Opinionated Type

Just Like Yours, Only They’re Mine: Josh Farmer

Category: Fanatic

Used Typefaces: Fayon & Olicana

“The wedding will be on a March evening,” she said.

“Good choice,” I replied. “Now describe what you want as the first impression and the lasting memory.”

“Classy. Simple. And Vintage. And elegant, of course. But not too swirly — I definitely want a script font in there, but it can’t be too swirly,” she said, confident of her distastes.

So, I thought to myself, a script is necessary, but paired with what? A classic face with a long history like Goudy Old Style or Baskerville or Hightower Text. That could be too staunch. Calluna would work great in almost any situation, but it’s being used a lot; I’ll keep that on the list of possibles. Maybe an updated Didot or Bodoni for refinement? That could work.

Wait, no, not at 8 or 9 points. That might be too small to see the details. “What type of paper are you printing on?” I asked.

“Vellum.”

Of course. Dangit. Watch the thins, I thought. But I’ve heard restraints make for good work. So I set to hunting.

A few rounds later, we landed on Peter Mohr’s Fayon (PDF) for text and Nick Cooke’s Olicana Smooth (with some tasteful swashes activated).

Olicana can feel masculine or feminine depending on how the OpenType features are used. As a typeface that is supposed to look handwritten, it is expressive and rhythmic, but not too regular.

Fayon is a fantastic rethinking of Didot, it fits the classy–simple–vintage bill, and the italics are especially elegant given how easily that period could go wrong by either looking cartoonish with weight placement or by not being distinct enough from the myriad other Didot-based faces.

She is ecstatic. She emailed something about, “Beautiful! It looks perfect. Those fonts are both lovely. Thank you for your expertise and artistic ability,” and included a smiley face.

No doubt it will be a great event. And I’m glad I could help.

Fayon, Olicana Wedding Invitation Sample

Fayon, Olicana Wedding Invitation Sample

Now for why this works. Yes, the basics are correct: it gets across the feel the client had in mind, it was within budget, and it was completed within the specified timeframe. But look at how the stroke contrast of the script matches that of the serif. The thicks and thins are practically identical, but there is the necessary difference between the two type choices to hint at hierarchy, and when printed it will look great. I’ve included an Olicana sample below.

Olicana Sample

Olicana Sample — notice how the alternate glyphs change the feel

Favorite Typefaces from 2011

This was a great year for type.

Apple got a bit more serious about their font choices in iBooks. Adobe acquired Typekit. Hoefler & Frere-Jones set to slabbing Gotham for President Obama’s second presidential run. Individual foundries stepped into a new level of webfont prowess. Codex magazine was released. 8 Faces continued its solid run. Typekit partnered with WordPress to add a “customize” feature for type choice, and they made sure to steer the average blogger toward appropriate typefaces for their needs. Matthew Carter’s seminal web typefaces, Verdana and Georgia, received solid updates. Gerard Unger partnered with Type Together. Many familiar families received updates or had more styles and weights added. And some newcomers were given a chance to shine. Here are the typefaces I think are really worth a serious look — my favorite typefaces from 2011.

Sans

Ideal Sans by Hoefler & Frere-Jones

You can’t make a best-of list and not include one of the greatest foundries today. Ideal Sans puts the anthropomorphic back in humanist sans. Angles, curves, pointed terminals, and flares are the name of the game here. This to me is one of their most energetic faces to date. Let me see if I can explain why. H&F-J remind me a lot of how Steve Jobs is remembered: as those who tweak what is familiar or lacking and turn it into something that feels almost necessary. They reinvigorate stale or stalled categories to give them new life. Gotham, Vitesse, Sentinel, and Tungsten aren’t show-stoppers, but they feel brand new and are done with such excellence that you can’t help but be drawn to them. They are certainly good. But compared to them, Ideal Sans is not an inspired tweak or even a drastic improvement, it feels like a new path has been forged.

Ideal Sans Sample

Ideal Sans Sample

Soleil by Wolfgang Homola at Type Together

Not since Gotham’s appearance has a more rational, familiar, and pleasing face shone its geometric tranquility. Where other geometric faces lean toward the austere or distasteful, Soleil gives slight hints of a real personality. For example, the friendly lowercase f, the curved and open c, the large x-height, and the & seem to bring what could have been the love child of Futura and Gotham into our current times.  Two words of caution, though — there are no italics and the O seems excessively spaced. (Try it in an all caps sentence without spaces.) The first, I am sure, will be remedied soon enough; the second you can easily take care of on your own.

