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.
Diglû consists of 440 characters and 404 pictograms developed for the analysis and mediation of archaeological finds. It was developed as a research project of the Swiss National Fund for Scientific Research as a part of the doctoral thesis of Fabienne Kilchör.
A lineal typeface designed with 6 weights and 844 pictographic symbols Diglû is a substantial subset of the Unicode standard focused on one specific area of application.
Diglû will be made available through the independent type foundry Extraset.ch, where other pictograms serving different niches will be developed.
A tiny universe of fonts that combines the informality of handwriting, the expressiveness of lettering, and the versatility of type.
This typeface family is gorgeous. I am itching to use it for some publication!
Typefaces, by design, are unyielding in their style: a good typeface commits to a single visual idea, and explores it with thoroughness and consistency to produce a dependable tool for designers. Contrast this with handwriting, which serves only to record the thoughts of an author, but has the freedom to move from style to style as the message dictates. A writer might scribble a paragraph in cursive handwriting, but punctuate key points with capitals, or backtrack to over-ink some crucial point with darker and more deliberate strokes. It’s a flexibility that makes handwritten communications compelling, and makes the medium of writing infinitely expressive. By comparison, typography can feel almost stifling.
Comic lettering tips from Nate Piekos, who has created some of the industry’s most popular fonts and has used them to letter comic books for Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Dark Horse Comics, and Image Comics.
Blambot’s Comic Book Grammar & Tradition — The majority of these points are established tradition, sprinkled with modern trends and a bit of my own opinion having lettered professionally for a few years now. The majority of these ideas have been established by Marvel and DC, but opinions vary from editor to editor, even within the same company.
I don’t do many posts highlighting new brand identity work, but I really like this. Some might reasonably argue that the design is too clever, but I feel like that’s fine for this company logo. If this were the new Firefox logo, that might be a different matter.
Our logo with its nod to URL language reinforces that the Internet is at the heart of Mozilla. We are committed to the original intent of the link as the beginning of an unfiltered, unmediated experience into the rich content of the Internet.
The font for the wordmark and accompanying copy lines is Zilla. Created for us by Typotheque in the Netherlands, Zilla is free and open to all. [The font will be made available later.]
We chose to partner with Peter Bilak from Typotheque because of their deep knowledge of localization of fonts, and our commitment to having a font that includes languages beyond English. Prior to partnering with Typotheque, we received concepts and guidance from Anton Koovit and FontSmith.
Selected to evoke the Courier font used as the original default in coding, Zilla has a journalistic feel reinforcing our commitment to participate in conversations about key issues of Internet health. It bucks the current convention of sans serif fonts.
Anyone can create the Mozilla logo by typing and highlighting with the Zilla font, making the logo open and democratic.
The black box surrounding the logo is a key building block of the design, and echoes the way we all select type in toolbars and programs.
“At the core of this project is the need for Mozilla’s purpose and brand to be better understood by more people. We want to be known as the champions for a healthy Internet. An Internet where we are all free to explore and discover and create and innovate without barriers or limitations. Where power is in the hands of many, not held by few. An Internet where our safety, security and identity are respected.” — Mozilla
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
When text is rendered by a computer, sometimes characters are displayed as “tofu”. They are little boxes to indicate your device doesn’t have a font to display the text.
Google has been developing a font family called Noto, which aims to support all languages with a harmonious look and feel. Noto is Google’s answer to tofu. The name noto is to convey the idea that Google’s goal is to see “no more tofu”. Noto has multiple styles and weights, and is freely available to all.
Monotype:A typeface five years in the making, Google Noto spans more than 100 writing systems, 800 languages, and hundreds of thousands of characters. A collaborative effort between Google and Monotype, the Noto typeface is a truly universal method of communication for billions of people around the world accessing digital content.
Above: Malayalam and Devanagari in-use on Android devices
TechCrunch:To be sure, there was a degree of skepticism when Google and Monotype embarked on this project, in my opinion well summed up in the words of Pakistani-American writer Ali Eteraz (quoted by NPR in 2014, when the project was already well underway):
“I tend to go back and forth. Is it sort of a benign — possibly even helpful — universalism that Google is bringing to the table? Or is it something like technological imperialism?”
Noto includes Android’s blobby emoji
Wired:But developing a typeface for 800 languages that feels cohesive yet respectful of each language’s cultural heritage created inherent tension. And making those fonts “unmistakably Google” is nearly impossible. The Tibetan script, for example, draws heavily from a calligraphic tradition, while English is more linear and geometric. The Arabic typeface is emphasized in left to right strokes, while French’s letters carry their weight in their vertical stems. Some fonts, like Runic, are so obscure that typographers at Monotype built the font from scratch using stone engravings for inspiration.
