Fast Company:If you’ve ever been to a National Park, chances are you’ve come across signage with the same distinctive lettering. The type, which features rounded edges carved into wood in all caps, has become an icon of the National Parks system.
[Jeremy] Shellhorn, who was on sabbatical from his current job as an associate professor of design at the University of Kansas, was redesigning the park’s newspaper and wanted to include the type found on National Park signs. But he soon discovered there was no digital typeface because the letters are simply formed with a CNC router in the park’s sign shop, chiseled into wood. The shape of the letters were determined by the size of the router bit.
It doesn’t really exist as a typeface unless a sign is made.
Since Shellhorn published the typeface in summer 2018, it’s been downloaded by people in all 50 states and in several other countries. Next, he hopes to assign students to create a series of dingbats to go along with the typeface.
Matt Baker:Fyi, the above chart was actually just a simplified promo for a much larger chart – a Writing Systems of the World poster. So, if you’re concerned about the fact that thorn, wynn, or any other letters are missing, rest assured that they were indeed included on the main chart.
“Shouldn’t you have titled this ‘Evolution of the Latin Alphabet?'” Well, yes, that would have been correct as well. But it’s also not incorrect to refer to an “English alphabet”. Obviously, many European languages use the same Latin script. But some use a slightly different number of letters. When one is referring to the set of Latin letters used for a particular language, it’s ok to refer to that set as the “[language name] alphabet”. — Matt Baker / UsefulCharts.com
Boing Boing:In a recent Johns Hopkins experiment, only 7 out of 25 people were able to identify the correct letter. Only 2 out of 38 even knew a second lowercase “G” existed, and only 1 was able to correctly write it.
Johns Hopkins:Many researchers are thinking now that learning to write plays an important role in learning to read. People are writing less and less in our culture nowadays. This kind of gives us an intriguing way of looking at some of those questions. The main thing this makes us question is the notion that if you see something enough times you know it. There are things that we see in everyday life all the time but somehow don’t possess enough knowledge of it to access it consistently.
I was able to identify the correct ‘g’ — but it took me a moment and I’m someone who takes a particular interest in type design. I’ve actually recently been working on two typefaces of my own and I think that type designers may be partly to blame for this unfamiliarity as this character lends itself to some unconventional experimentation. The single-storey ‘g’ is probably the better choice for typefaces intended to be readily legible.
Shani Avni:The first Hebrew type family by Ismar David – In 1932, Ismar David emigrated to Palestine from Germany. With his knowledge of, and familiarity with, the richness of Latin type, he conceived the first Hebrew typeface family. The design process spread over two decades, during which David researched the origin of the Hebrew script and writing traditions, and experimented in search of innovative letterforms.
In 1954, David completed his typeface family. However, it was not fully published until 2012. Parts of it were never produced, others were rejected by the locals, leaving Hebrew typesetters short.
This talk is based on research for my MA dissertation at the University of Reading. I will present David’s design process and ground-breaking results and will share the story of this lost design, offering reasons for its disappearance.
Today, type designers are challenged with creating larger type systems of manifold scripts. The making of this typeface family is therefore presented as a case study. It is particularly relevant to those who engage in enriching type systems outside the Latin realm, as it illustrates how to draw from the prosperity of the Latin, without forcing it on a different script.
Victor Gaultney:Soon after the invention of upright roman type, an interloper entered the arena—italic. Rather than displacing roman, it wound its way into our typographic culture, becoming an essential part of languages that use the Latin script. Our written communication depends on it, yet in all the books that have been written about type design there are often only a handful of pages about this essential style.
This talk will explore the roles italic plays in our typographic culture: as a language feature, a typographic element, a historical marker, a design object, and a business product. These roles have shaped the design of italic and inspired innovation and creativity. But they have also often forced italic into a subservient position. What is the essence of italic? Has that identity survived its use as a secondary complement to roman? Is it possible that this servitude has given italic the freedom to flourish?
This is the story of how italic established itself as part of our typographic language, was transformed as it was relegated to secondary roles, and yet remains a strong and essential part of typeface design.
David Jonathan Ross:As a native English speaker, I draw hundreds of accented Latin characters in my fonts that I will never use myself. These can easily become a source of stress, because of their unfamiliarity and their sheer quantity; I often find myself wondering, “Am I doing this right?”
Sofie Beier:When a reader encounters an illegible letter, he or she can draw on information from the neighbouring letters and from the sentence structure and thus make an educated guess as to what the letter might be. The same is not the case when the target is a number. In such situations, there is no additional help from the surrounding numbers or from the structure of the text. It is therefore essential that one number not be mistaken for another. In spite of this, there is very little relevant research on numeral legibility.