Soleil Sample

Soleil Sample

Pluto by Hannes von Döhren at HVD Fonts

Exhaustive doesn’t even begin to explain this type family: there are 16 upright weights and 16 italic weights. Pluto feels like a playful mix of Gill Sans/Mr. Eaves and a bit of Coquette and Bree, but with a touch more cheekiness, a wide stance for each character, and a goliath x-height. All that adds up to a big personality even when set at 9 or 10 pts. There is no skimming past the words Pluto voices.

Pluto Sample

Pluto Sample

Serif

Georgia Pro or 2.0 or whatever it’s now called by Matthew Carter

Is it just me or does Georgia’s new caps look a bit more aggressive? Either way, I like it.

Georgia Sample

Georgia Sample

Pollen by Eduardo Berliner at Type Together

Calligraphy meets regularity; feminine softness melding with vibrant writing speed. Pollen is equal parts vigorous and sensuous, and the italics only accentuate the speed. If this is possible, it feels like a mix of confidence and demurring or gentility at once. The & is gorgeous and the tails on the descenders, especially the italics, curve and flare just as hoped. I’m just waiting for the day when a women’s line makes this award-winning typeface their own (and partners with Type Together to expand its weights beyond the three it now has).

Pollen Descender and & Sample

Pollen Descender and & Sample

Pollen Paragraph Sample

Pollen Paragraph Sample

FF Spinoza by Max Phillips at FontFont

Eleven years in the making, Spinoza is worth the wait. Heavy serifs, sharp and deep cuts (top of r and h and bottom of e and c), and high contrast are its distinctive characteristics. Together these characteristics give it a strong horizontal line and an intense clarity that will hold up under the worst printing circumstances. I am drawn to the modified ball on the c, the black version of the c, and the lovely sweep of the italic y. The dot over the i goes from a squircle in the roman to almost brush-like in the italic, emphasizing the line speed quite effectively. Spinoza is perfectly aligned with the great trend of distinctive typefaces that have character and indestructibility. Among the newer offerings are Karmina, Malabar, Harfang, and Vesper — all great choices.

FF Spinoza Large Sample

FF Spinoza Large Sample

FF Spinoza Advertising Sample

FF Spinoza Advertising Sample

Abril by Type Together

Type Together creates excellent, new typefaces in the editorial category. Some of their families are used for display sizes, but mostly they’re intended for dense amounts of text in publications like newspapers, magazines, and websites. Abril actually has two faces within the family, a display and a text version. The text version is based on scotch roman and slab serif models while the display is based on Didone; that makes the text darker and with less contrast than the display, which is exactly what each needs. At first they may look practically identical, but the details will not escape the careful observer and lover of type. It is these details that smooth the transition from one family to the other as well as distinguishes them. And I just love those modified ball terminals. Hope you were able to get the free display weight of Abril a little while ago.

Abril Differences Sample

Abril Differences Sample

Bree Serif (brand new) by Type Together

Bree was an immediate, unmitigated hit. It was simple, friendly, and had a great personality — not to mention the alternate glyphs that introduced degrees of regularity. Billed as the serif cousin to Bree, Bree Serif is still friendly but more mature. And the regular weight is free. Free to download right now. Who takes a runaway hit and releases a new version for free when they could easily make a buck on it? Pretty cool. Bree Serif was released right before Christmas. And a very merry one to you.

Bree Serif Sample

Bree Serif Sample

Decorative & Script

Reina (PDF) by Maximiliano Sproviero at Lian Types

Latin America is known for its painterly and script typefaces. Reina is one of the most exhaustive I’ve seen in this category — there’s basically four versions of every character, from no-frills to swashtastic. If you do nothing else today, get the PDF and use it as your manifesto for typographic beauty and for excess. Simply gorgeous, but by no means simple. And Sproviero is only in his late twenties. I can’t wait to see what else he comes out with.

Reina Numerals Sample

Reina Numerals Sample

Reina Sample

Reina Sample

Burgues Script OT by Sudtipos

The Sudtipos foundry is well-known for their expressive, exhaustive script designs. Burgues Script is no surprise in that respect; it fits right in with their reputation of excellence. Like Reina, what sets it apart is the breadth of characters and swash options. I rarely look further than Sudtipos for my script needs.

Burgues Script Sample

Burgues Script Sample

Ambicase Fatface by Craig Eliason for Teeline Font at FontShop

Few typefaces seem destined for drop caps situations like Ambicase Fatface is. This family is a refined version of Ambicase Modern and is intended for use at monstrous sizes. There is no lowercase because each character combines both the upper- and lowercase into one character (look at the A, E, and G). It’s a great mixture with all the OpenType features you could want.

