Opinionated Type

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

Category: Sans

Apple’s New Typeface in Maps: Avenir

Apple uses Myriad Pro (with a few tweaks) for its company branding. They used Helvetica for most of iOS until they switched to Helvetica Neue, which they still use now. They have consistently added new typefaces to their reading applications, like iBooks. And they use context-specific typefaces where needed, such as with the LED numerals for sports scores.

With the announcement of iOS 6 and iPhone 5, their video showed a clear all-purpose sans used in Maps.

The lowercase a is not right for it to be Futura, Frutiger, or Proxima Nova. The lowercase y is not right for it to be Soleil, Gotham, or Lucida Sans.

It’s Adrian Frutiger’s Avenir, the latest addition to the good stockpile of typefaces on Apple systems. Avenir is yet another answer to the desire for a Futura that is not Futura. Frutiger wanted something with more personality and a less harsh presentation than Futura on the printed page. Avenir is still geometric and still understated, but slightly more readable. And let’s hope so because your ability to arrive fashionably late now depends on it.

Avenir Next Image from fonts.com

Avenir Next Sample from fonts.com

Maturity & Mirth: NBC Uses Sweet Sans

Engraver’s Plates

Engraver’s Plates

Over the past several years NBC has consistently advanced their branding almost solely through typeface selection. The peacock logo, the doorbell tone, the quick screen wipes and reveals, and the bright, solid colors: all unchanged.

The fantastic Sweet Sans (PDF sample) by Mark van Bronkhorst of MVB Fonts leads NBC’s fall 2012 season with a website refresh and a series of teaser commercials. Before that, they used Cyrus Highsmith’s Antenna, for which they were summarily sued for not purchasing enough licenses. Before that, Gotham. And still further back, Eric Olson’s Klavika. Notice the text on their website — all set in Sweet Sans. [I would have either used a lighter weight or more tracking for the smaller text so there’d be less clashing of letters, but overall it’s great.]

NBC Website 1, Sweet Sans

NBC Website 1, Sweet Sans

I love that a major consumer company is pushing their design — again, almost completely through type. And I love that they had the guts to leave behind the safe, overplayed, and now-not-distinct-or-brandable Gotham. Because they were willing to take just such a bold step, they are clearly distinct from CBS (with a history of tech and typewriter faces), Fox (with a history of ultra-weight sans faces and weird mixes of Helvetica and Arial), and ABC (with the most spastic choices used all at once).

As a throwback to historical roots of draftsman’s typefaces, Sweet Sans is for NBC a fantastic choice. Gotham is beautiful, even, and reliable, but was too austere; sports it could do, not comedy. With its tech inspiration, Klavika works great in almost microscopic sizes and has an unmistakable voice in display sizes, but it simply didn’t invoke the right tone. Klavika is forward-looking so teasers for Dateline felt out of sync emotionally, but Chevrolet has used it to wonderful effect in exactly that way. Antenna worked great and I think it was the best trajectory NBC had until now.

Sweet Sans Regular, 48 pts, Justified Sample

Sweet Sans Regular, 48 pts, Justified Sample

Sweet Sans, though, is pretty much pitch perfect with its cheeky and playful attitude that most viewers equate with the NBC brand. The slight outstroke turns combined with simple, open forms take it out of the zone of a staunch sans and gives it a more relatable tone. The naturally wide characters and the ginormous x-height make it easy to read regardless of point size, and its true zen quality is displayed in all-caps treatments. Sweet Sans readily takes on a supporting role next to show lockups ranging from comedy (The Office, Parks and Recreation, Go On) to drama (Revolution, Grimm, Parenthood) to reality competition (The Voice, America’s Got Talent) to news (Dateline) to sports (Monday Night Football, 2012 Olympics). And that was one of the main capabilities missing from past choices.

NBC Website 2, Sweet Sans

NBC Website 2, Sweet Sans

Sweet Sans Sample

Sweet Sans Sample

The small sizes on the website show just how plainspoken Sweet Sans can be while the range of details come through on the commercials because they’ve set the words so large. So large, in fact, that you don’t take the company too seriously. You take them just how they meant for you to: as an entertainment company with equal parts maturity and mirth.

Typographing: A Google Webfonts Tester

Typographing

Typographing is a quick and dirty filter built around the Google Webfonts API. If you’re looking to use Google’s offerings, this is a great resource. Add a filter or take it away to change results automatically. And clicking the X in the top left corner helps narrow type choices by getting rid of that font if you’re not a fan. And—ooh! Lobster!

