembled a mix of traditional, avant garde, serif, sans serif, display, and script faces. Then for the 13th straight year, he cajoled me into writing the text. The 365 Typography Calendar for 2015 is now available for sale via Amazon, major U.S. art museums, and from Studio Hinrichs. The calendar comes in two sizes: 23” x 33” (58.5cmx84cm) for $44 retail and 12”x18” (30.5cm x 45.75cm) for $26 retail. Design professionals, particularly, love this calendar and display it prominently to prove their “street creds.” Order now.
Like fine wine, beautiful typography adds a touch of elegance wherever it appears. Creative agency Typejockeys in Vienna, let the typography serve as the graphic identity and packaging for Trapl, an award-winning wine made in Stixneusiedl, Austria, by vintner Johannes Trapl. Each of the seven varieties in the Trapl line has a uniquely designed label featuring Typejockeys’s hand-drawn letters, frames and ornaments. All the legal information is integrated into the wraparound typographic label, so there is no “back side.” Copper-colored foil stamping and blind embossing make for a sophisticated design that is consistently carried through even on the packing boxes.
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What’s black-and-white and impossible to ignore? The graphic identity of 52 North, a hip restaurant and bar in London. UK-based design studio I Love Dust and interior architects 44th Hill used scale and contrast to make us aware of the geometric beauty of typography. The huge letterforms become another shape in a collage of stripes, dots, stars and diamond angles. In 52 North’s restaurant and bar, warm wood furnishings soften the starkness of the letterpress-style mural, but the mural itself becomes like a “menu” of decorative shapes that can be mixed and matched on packaging and printed materials, making each piece look slightly different yet part of the overall brand. It’s a complete identity program with room to grow.
Hand-drawn script logotypes convey a lot about the personality of a brand. The letter may look breezily dashed off, elegant, relaxed, energetic, confident, approachable, quirky or playful. The thicks and thins of the letterform, the extra embellishment, or lack thereof, hint at how the company wants to be perceived. Script letters feel more like personal signatures – individual and unique. This quiz is to see if you can name the brand that owns these logotypes. See answers after the jump.
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Who would have thought that a box of No. 2 pencils could exude style, sophistication and Art Deco flair? But leave it to New York-based designer Louise Fili to use her mastery of typography, pattern, color and all things Italian to create a product that you would be proud to present as a gift – and thrilled to receive. Invited by Princeton Architectural Press to design a line of elegant gift products, Fili came up with a boxed set of 12 double-tipped pencils. Fili felt that the two-sided pencils seemed perfect, thus the name “Perfetto.” On her website, Fili explains that her design was inspired by her collection of 1930s Italian pencil boxes. “Our most preferred are the two-color, double-sided pencils, commonly in red and blue, for teachers to correct homework…red for a minor infringement, blue for a serious offense.” Fili says that they chose not to use blue because it was our least favorite color. Instead she says, “We opted for our signature red and black.” There’s no eraser because that would spoil the beautiful symmetry.
When Grey Group opened a new Singapore division of its ad agency earlier this year, it wanted to communicate that it had assembled a team from a dozen different countries to handle business in 106 national markets. It was truly multinational in every sense of the word. The challenge was how to suggest its global outlook visually without resorting to tedious clichés. Luis Fabra, Grey Singapore’s senior graphic designer, chose the most recognizable symbol of any country – its national flag. From there, he deconstructed each flag into geometric shapes – stripes, dots, triangles, half circles, etc. – and rearranged the color scheme on each flag to form a single letter of the alphabet. Grey Singapore’s multinational typeface actually has 106 letters in the alphabet, with some letters repeated to give each country equal representation. Abstract yet country-specific, the letters in combination suggest a strong communication program that is sensitive to all cultures.