Ambicase Fatface Sample

Ambicase Fatface Sample

2010: Better Late Than Never

Since I didn’t put this list together last year, I thought I’d throw in a few of last year’s exceptional lot. This includes updates as well as brand new faces.

Maiola Book weight by Type Together

Maiola isn’t new, but weights were added so it gets a nice shout-out. It carries tension in each curve and doesn’t let up through the straight lines. Much of this is owed to the hard breaks and sharp angles placed throughout each glyph. These contours make the face feel as if it was etched rather than typed. It feels more human, like it went through a rough journey instead of just appearing fully formed. I visualize a stone carver chipping away at a cement block from the outside in, never having a smooth surface upon completion but always arriving at the satisfaction of being done. Maiola shows that each variation, however, is perfectly in place and at home — resolved in the best way possible without losing one bit of expressiveness.

Maiola Sample

Maiola Sample

Harfang by André Simard at PSY/OPS

Harfang is an aggressive face with a vertical stress. The huge x-height and short descenders and ascenders allow it to be densely set. Taken together, these aspects make it a very compact family with a dark overall color on the page. It also makes for a distinctive logo typeface; I was able to accomplish this with a client this year, and they were very happy with how it turned out.

Harfang Sample

Harfang Sample

Calluna Sans by Jos Buevinga at exljbris

A great addition to a fantastic serif. Familiar, clear, readable for long text. You can’t ask for much more.

Calluna Sans Sample

Calluna Sans Sample

Aniuk by Typejockeys

This gets my award for the most distinct face of its release year. It’s friendly. It’s odd. It’s got sharp corners that contrast with sweeping curves. And that lowercase y is daring in its several forms. It would go perfectly with an organic product line as well as a line of children’s products or services. Let Aniuk push you into categories of boldness and fun.

Aniuk Sample

Aniuk Sample

Adelle by Type Together (thin weights added in ’11)

Since its release, Adelle has been the go-to typeface for those wanting to define “new news” for their audience, and Type Together knows how to please. They expanded the family by adding weights this year. Now you can present your huge headlines in the thinnest weights while keeping your rock-solid credibility.

Adelle Sample

Adelle Sample

Tiina by Valentin Brustaux at OurType

Here’s a good site with great photos of Tiina in use. Based on the teachings of the Dutch graphic designer and professor of typeface design Gerrit Noordzij, Brustaux created Tiina with the intention of creating a specific rhythm throughout entire blocks of text. Every vertical stem contains a gentle wave, even the lowercase a which has a small dip right above the foot serif. In fact, the designer apparently based most of the alphabet on the lowercase e and n so the rhythm was preserved. With a massive x-height and short descenders, this family can speak loudly even in extremely small sizes. The high quality of OurType foundry ensures it will be an absolutely gorgeous text face. If fine book typography (print or letterpress) is your goal, Tiina would be a fantastic replacement for Perpetua or Joanna.

Tiina Sample 1

Tiina Sample 1

Tiina Sample 2

Tiina Sample 2

Tiina Sample 3

Tiina Sample 3

Tiina Sample 4

Tiina Sample 4

That completes my list of favorite typefaces from 2011 (and 2010). I hope you find your next go-to face in this grouping. What are your favorites from the last year?

Free Weight of Abril Fatface from Type Together

Type Together is one of the best new foundries of the past few years. They’ve released instant hit after instant hit, such as Cora, Skolar, Bree, Maiola, Adelle, Athelas, Ronnia — I’m definitely a fan.

They are giving one weight of their new family, Abril, away for free, and the italic counterpart is only €29.00 ($40 USD). The free Fatface weight is perfect for enormous headlines where the contrast can pack a punch and the modified ball terminals can be gracefully suspended.

Abril Sample 1

Abril Sample 2

Click the link, scroll to the bottom of the page, and make sure to put in the special code: f33836c7.

Happy headlining!

The Sun Also Rises: John Gruber Honors Steve Jobs With Subtlety

It was around 6:30 in the evening that day when my wife sent me a text: Did you know Steve Jobs died today? I was at work, unplugged; I couldn’t have known. I called her to tell her I was already on my way home. I spent that 30 minutes disbelieving, hoping, almost holding my breath till I could confirm once I got home. Headlines and eulogies showed the world in seemingly the same state. A spontaneous moment of silence.