Hold on, why is Lobster in the sans category?

(Via Shawn Blanc.)

The Pebble: Kickstarter Project

Pebble is an e-paper bluetooth watch for use with iPhone and Android. It’s modifiable (as far as the software goes) and the creators are opening up the SDK for others to fiddle with. And it uses Gotham for a typeface with clarity, modernity, and contrast.

(Via Shawn Blanc.)

Ralf Herrmann Releases Wayfinding Sans Pro

Highway Signage’s Past

I have always felt distaste for the lettering on American federal highway signage. The Interstate typeface, as it is known, employs stems and curves that are are cut off for seemingly no apparent reason, claustrophobic counters, and piercing north-bound spires. While many good designers — the federal government simply doesn’t count for this — use it well in a display weight or headers, I was never terribly impressed with the truncated lowercase g or the way the intro stroke on the lowercase a felt too close to the bowl.

Interstate Sample from fontbureau.com

Interstate Sample from fontbureau.com

Tobias Frere-Jones and Cyrus Highsmith expanded the original 1993 offering into a 40-weight superfamily and it has done quite well, even consistently making it onto the current short list of whatever great designer is writing the list. I, though, prefer the subdued answer given by the state of Washington: FF Meta. FF Meta was designed by Erik Spiekermann in 1985 and revised in 1990. It has been called the Helvetica of the ’90s due to its ubiquity but not its personality. Because it actually has one. Its glyph shapes varied enough from each other to be easily recognizable — the lowercase l bends at the baseline, for example — but it still didn’t seem to completely fit the needs of road signage.

Enter Ralf Herrmann: Highway Signage’s Future

Six years of research and development, months of digital testing, and an empirical study at the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin have led to the release of Wayfinding Sans Pro.

Wayfinding Sans Pro Introductory Sample

Wayfinding Sans Pro Introductory Sample

To increase the possible viewing distance, the skeleton of the letters of a signage typeface must be generic and familiar but also unmistakable. Wayfinding Sans Pro was designed this way from the ground up.

Wayfinding Sans Legibility Simulations

Wayfinding Sans Legibility Simulations

It has the feel of being made by a human rather than the industrial machinations of DIN 1451. Its forms are simultaneously inviting and informing, unlike American signage. Its glyphs are distinct — a word you can’t use enough concerning typefaces — compared with Dutch signage. Its forms are also clear, unlike French signage. In fact, Wayfinding Sans excels in precisely the ways French, Dutch, American, and German signage fails. Herrmann’s creation was focused on solving real-world problems, so it only makes sense to look at those who have gone before in order to fashion a better solution.

Glyph Distinction in Wayfinding Sans Pro

Glyph Distinction in Wayfinding Sans Pro

I really appreciate the amount of work that’s gone into this family. A significant problem has been solved while retaining the beauty and mild character of the typeface. It may even be possible for this family to be used in heads-up displays for driving. Herrmann says all signage is a good medium for this typeface, but where else might it be used? Movie subtitles or closed captioning?

Wayfinding Sans Pro Word Samples

Wayfinding Sans Pro Word Samples

The typeface comes in two weights (regular and bold) and three widths (condensed, normal, and extended). The extended widths are recommended for signage use, whereas, with print, the normal/regular weight is the default. Wayfinding Sans pro is loaded with OpenType features, figures, compensating positive and negative weights for use on one sign, and an iteration for arrow usage that actually makes sense. On the drawing board now is a set of hundreds of pictograms to guide the traveler. And as if the research and the results weren’t enough, it’s available for half price until 1 May 2012.

Herrmann’s type family is not made for long stretches of casual reading. It’s a beautiful text guide that won’t make you slow down as you get closer to it. But you just might want to.

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Download the Wayfinding Sans Pro PDF

Buy Wayfinding Sans Pro at:

Wayfinding Sans Pro website

MyFonts

Exclusive Interview: TypeTogether Releases Tablet Gothic

There are many incredible type foundries — Underware, House Industries, Village, Type Jockeys, and so many others — and TypeTogether is at the top of my list. They consistently impress, breathing new life into familiar categories.

As background, TypeTogether is the two-person company co-founded and run by Veronika Burian and José Scaglione, both graduates from the University of Reading with MAs in Type Design. According to Tiffany Wardle’s “Female Type Designers” entry on Typophile, Veronika has more than ten type family attributions — three other women are tied with her and only four have more type families than she. This is far more than impressive since TypeTogether has only been in existence since 2006.