[Steve Matteson, Monotype’s creative director] designed Noto to be modern but friendly, with open counters, soft terminals, and strokes rooted in 5th century calligraphy. He avoided making Noto too austere, mostly because the shapes wouldn’t translate as nicely to other languages.
“It’s not easy to interpret fancy calligraphic languages like Tibetan into a Futura typeface model, which is all circles and straight lines.”
Vox:So…why does all the writing in comic books look like that? Vox’s Phil Edwards looked into it and found an aesthetic shaped by comics culture, technology, and really cheap paper.
Todd Klein’s website — I’m best known in comics as a letterer, which I’ve been doing since 1977, working with writers like Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Bill Willingham and many others, and collaborating with a host of artists.
If you’ve ever tried to find the fonts used for a particular Star Trek series or film, you’ll have found that there are thousands of poor imitations on free font sites everywhere. Thanks to Yves Peters at Font Shop, now there’s a guide to the original fonts of Star Trek!
What’s interesting about Star Trek is that it has a number of typical alphabets that are immediately recognisable, and have become an integral part of pop culture. While many fan-made fonts exist based on the logos and title sequences of popular movies and television series, Star Trek is one of the very rare franchises which at one point had officially released fonts. In 1992 Bitstream introduced the Star Trek Font Pack featuring four digital typefaces – Star Trek, the signature face of the original television series; Star Trek Film, used for the credit titles of the Star Trek movies; Star Trek Pi, a collection of Star Trek insignias and Klingon symbols; and Star Trek Bold Extended, the lettering of the name and registration number on the hull of all Starfleet space ships. The Star Trek Font Pack has been discontinued long ago – possibly over licensing issues – yet individual typeface designs are still available under different names. We will run into them in this article, plus some others.
In celebration of the upcoming release of Star Trek Beyond and the 50th anniversary of the franchise, Paramount had a poster created that mirrors Bob Peak’s beautiful artwork for The Motion Picture
ITC Serif Gothic: What connects new Star Wars, old Star Wars, and even Star Trek? This typeface
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
“Our prompt was that the font had to be an exact replica of the letters in the logo,” says Maag, who knew it would be a challenge due to its reverse creative process. “Usually you make the font and then do the logo,” he notes. Dalton Maag had 3 letters — R-I-O — and 4 figures — 2-0-1-6 — to use as a roadmap.
“You could say, we already have the letters ‘R,’ ‘i,’ and ‘o’ and we want to make letters that look like them, so we could just expand on them. But the tricky thing is that we can’t use the same letters because they might not connect, or have the same weight and proportions, as with the rest of the letters in the alphabet. So we started using different words — ‘passion’ and ‘transformation’ — that had multiple ligatures to see how one letter could connect and match with another.”
“On this project we were extra careful to be super right, because it will be seen by billions of people. But we didn’t treat the project any differently than others were work on. I thought we would nail the concept much quicker, because we knew the design and just needed to expand on it. We didn’t realize we would have to create 23 different versions to get there.”
Anatomia is a quirky grotesk typeface designed by Jacopo Atzori, Vicky Chinaglia and Matteo Giordano for a type design course at Poli.Design in Milan in 2013.
“We found this old anatomy book (from which the name, Anatomia) printed in the early 20th century, set in this ugly scotch face with exaggerated details that made it work in small sizes. Our idea was to bring the skeleton, the proportions and some characteristic aspects into a grotesk–formula based typeface, being that the historical evolution of these modern faces.”
“Big serifs and strong details for the small sizes would become characteristic elements in big sizes.”
“The design of the typeface followed the rule of keeping the counterform shaped as the original design, while building the outside of the letters in a more geometric way. What comes out of this process is a grotesk typeface with a characteristic dynamism through the texture, with an accentuated stroke modulation.”
Recovering The Doves Type from the bottom of the Thames — In 1916, the Doves Type was seemingly lost forever after it was thrown into the River Thames. Almost 100 years later, and after spending three years making a digital version, designer Robert Green has recovered 150 pieces from their watery grave…
Neue Haas Unica — Monotype’s revival of a typeface that has attained almost mythical status in the type community. Unica was an attempt to create the ultimate sans-serif – a hybrid of Helvetica, Univers and Akzidenz Grotesk.
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.
Unified Arabic (UA) is basically a set of 30 letterforms, one for each letter of the Arabic alphabet, plus hamza and lam alef, eliminating the variant forms that make reading and writing Arabic difficult for beginners.
Sample pages from the children’s book ‘Shouf Baba Shouf’. The UA forms are placed next to the traditional ones for direct comparison and learning.