Minimal Mac reversed its theme to a black background with white text. Many words, some echoing similar stories and terms, were published. Shawn Blanc had a few short entries. Steve’s several acts were replayed. News agencies outlined which technologies and industries had been revolutionized. Pundits kept looking foolish with their wrongheaded thoughts. And others pointed that out. WordPress worked through the night to release a retro Mac OS theme and followed it quickly with another dubbed iTheme 2.

But my favorite was John Gruber’s theme change at daringfireball.net. Usually a medium to dark gray background with white text, Gruber changed it to a darker gray/slate color with white text. The contrast was greater and it made the text seem to scream a bit more.

But that wasn’t all. It faded to the original gray as the page was scrolled down. Every few days or week the background got a bit lighter until it was back to its original color. This subtle sunrise said more to me than some of the global words that flowed so freely in those immediate hours and days following. For Steve Jobs, such subtle and simple things seem quite appropriate.

Steve Jobs (1955–2011)

You can find his quotes across the web, and his fans and detractors all have something to say. Even the terms describing Steve Jobs have become repetitive: genius, brash, visionary, thief, popularizer, secretive about his personal life, minimalist, praising Apple and its people effusively in public but driving them relentlessly in private, fantastic salesman, boom. Journalists have tried to tie his name to their byline, but their stated facts are all the same and most just don’t have anything worthwhile to say.

I probably don’t either. I just want to honor someone who built a legacy and I don’t know another way except to write it.

I got my first Apple laptop on 11 August 2004. It was a 15-inch PowerBook G4 and it was spectacular. I spent the first two weeks learning it and then tweaking it. Thanks to David Pogue’s book for new Mac owners, I wasted at least a full day once I found out that it could tell me knock-knock jokes. The screen hinge broke, but it’s 2011 and I still have that laptop; a piece of me almost hopes I always will. Almost.

Apple has moved on to create better things and I’m certain I can happily move on with them. I don’t have to own frustrating crap just to feel like I have a “real computer”. Steve Jobs knew that, and he built a team that could make simplicity, beauty, and excellence a reality.

He also knew he didn’t have long to live. The best ones always live with their end in mind. Read the Psalms and Marcus Aurelius to get a feel for what that looks and sounds like.

There’s a short moment that has stuck with me from one of Apple’s famous product events. I remember it because it was such an odd kind of aside to discuss. On 15 January 2008, Steve Jobs took the stage as the Macworld keynote speaker to introduce the second iteration of Apple TV, called Take Two. Amidst the walkthrough of features and how awesome it was, he stopped to plug a practically unknown Canadian film from Lionsgate, titled Away From Her (2006). I hadn’t seen it, so I watched it with my wife that week. In it a husband loses his wife to Alzheimer’s, a loss too great and encompassing to do it justice with weak words. I thought everything about the film was superb; it is intimately human; I felt given and drained of hope intermittently; I ascended and descended with the story of a drastically changing life, when the characters expected only a steady coasting into their twilight. This film allowed me to feel something particular in such a deep way that I wept with my wife — for my wife — for our future together — for almost an hour afterwards.

Because of his relationship with certain studios, Jobs always plugs the latest work from Pixar and ABC (they are the same company), along with 20th Century Fox.

But this mention was a stark anomaly. Jobs had the slides, so it was obviously purposeful and, due to the themes in the film, I believe it was quite personal. You can even hear a little pause when he speaks about it. I believe he connected with it in a way he would not say from the stage, but which he could not deny. It was important enough that the intensely private CEO brought it into the public. (Start at the 3:00 mark. And, no, I don’t know why the audio is completely out of sync.)

I didn’t know Steve Jobs when he was alive and I know a company cannot be a bionic pal, but I’m glad both existed. So, to me, these emotions — from the joyful liberation that is possible within technology, to what is possible when art helps us feel and connect with what is priority — are what defines Apple as a company and helps me to understand Steve Jobs a bit better as a regular guy.

Our prayers are with his family and friends who have been most deeply effected through his life and in his death.

Adobe Acquires Typekit: First Thoughts

Since I began work on a major opinion article about Typekit, they were acquired by Adobe. These are just initial thoughts; the main article is still to come.

There are of course good and bad sides to the acquisition, as felt from the two distinct tones taken in the comments on Typekit’s announcement.

Adobe Acquires Typekit

Adobe Acquires Typekit

The good is that the Typekit team deserves every accolade that could possibly be lavished on them. Adobe brings with them an infusion of cash and big-name confidence to push web fonts forward. The bad is the list of concerns: that Adobe will adorn their chef’s hat and mess up Typekit’s great recipe; that Typekit’s catalog will be flooded with poor choices; that Adobe will be promoted above other foundries the way Google puts results that favor themselves first; that Typekit may gradually become a storefront for Adobe’s catalog; that the entire process may become more complicated the way Adobe’s software is.