TypeTogether focuses on typefaces for editorial use: magazines, newspapers, fine book type, and on the web. Skolar, Bree, Adelle, and Ronnia are four of their most popular families, and with good reason. They are modern, they work well in all mediums, and they have a special ability to charm the eye.

For instance, only a few days ago TypeTogether released a new editorial family, Tablet Gothic.

Tablet Gothic by TypeTogether

Tablet Gothic comes in an astounding 42 styles — seven weights in each of six widths — guaranteeing that, whatever the publication format is, there’s a Tablet Gothic font that will do the job and perform well both technically and aesthetically. TypeTogether says the wide, normal, and narrow widths produce a beautiful texture and highly readable text blocks at small sizes. The almost-vertical axis is one of the keys that allows the family to come in a wide range of weights without losing its signature look.

Weights of Tablet Gothic by TypeTogether

Weights and Widths of Tablet Gothic by TypeTogether

Tablet Gothic Widths in Bold

Tablet Gothic Widths in Bold

Notice the subtle line that angles up and to the right throughout a line. This quality, harnessed so well in Jos Buevenga’s Calluna, pushes the reader’s eye through the line and on to the next. It is especially noticeable in Tablet Gothic’s semibold weights and heavier since the terminals have more definition and are a large part of this visual propulsion.

Tablet Gothic Sample 3 by TypeTogether

Tablet Gothic Sample 3 by TypeTogether

Speaking of propulsion, TypeTogether granted me an interview about Tablet Gothic and their perspective on type design.

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Josh Farmer: Thanks for talking with me today, Veronika.

TypeTogether: My pleasure.

JF: You’ve just released the personable Tablet Gothic family. What was the inspiration behind it?

TT: We wanted to design a sans serif workhorse for extensive editorial use and give our recently released text family Abril a good companion. Our initial inspiration came from early grotesque designs in Britain and Germany. However, we didn’t want a revival, but a typeface that looks to the future of publishing with a clear understanding of its history. As always, our focus was on functionality while allowing a good measure of personality at the same time.

JF: For readers who do not know, what is a grotesque model and what is so appealing about it? Can you give examples of other grotesques you like?

TT: Grotesques are the early sans serif typefaces from the beginning of 19th century. To the eyes of the public at that time, a typeface without serifs looked odd and unfamiliar, so the name grotesque came about. They are quirky, quite ugly, and disproportionate to our eyes today, but that is what gives them a certain charm. They are much less regularised than static sans serifs like Helvetica. New typefaces modeled on the old grotesques, however, are usually stylised and adapted to the needs and tastes of today. One of the most famous grotesques is Akzidenz-Grotesk. A newer version I like is Kris Sowersby’s National by Klim Type Foundry.

JF: What characters did you begin with for Tablet Gothic and was there a specific reason behind those choices?

TT: We usually start with so-called control characters: the lowercase n, o, a, c, p, and the capital H and O. They set the proportions, stem thickness, and contrast. Most of the other letters are derived from these.

JF: Do you feel there is certain glyph which sums up Tablet Gothic’s voice, and why or why not?

TT: The most distinctive letter in the alphabet is always the lowercase a and sometimes the k and s. They are the most complex ones that a designer can play with to set the tone for the typeface.

Weights of Tablet Gothic by TypeTogether

Tablet Gothic Sample by TypeTogether

JF: Tablet Gothic has 42 total styles. How long did the family take you to complete?

TT: Actually, it took us only about four months from the start of the idea.

JF: That’s quite a fast pace. How do you accomplish such a wide range of work in such a short amount of time?

TT: We worked extensively with the multiple-master technology and two interpolation axes: weight and width. This facilitates the process quite a lot, but with 42 fonts everything gets a bit more complicated, and we had outside help with the kerning.

JF: What tools (software and hardware) are necessary for your such a fast workflow?

TT: We work with Fontlab, Superpolator, and Prepolator. As far as hardware, we have several Mac workstations and good A4 laser printers.

JF: How do you know when a typeface is finished and ready to release to the public?

TT: When we are happy with the quality of the shapes, the whole character set is drawn, spacing and kerning are done, and all the other necessary post-production is finished.

Tablet Gothic Sample Mix

Tablet Gothic Sample Mix

JF: When will the web version of Tablet Gothic be released and where can fans go to buy it?

