#typography

"We need to stop advocating Helvetica as the best typeface."

Aasawari Kulkarni, an AICAD fellow at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, writes in TYPE01 magazine:

Helvetica in all its glory has more than served its life’s purpose and even if we in a combined capacity don’t use it for years to come, will not be lost or diminished. Then why not take a chance by making way for a little more expression where necessary. Peter Bilak says in his essay “We don’t need new fonts…”, that “there are typefaces which haven’t been made yet and which we need. Type that reacts to our present reality rather than being constrained by past conventions.” Identifying and valuing such typefaces that have more personality gives our design more of a presence. A union of literal meaning and visual perception through an intentionally defined identity. It is an opportunity to make more space for typefaces that aren’t considered ‘normal’ enough for Helvetica’s world. These typefaces have dared to break away from Swiss ideals of letter design, they’ve dared to be something else—something more, and their otherness stands in the way of their favourable use. They are viewed from a critical standpoint, as opposed to being viewed as more contemporary, more timely solutions to the normalcy, the lazy comfort that grotesque type shadows our world with.

Do you hear that? It’s the sound of my head nodding in agreement. I’ve never been a fan of Helvetica. Up until now, Erik Spiekermann’s professional opinion—“Helvetica is scheisse!”—was enough for me. Aasawari’s point-of-view is more damming, not a simple critique of the typeface itself but a challenge to the industry to move forward, past Helvetica. To start accepting use other forms of type to be more expressive. Yes! I hope this is not the last that we hear from her.

On a related note: I’m ready to bet cash money that in five years or less the same point of view will be expressed about the need to push beyond the Google Font catalog. Type foundries are the new breweries, popping up all over the place. And we no longer have adequate reasons to settle for the selective charity of a technology company.

#typography / Thirteen ways of looking at a typeface.

Suddenly I could use any typeface I wanted, and I went nuts. On one of my first projects, I used 37 different fonts on 16 pages. My wife, who had attended Catholic school herself, found this all too familiar. She remembered classmates who had switched to public school after eight years under the nuns: freed at last from demure plaid uniforms, they wore the shortest skirts they could find. “Jesus,” she said, looking at one of my multiple font demolition derbies. “You’ve become a real slut, haven’t you?”

If you need more than two typefaces for any job then you’re not choosing the right type families.

#typography / Inside the font factory: meet the man who shapes the world’s letters.

I love Erik Spiekermann just as much as the next designer, but it’s nice to have this article from the Financial Times featuring a different design/typography legend, Bruno Maag. He is the founder behind DaltonMaag, the second largest type foundry. While DaltonMaag may not be a household name, they are the studio behind typefaces for companies everyone has heard of like AirBnB, USA Today, and Amazon (they created Bookerly, the eye-pleasing font for the Kindle). As well as a large host of cities and companies not as well known.

Before reading this article, I didn’t know much about Bruno (which I intend to change), but I share his opinion on Helvetica:

When Maag dislikes something, he is prone to saying so bluntly, knowing that it will attract attention. One of his targets is Helvetica, the famous font that is owned by Monotype and can be seen everywhere from the New York City subway to museums. “It has become a lazy choice – if you can’t be bothered to think, pick Helvetica,” Maag says dismissively. “You know you can get away with it. You’re not putting yourself out there.”

Be sure to add this to your weekend list of long reads, but don’t wait because I don’t know how long the Financial Times keeps articles outside of their paywall.

#typography / Hoefler&Co goes on the campaign trail.

Mr. Hoefler with an interesting tidbit on the usage guidelines for the Biden campaign: “Working together, we came up with some guidelines for the campaign’s typography, which would help articulate thoughtful messages with attentive typography. Words of action would be set in Decimal’s declarative small capitals, while the supporting syntax would rely on Mercury Text Grade Four.”

#typography / The Type Directors Club is dead.

”…the board has decided to dismantle the organization in its current state and end the lease on the Club’s physical space. The board believes the club should be reconstituted in a new, more inclusive form, under different leadership in the future.”

This is in response to the TDC called out recently for racist perspectives and practices by a former board member Juan Villanueva. He writes, “I hate burning bridges but the bridge of racism needs to burn.”

#typography / MacOS Catalina users have access to premium typography.

What better way to kick off a new week than with free, amazing type? I wish more Monday’s started off this way.

Apple has recently licensed fonts from type foundries such as Commercial Type, Klim Type Foundry and Mark Simonson Studio to be used as system fonts on Mac OS Catalina. But since these fonts are an optional download, many users of Mac OS X are not even aware they have access to them for free.

Over-saturation of Domaine, Produkt, and Publico is imminent.

#typography / Under Consideration takes a look at the identity for Think 2020, IBM's annual technology and insights conference.

The work was a joint effort between artist Imogen Heap and a UK based creative agency called Field. I enjoyed the story behind this work (near the bottom of the page) and how Imogen seemingly wandered around Armonk—IBM headquarters—to record different sounds to incorporate in the work. It reminded me of watching Ben Burtt share his many stories on creating sounds for Star Wars in a similar fashion. And any time IBM Plex (one of the all-time best type families) gets front-row attention it’s worth sharing.

#typography / The highlighter of 1484.

Working on three different branding projects, I have browsed through a good deal of type families lately. Most families contain a fair amount of glyphs (boxes, stars, etc.) but on occasion, I’ve come across the symbol of a pointing hand. I didn’t think much about its use until recently after coming across the article “Point, don’t point.”

[The] pointed-finger symbol goes by many names: mutton fist, printer’s fist, bishop’s fist, pointer, hand director, indicule, or most unimaginatively as “a hand.” Scholarly consensus has pretty much settled on the word “manicule”, from the Latin maniculum, meaning “little hand.”

Scribes and scholars—sometimes readers—used a manicule to “emphasize a significant word, phrase or passage” much like how readers today use a highlighter. FF Franziska, the type family used in the upcoming Airbag design refresh has such a mark and now I am intrigued on how to incorporate it here in the future.