Without being specific, in the comments Tim Brown and Mandy Brown have promised these concerns are unfounded. (Though, a few lines from Tim in the comments seem to have vanished since this morning.) Mandy explains:

“I can assure you our commitment to Typekit is not about to be erased. By trusting in us, you also trust our decision to join Adobe, and our ability to continue improving on our service in the coming weeks and months. I, for one, don’t believe our users are about to run for the hills. I do think they will be watching us carefully, and that they have very high expectations for where we are headed. And we will do everything we can to meet and exceed those expectations, just as we always have.”

My initial thought when I received Typekit’s email was, “Oh, crap. If Adobe’s taking over, they’re gonna mess it up.” But we are assured Adobe is not taking over. All the good and none of the bad from such a partnership — the Typekit team stays together, web fonts move ahead, and Adobe avails their considerable support rather than totalitarianism. Good. As Mandy put it, I am hopeful but aware.

Now what if a different company had acquired Typekit? What would our reaction have been if it were Google, Microsoft, Apple, Mozilla, WordPress, or FontShop? As someone with a small interest in Typekit, here are some pertinent questions:

  • What have been their successes and failures in the past ten years?
  • What category of business are they known for: software, hardware, type, client- or server-side service, sales, gaming, aggregation, search, advertising, content services?
  • Was the acquisition a short-term tactic or a long-term direction for the company?
  • Will they cultivate Typekit for the long haul, or are they just mining personal information and making a buck before they move on?
  • Are they trying to lock users into a niche system, or are they figuring out ways to make the service faster, more reliable, easier, more ubiquitous — more accessible in other words?

For Adobe and Typekit, the acquisition makes a lot of sense. To me, it would have made a bit more sense — and I would have felt better about it — had it been FontShop or Apple. But that doesn’t matter now. I love Typekit and I’m staying with them until they go out of their way to prove me wrong. And I’ll still recommend them highly to any who will listen. The experience is smooth, the typefaces are superb, the support is great, the uptime is guaranteed, and your web mojo is, too. I read that in the fine print. I promise.

Stay tuned for a crazy thought about Typekit which is now pretty much guaranteed to not happen.

Tim Brown: More Perfect Typography

I have an article in the works about Typekit, so to get you in the mood, here is a great Build Conference talk by Tim Brown, the Type Manager for Typekit, called More Perfect Typography. This video is full of great info and hints about achieving excellence in web type. Scala Sans is his type choice for slides.

8 Faces Magazine and Prints

The third installment of 8 Faces Magazine is here and ready to purchase! At only a couple dollars, it’s a great deal.

Elliot Jay Stocks came up with this brilliant idea a little while ago, and it has been an absolute hit. The first version had a simple cover, with the negative space of the 8 used as a frame for the interviewees. Edition the second had a classy black background and little builders putting it all together; a very 1930s–40s rebuilding and reconstruction theme with obvious relevance now. The cover didn’t bowl me over, and with a few punctuation and spelling errors in both editions, it stung a little. You probably didn’t even notice, which is good, but I’ve got that perfectionist side to me that’s more metaphysical compulsion than nervous tic. [Mr. Stocks, I would like to offer my services. I promise I won’t let you down.]

Cover, 8 Faces, Vol. 3

I remember the day I got mine. My wife sent me a picture of the cover — after she had opened the perfectly-sized box. After. What is the world coming to when a man can’t open his own collector’s magazine‽ I asked her, nicely, to tape it back up. Now, with a throwback to classic cartoons, this third cover puts the art in art. I can’t wait to get my copy. And now my wife knows to keep her hands off. Nicely.

But I bet you do the same thing I do — flip to the brightly colored pages of each person’s eight choices. What secrets do they know that I don’t? What made it onto their desert island list? What would I have suspected them to choose? Were there any surprises or disappointments?

I gotta say that FF Unit was a spectacular text choice. It reads easily, is economical in size, and still feels friendly and authoritative. So why isn’t it being used on the website? Great question, and no, I have no idea. FF Meta Serif works great on the site, I just would have defaulted to keeping the typefaces the same throughout so the branding is more aligned.

I wish I would have come up with this idea. The design is top-notch, the interviews are filled with inspiration and advice, and the eight choices are always gems. Heck, even the ads are done well and obviously placed.

Typerings

For the type lover in your life, you really can’t beat this idea: Typerings. Starting with the Underware foundry was brilliant. Can’t wait to see more typefaces added to the catalog.

Typerings with engraved Underware typefaces