The large number of Arabic letter variants made typing Arabic immensely complicated. Khattar realised that matters could be greatly simplified by distilling the hundreds of variant shapes into their most characteristic forms. The letters are designed to be representative of the streamlined spirit of Western civilisation: quick, mechanised and labour saving, similar to Latin type forms and proportions, which Khattar acknowledged as one of his inspirations.
In 1986, Nasri Khattar was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his lifelong Unified Arabic project and its implications for the fields of linguistics, literacy, printing, computers, and telecommunications. He was probably the only designer / typographer considered for the prestigious award.
In one sense, new technologies made Unified Arabic obsolete before it could overcome the massive obstacles opposing its adoption. But from another point of view, the issues that led to its development still demand resolution.
Works That Work is interested in the impact of design and forgotten ideas worth a second look.
Wired: Why It’s So Hard to Design Arabic Typefaces The problem is that Arabic is an incredibly complicated language, and despite its ranking as the fifth most spoken language worldwide, there’s a shortage of typographers with a native understanding of the script. [Peter] Bil’ak says this is because there are few specialized typography courses available in the Middle East.
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?
Channel 4 is today launching a major brand redesign. Masterminded by 4Creative, Channel 4’s in-house creative agency, the new identity is brave, bizarre, and striking.
Shot by Jonathan Glazer, the idents tell the story of the channel’s blocks being discovered in caves, mined from the ground, and refined in labs. They’re natural, elemental curiosities.
“The idents present the blocks as kryptonite-like. They tell the story of their origin and how they have a powerful impact on the world around them. Just as Channel 4 does. It is a story that we shall build on.”
Two new typefaces have been designed by Neville Brody. The first is Chadwick, a rounded, warm, corporate typeface. Its forms are heavily geometric and designed for readability. The second typeface is Horseferry, an unusual, disruptive display text. Horseferry uses the basic forms of Chadwick, but blends in the blocks from the ‘4‘ logo.
WGBH News: For the next 26 days, one letter will leap out on the front page of Fitchburg’s daily newspaper. Today, it’s a minimalist red A that fills the space above the fold like a house. Tomorrow, B could be big or small, legible or hardly so. Only those putting together the Sentinel & Enterprise’s public art project, “The Alphabet,” know, and they’re out to surprise their readers—”make them wonder, what the hell is going on with the paper?” said visual artist Anna Schuleit Haber, who’s steering it all the way to Z.
WGBH News will be updating the article with every new design in the series.
‘Schuleit Haber, who was born in Germany and who usually works by herself in her New Orleans studio, recruited 26 typographers from around the world and a team of students and volunteers. Then she embedded herself in the Sentinel & Enterprise newsroom to oversee the endeavor, with the blessing of editor Charles St. Amand.’ — WGBH News
“Over the course of a year, I researched and created ZXX, a disruptive typeface. I drew six different cuts (Sans, Bold, Camo, False, Noise and Xed) to generate endless permutations, each font designed to thwart machine intelligences in a different way. I offered the typeface as a free download in hopes that as many people as possible would use it.” – Sang Mun
Brand by Hand is a collision at the intersection of two dominant design trends today. By introducing the personal, hand-treated and flowery nature of hand lettering into the minimalism of the cold corporate world, Sara Marshall explores the defining attributes of select major brands.
“Furthermore, an attempt has been made to explore a variety of lettering styles and examine contemporary trends within lettering itself – custom scripts and brushwork, calligraffiti, contemporary signpainting.” Sara Marshall
“The examples in this body of work vary in the extent of the reworking. Some examples have taken the salient features of each brand and conceptualised them in workable ways while others really challenge minimalist ideals through ornamentation and embellishment – the typical nature of lettering.”
Neue Haas Unica is Monotype’s revival of a typeface that has attained almost mythical status in the type community. Unica was an attempt to create the ultimate sans-serif – a hybrid of Helvetica, Univers and Akzidenz Grotesk.
“People knew about Unica. But since it wasn’t widely available, a lot of people did not have a chance to work with it and see if it was as good as the legend that had grown up around it. It really was this sort of lost treasure.” Dan Rhatigan, Monotype type director
This is the promotional publication by Team’77, outlining the strategy and realization of Haas Unica. In 1980, Team’77 (consisting of André Gürtler, Erich Gschwind and Christian Mengelt) set out to ‘correct’ common issues found in the grotesk typefaces at the time, including Helvetica.
Originally released in 1980 by the Haas Type Foundry for phototypesetting technology of the day, the design was never successfully updated for today’s digital environments – until now. Toshi Omagari of the Monotype Studio has given this classic a fresh, digital facelift with more weights, more languages and more letters to meet today’s digital and print needs. — myfonts.com
One of the things that our brain excels in is recognizing faces: it has to deal with a lot of details, within a very extensive catalog of faces, and yet we recognize people we barely know in a split second.
