A bit further than Ten Miles to Disneyland is an area of Orange County that locals call South County. The title is synonymous with pretentiousness; a land where everyone rolls in money, eats money, wears money, drives money, all without the problems of the common man. The reality is about four feet to the left of that and no matter how high the real estate goes for around here it’s nearly impossible to get good postal service.
Up on the gentle and quiet hills of Aliso Viejo we have our own zip code but no post office to speak of. There is a place that’s labeled “post office” but it’s only one-third of a sub-leased industrial park building with no counter, just a door in a wall. This lack of a proper facility must weigh heavily on the carriers because I have yet to come across any of them who didn’t look like they just finished licking stamps non-stop for eight hours followed by lunch at Subway. And it’s a crap shoot as to who is going to bring the mail and what time of day. If ever you need some life-saving device mailed to you, do not have it sent anywhere near the 92656.
So it is with great, almost evil pleasure, that I watched the postmen open the back door to his USPS hoopty, hoist a box to his shoulder with a ‘huugh’ and walk slowly to the front door of our contemporary one-floor-walkup with cathedral ceilings and remote control fans (to describe it any other way would be such a North Country thing to do). After exchanging greetings (Me: “hi”, Him: “huuugh, Subway, huugh”) I took ownership of the box. This was either a complete set of Jr. Craftsmen tools with BBQ attachments or the Rocket Scientist had finally found a way to order dark matter through Sky Mall. I climbed the stairs wishing that I had trained at least one cat in the art of St. Benardsmanship so that I might request some water and refresh myself for the remaining climb. Upon reaching the summit I set the box down and the building creaked.
My name was on the box and so like a kid on Christmas at 5:30AM (as this is how I open each and every box that comes addressed to me, there is no other way) I found the nearest object that could help me cleanly puncture and cut the multiple layers of tape and opened that sucker as fast as I could. Wrapped in several sheets of recycled newsprint was a large, thick, yellow tome. Across the cover it read: FontBook.
Not to be confused as a catalog of products created/offered by FontShop (as I have done on several occasions), FontBook is an independent single volume encyclopedia of the best type available “both old and new. It contains all the classics of the art of printing, insofar as they are available digitally, as well as the latest font releases and extensions.” First created fifteen years ago, the collection is now on it’s forth edition recently released with much fanfare and competition.
I love good type but I don’t know that I would consider myself a type fanatic like some type-o-holics I know, but when I saw samples of the new format and the condensed (yes, I said condensed but somehow there are more specimens) size I knew I had to have it. Years ago I was given a copy of Adobe’s type reference but that’s a Ford Pinto compared to this Excursion. I only wish there was a way to mount steer horns on the cover.
We in the web standards business got out of the practice of selecting type faces for web design preferring to stick to a handful of fonts that are available to the most amount of users. That worked for a while but I’m getting pretty tired of using the same old fonts on every project. And just as many of us have smashed past the web-safe color palette I’m starting to work more non-system based typography into our designs. With techniques like SiFR getting better all the time it’s my hope that we’ll get more and more opportunities to pour over references like FontBook and select the perfect type to help create the right tone and depth that every design should have.
Possibly more exciting is the second book that also came on that glorious day (in a separate box, FontBook comes in a custom shipping container, it’s just that amazing) but sadly it did not cause our local postal union any discomfort.
When typography and design come together in the form of a poster a few things happen but not necessary in this order: Doves cry, angels get their wings, world peace moves on EM dash closer to reality, and I don my Protec helmet and start to open-mouth drool. For there is nothing more perfect in the design world than a absolutely fantastic poster. A single sheet made to display graphic art and information (useful, or not) that is usually communicated via typography. The success of a great poster relies not in getting one of these two ingredients right but both have to work in perfect harmony in order for the consumer to see the music so clearly.
This is so very, very true of great web design. When one of these elements is not holding it’s own weight, it shows, and people whisper about it behind closed IM windows. Crack open any book on work of the graphic design masters who came before us and you’ll find more samples of their poster and cover art than any other form. I believe this is because not only are posters hard to get right, they become works of art.
Therefore it was without question that after gawking at the sample pages of Made with FontFont it simply had to be ordered and sent in the quickest manner available.
Unlike the previously mentioned Encyclopedia Fontantica, Made with FontFont is a studio book that explores the history of the type company and then goes on to parade their catalog through a design showcases. Throughout the book there are articles about type designers, what inspired them, and how their type designs took shape over time. No page is alike making this book based tour even more impressive and interesting.
And did I mention the poster design? I did? You sure? Ok, ok, good.
With these two books now a part of the permanent collection I’m not likely going to want another typography book for a while. There are other studios pushing out some interesting type but nothing on the grand and very useful scale of the work coming out of FontFont. It would be my dream to have similar products from Font Bureau and Hoefler & Frere-Jones, maybe they just need a bit more time, or in FB’s case, to send Roger Black off to redesign Reader’s Digest or something so they are able to get some work done without tripping over an ego wearing white pants.
There are other really great books that I want to share with you but I’ll pause for now, let the postman prepare for the next onslaught while I go and get into a love triangle, buy a six-figure Mercedes, or whatever it is that my tribe in south country are doing these days.