Love is in the air, and no one is more enthralled with Valentine’s Day than florists, chocolatiers, and greeting card vendors. Consider these Valentine’s Day statistics for the U.S. alone: 110 million roses are sold February 14, 58 billion pounds of chocolates, and 145 million Valentine’s Day cards. Named for St. Valentine who died on February 14 after being tortured and beheaded by a Roman Emperor, Valentine’s Day, in the romantic sense that as we think of it today, did not catch on until the Victorian era and owes much of its popular success to rapid advances in printing, paper and mass production technologies. Over the ages, Valentine’s Day evolved its own romantic ideographs – the color red, stylized heart shape, Cupid shooting arrows dipped in desire and erotic love, birds chirping to attract a mate, and typographic flourishes bursting with rapture. The Victorian card, on the left, is overlaid with a delicate doily that reveals embossed, die-cut printed images on the paper beneath. The contemporary card, on the right, designed by lettering artist Jessica Hische, expresses the exuberant complexity of love by the way the letterforms are drawn.
Setting a film title in the font Trajan is a can’t-go-wrong choice.–cheaper than commissioning a titling face from scratch and not as mundane as picking Helvetica or Times Roman. Typewise, it is the equivalent of the “little black dress” that fashion magazines tell us should be in every woman’s closet for special social occasions. Whether the film titling is for a comedy, romance or thriller, Trajan is refreshingly appealing and appropriate.
A serif all-caps typeface designed in 1989 by Carol Twombly for Adobe, Trajan is based on the letterforms carved into the Trajan’s Column in Rome in AD113. The classical Roman letterforms actually predate the inscription on the Trajan’s Column, and first appeared in 43 BC, making it the world’s oldest typeface. Twombly’s crisp and faithful digitalization of Trajan has given it new life, and has become the ubiquitous font for the film industry. This video on Trajan was produced by Vox and designer/ typography blogger Yves Peters.
When people think of becoming a designer, they usually think of print graphics, industrial, digital, environmental, interior, software, etc., but design encompasses a lot more territory than that and has many subsets. This is an interview with Dublin-based designer Annie Atkins who specializes in creating authentic-looking props and graphics for such films as Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. Here, Atkins talks about her craft and the importance of paying attention to seemingly insignificant details.
Pakistan’s ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif thought he had “dotted all the i’s and crossed the t’s” when he presented Pakistan’s Supreme Court with supposed exculpatory documents that disproved corruption charges against him. The seemingly ironclad evidence was signed and dated February 2, 2006. The fake document would have been credible, except for a subtle oversight that forensic experts quickly spotted. The text was printed in Calibri, a font that was not widely available until 2007 –a full year later.
Created by Lucas de Groot, a Dutch type designer based in Berlin, Calibri had been around for a number of years, but was little known until Microsoft adopted a modified version of it to be the default font for its MS Office suite. After that, Calibri had become so ubiquitous that it probably didn’t even occur to the forgers to change the font. That likely was the case in Turkey too when the government accused about 300 people of plotting a coup, based on documents printed in Calibri and back dated to 2003. Read More »
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. Read More »
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. Read More »
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. Read More »
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. Read More »
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. Read More »
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. Read More »
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. Read More »