I’m sure everyone knows identical twins. If we don’t know that someone has a twin, we easily mistake two people as being the same. But if we know that someone has an identical twin and never met them, chances are, we can spot the difference. And by spending time with one or the two of them, it gets easier and easier to tell them apart, up to the point of saying “but they’re so different!”.
So, with type, it’s the same thing: the more of your time you spend looking at subtle differences, while preserving a need to spot them, the better you get.
So take what you’ve learned today and trust your eye. If it looks awkward, well, it’s awkward. Teach yourself to pay attention to the forms, counterforms and whitespace. Inspect the curve/line segments on by one and compare them to the whole form. And to the whole group of forms.
Even if we dabble in maths and geometry, here, keep in mind that these are means to an end, not the end itself.
The arrows of indecision. The barbed wire. The crow’s feet. In the 50 years since he drew up one of the UK’s most recognisable symbols, designer Gerry Barney has probably heard them all. But he doesn’t mind.
The story of the British Rail symbol began in 1960 when a 21-year-old Barney successfully applied for a job as a lettering artist at the prestigious Design Research Unit (DRU) in London, and quickly established a close working relationship with the studio’s co-founder, Milner Gray. Despite being forty years older than his new employee, Gray seemed to have found a kindred spirit in Barney – he became the first person in the studio permitted to work on the head designer’s drawings, and the first to address him directly by his first name.
“I was a lettering artist, I wasn’t a designer.”
“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.”
Appropriately enough, Barney first sketched the idea ‘on the back of an envelope’ while taking the Tube to work. “When I got to the office I drew it up,” he says. “It was exactly how I drew it the first time, with straighter lines. I just had to formalise it.”
“In the BR [British Rail] symbol, the lines aren’t all the same thickness: where the angled bars meet the horizontal ones they will appear thicker at the join, so they actually widen slightly going out. But that comes from lettering, where you have to pay attention to the counters; the spaces that are left, not the thing you’re drawing. They work together.”
Writing of the project in the pages of Design magazine in 1965, Robert Spark reflected on some of the basic visual elements that DRU created for British Rail: the symbol, the logotype and a palette of house colours. These elements would then be applied to every part of the railway system, from locomotives and rolling stock, to stations and offices, signposts, posters and publicity material, uniforms and cutlery. Even by the standards of today’s multimedia applications, it was quite an undertaking.
“In games, your gun is player agency made manifest.”
Iconic Arms looks at the history of famous weapons like the double-barreled shotgun, AK-47, M16, the Magnum, their place in popular culture and how their performance characteristics and functionality have been tweaked – sometimes radically – for more balanced gameplay.
Though I’m no fan of guns, I particularly love the graphics in this series with their flat colourful silhouette shapes, bold uber-tightly kerned Helvetica and fast diagonal wipes.
Open World Origins, also by Stuart Brown: What was the first truly open world game? What other titles set the standard along the way? And what makes them so popular today?
Creative Review:In 1916, the Doves Type was seemingly lost forever after it was thrown into the River Thames. Almost 100 years later, and after spending three years making a digital version, designer Robert Green has recovered 150 pieces from their watery grave…
The Doves Type was commissioned by Thomas Cobden-Sanderson as a bespoke typeface for the Doves Press, the London printing company he co-founded with Emery Walker in 1900. A modern take on a Venetian serif, it took two years to create and was used in all of the Press’s publications, including books of verse by Shakespeare and Milton and the Doves Bible, which featured drop caps by Edward Johnstone.
After falling out with Walker, however – their partnership was legally dissolved in 1909, after the business encountered financial troubles – Cobden-Sanderson spent nine months tipping 2,600lb of it into the Thames in secret, ensuring that if he couldn’t use it, nor could anyone else. Disguised by darkness, he made around 170 trips to the Hammersmith Bridge to tip small parcels into the water at night, the splashes concealed by passing traffic, before announcing that it had been “bequeathed’ to the Thames.
Obsidian is a decorative, three-dimensional font created in a virtual environment that can simulate light falling upon any 3-D character in the set.
The result is a convincing set of 3-D characters that harks back to the early days of type-making, but without all the flowery curlicues and animals that often accompanied 19th century letters.
An ornamental font like this could take over a year to get right. So [Jonathan] Hoefler and senior designer Andy Clymer solved for this by creating custom algorithms that could help. Obsidian is created in a virtual environment that can simulate light falling on any 3-D character in the set, thus eliminating the need to draw tens of thousands of shadows, one by one.