Legibility is one of the aspects of type design I find to be most interesting and worthwhile. Sofie Beier’s book Reading Letters is highly recommended.
Bruno Bernard:“Excoffon will be the end product of all my thinking, the sum of everything that I have accumulated during my career as a typographer.” This is how typography master Roger Excoffon would describe the typeface he was working on in 1974, a daring and uncommon oldstyle face. Unfortunately the typeface failed to be published because of a contractual misunderstanding, and Excoffon died a few years later.
Based on Bruno Bernard’s exploration of the Excoffon archives this presentation will summarize his gatherings about this fascinating project. It will try to identify the concepts Excoffon wanted to piece together to propose new ways of thinking about type design. Finally it will raise questions about how to find the right way to value this typeface and present it to the public.
Other ATypI 2017 Montréal talks I enjoyed
We need to talk about standards — Bruno Maag:This presentation aims to start a discussion on how we, as an industry, can implement standards for all fonts that are produced and sold commercially, and how we can define a terminology which users can rely on to be consistent, irrespective of where the font comes from.
Marginalized Typography — Daniel Rhatigan:This overview of men’s magazines for mature gay audiences looks at the often novel and witty use of typography and design in genres rarely considered for anything other than their photography.
Cartier: What was Carl Dair thinking? — Nick Shinn:The 1950s and ’60s saw a stunning adoption of modernism by Canada’s creative arts community, and Carl Dair was a key player. His work as a graphic designer was thoroughly up to date, and yet for Canada’s first proper typeface he went back to the Renaissance, old metal, and calligraphy for inspiration and effect.
Fontsmith:The illustrations use one of our most accessible typefaces FS Me which was researched and developed with charity Mencap and designed specifically to improve legibility for people with learning disabilities.
Alphabet of typography — An alphabetical primer on the wonders of typography, including serifs, hooks, diacritics, spines, ligatures, and more.
“Accessibility in typography is not an exact science and there is no such thing as either accessible or not. It is better to imagine a sliding scale where certain speciality typefaces are highly accessible at one end and some eg. script or display fonts are very inaccessible at the other end. Most fonts lie somewhere in the middle.” — Fontsmith
A contemporary update to Transport for London’s Johnston typeface, marking the centennial of its use across the London bus, rail and Underground systems.
First commissioned in 1913, British artist and calligrapher Edward Johnston was tasked with creating lettering with “bold simplicity” that would have clear roots in tradition, but wholeheartedly belong to the 20th century.
Distinctive diamond-shaped ‘tittles’ on the ‘i’ and ‘j’
Johnston100 includes 5 weights, including the brand new Thin and Hairline weights.
“Our brief to Monotype was to go back to the original principles of Johnston, to reflect on the way the font is now, and see what we might have lost in its 100-year journey. We didn’t want to redesign it, but we did know that certain things, for various reasons, had changed. Some of the lower case letters, for example had lost their uniqueness.”
TfL Head of Design Jon Hunter
Johnston100 restores idiosyncrasies of Edward Johnston’s original design, such as the distinctive diagonal bowl on the lowercase ‘g’.
“As social media has become more important, hashtags and ‘@’ signs are more important – Johnston never designed those because they were never needed. Mainly we wanted to make Johnston relevant and fit for today’s purpose.”
Design Week:Over the last 100 years, Johnston became narrower and more mechanical as functionality took precedence over design. Monotype has opted for a wider face, which better reflects Edward Johnston’s original drawings and gives it more of a relaxed feel.
“It was very important to TfL that we add the extra-thin weights, because of today’s digital trends. We were able to capture the contemporary trend and the fashion of having something very light and very elegant, but because we are still using the original structures, we were able to maintain the soul of the typeface.”
Nadine Chahine, UK type director at Monotype
I visited the Designology expedition at the London Transport Museum a few weeks ago and took some photographs of the design sketches for the 70’s New Johnston typeface.
The untold story of the British Rail logo — “The designers at DRU were given the brief and, to my knowledge, it didn’t satisfy Milner. So he threw it open to the rest of the studio, six or seven people. I just happened to think of this symbol.”
History of Helvetica — A fascinating history of the creation and adoption of this ubiquitous Swiss font.
“Johnston100 will be rolled out by TfL starting July 2016. Initially it will be used for printed material such as tube maps and posters, but over time the typeface will be used within TfL’s trains and station signage, including London’s new Crossrail Elizabeth Line – scheduled to open in 2018.” — Monotype
So, for instance, you may want to use “a d h e s i o n” to start with. This set of letters is what’s used in the type design MA course at the University of Reading, UK. An alternative is “v i d e o s p a n” which is used by the foundry Type Together to start their projects, and in their own type design workshops. Either set has enough DNA to be meaningful, and both are small, so they are easy to make ‘global’ changes to.
While it may be easiest to simply use one of the above sets of letters, you can also build your own. Ask yourself what set of letters you should pick to add to ‘n’ and ‘o’. Consider the following options:
‘a’ — the letter ‘a’ is also a very common starting choice. The ‘a’ may also be useful in ‘anticipating what the terminals of the ‘s’ will look like.
‘d’ — the shape of ‘d’ can let you know quite a lot about the design of ‘b’, ‘p’ and ‘q’.
‘e’ — in English and many other languages, the letter ‘e’ is especially common — which ‘makes it especially valuable. The shape of ‘e’ can also be used to begin the design of ‘c’.
‘h’ — while ‘h’ can be built fairly rapidly from the ‘n’, it also provides variety to the texture you want to test by offering an ascender.
‘i’ — like ‘e’, the letter ‘i’ is fairly common and has the benefit of letting you know a little bit about the face of the ‘j’. The shape of ‘i’ is also partly inferable from the shape of the ‘n’.
‘s’ — the letter ‘s’ is a good one to draw early on because it adds visual variety to the texture of the letters you will be testing. The letter ‘s’ is also unusually hard to get right, so starting on it early makes it more likely that you will be able to spend enough time to get it right by the end of the project. The terminals of the ‘s’ may sometimes be useful for anticipating what the terminals of ‘a’, ‘c’, ‘f’, ‘j’ and ‘y’ could be like.
‘v’ — the letter ‘v’ is useful for anticipating what the ‘y’ and ‘w’ may be like.
So is San Francisco really the perfect system font for Apple’s products? It’s complicated.
Many critics have compared it to Helvetica and DIN. When viewed under this simplified stylistic lens, they aren’t exactly wrong. There are a lot of similarities. If we put San Francisco under the microscope, we’ll see that the visual similarities are just a small piece of this type system. It’s a typeface designed for the digital age and it excels in this medium in ways that Helvetica, DIN, or Lucida Grande ever could.
Letters and numbers with similar forms get misread. For example, it’s easy to confuse a capital B and an 8. A capital A and a 4; or a capital G and a 6. This is partly why non-lining old-style numerals exist. To solve for this legibility challenge, and add a bit more style to the typeface, San Francisco has alternates for the 4, 6, and 9 for both proportional and tabular figures.
These things take time though and I doubt the type design team at Apple is very large. I’m not proposing a font designed for ultra low resolution like Verdana or Input — rather something more subtle and on brand. If Apple were to exaggerate the changes they made to the text sized glyphs vs the display cuts—opening the apertures and counters a bit more; and adjusted the spacing metrics…and maybe the weights, I think we could have a really nice looking, legible version of SF UI for low-resolution displays without any real impact to style. Would it be obsolete in 5-7 years? Yes, probably—but if everyone using a 1x display could have a better experience until everything is retina, isn’t it worth it?
GT Sectra is a serif typeface combining the calligraphic influence of the broad nib pen with the sharpness of the scalpel. This sharpness defines its contemporary look.
The GT Sectra subfamily was originally designed for the long-form magazine Reportagen, a publication with interesting stories from all around the world. The Zürich-based studio Moiré designed the magazine and since it was text heavy, the typography was central.
The design idea was to begin with truly calligraphic letters, but then transform those into simpler, more straightforward shapes. The cuts in the curves add tension and emphasize the feeling of sharpness of the typeface.
GT Sectra was originally designed for the long-form journalism magazine “Reportagen”, a publication containing interesting stories from all around the world. The Zürich-based design studio Moiré accompanied the whole production process, designing not just the magazine but also the typeface. — Grilli Type
In mid September 02013, a small team of talented programmers, designers and thinkers all got together to recreate the experience of browsing the web on the first popular web browser. As part of that process, Mark Boulton and myself teamed-up to attempt to recreate the original font used on the terminal screen. This would give the look and feel of the simulator even more of that green glowing cathode-ray tube warmth.
We’ve put the font-file, the template and all the pieces up to share for anyone to use. If the font can work for you, please feel free to use it any projects. Take the files and modify them.
Skip to 2:25 for a brilliant and concise guide to the process of creating a new typeface.
You may not have heard of Jonathan Hoefler or Tobias Frere-Jones but you’ve seen their work. Before their recent split they ran the most successful and well respected type design studio in the world, creating fonts used by everyone from the Wall Street Journal to the President of the United States.