TT: Within a few weeks, I think. It will be on Typekit, Fontdeck, and WebINK.

JF: How do you decide which type designs to pursue and which to wait on?

TT: Well this is not as straightforward as you might think; many factors play a role here.

JF: You’ve partnered with Wolfgang Homola, David Březina, and others to release their designs through TypeTogether. What do you look for in a new typeface? Is there a certain aesthetic or certain values the design or the designer should have to become part of the TypeTogether catalog?

TT: Quality is one thing and the design should fit into our font library. We also look for aesthetic values that we like or think would be interesting to our customers.

JF: What advice would you give to a graphic artist who is quite interested in type design?

TT: Go and look at old manuscripts, letterpress books; trace the shapes of the typefaces you like most; give calligraphy a try to experience where the letter shapes come from; read about typography and type design; take part in a workshop . . .

JF: What new typefaces or expansions do you have coming up?

TT: Adelle Sans, Adelle Cyrillic, Soleil Italics, Eskapade Fraktur, Bree Serif, and the 42 matching italic weights of Tablet Gothic, which will be coming very soon.

JF: You all are incredibly busy, so thanks again for taking time to discuss Tablet Gothic and TypeTogether. Can’t wait to see your newest family in use and to see what else you have in store.

TT: You’re welcome.

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If you like the samples TypeTogether made, grab the free semi-condensed extrabold weight of Tablet Gothic. Just add the correct weight to your cart and use the coupon code ba9daa9d when you check out.

With another superfamily under their collective belts — Ronnia has 28 weights, Karmina Sans and Adelle both have 12, Abril has 8 text styles and 12 display styles — José and Veronika could be excused if they took a short break. But their release calendar for the near future is looking quite nice, with several strong families preparing for their time in the spotlight.

As far as creating typefaces that are highly functional and carry a distinct voice, TypeTogether’s impact in six short years been stunning. And their effect on the way we read and feel text, as well as its myriad expressions, is only beginning.

Frustro Typeface: In-con-ceiv-a-ble

I love the impossibilist M.C. Escher. He was a brilliant artist with a true gift, and he dreamed of the most astounding things. Or maybe they were nightmares. Either way, he was capable of turning his mental dissolutions into tangible fancies for the eye. Escher was an ace at perspective and lighting and realism and angles and subtlety — all necessary for the work by which he would be remembered.

Based on similar impossible angles, the Frustro typeface by Martzi Hegedűs is a solid entry in the category of the odd. It’s a fantastic face in the vein of Escher’s work that does exactly what it sets out to do: give the illusion of simultaneously looking down on the character and up at it. Shading is key here, as well as using it in display settings. I like it a lot.

Frustro Typeface by Martzi Hegedűs

Frustro Typeface by Martzi Hegedűs

Another in this category is Priori Acute by Jonathan Barnbrook, but his looks like a mix of concrete and ribbon.

Priori Acute Specimen

Priori Acute Specimen

(Via Shawn Blanc.)

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?

New Font Choices in iBooks 1.5 | 52 Tiger

What’s New in iBooks 1.5 | 52 Tiger.

Athelas Sample

Athelas Sample

Dave Caolo gives a nice overview of what’s new in iBooks 1.5. Overall it looks like a good update, but he left it up to the type nerds to chime in on the new typefaces Apple has added — and they’re excellent choices.

Stephen Coles, of FontShop’s FontFeed blog and other type-related sites, listed the major typographic follies of the iPad in April 2010. Type choice was a major problem because they only offered one — and then, spontaneously, two — decent choices for screen fonts: Palatino and Georgia, respectively. The others were the I’ll-never-die-but-I-will-eat-your-brains zombie Times New Roman, IKEA’s-Achilles-heel Verdana, the classic Baskerville, and the part-sharpened-fang, part-wide-molar Cochin.

We can’t say for sure, but it seems Apple heeded the experts in this category because now we have some sure-fire, bona fide, I’m-all-in kind of winners.

The list now includes:

  • Athelas by TypeTogether
  • Charter by Matthew Carter
  • Iowan by John Downer
  • Seravek by Eric Olson

Charter and Iowan seem like logical and somewhat safe choices, but I’m quite impressed by the inclusion of Athelas and Seravek. Athelas does not have stage fright; it has been featured on several readability-centered services, such as Typekit. What Perpetua was to fine book printing and Georgia to reading at the advent of the web, Athelas is to both mediums. And Seravek is a clean, welcoming sans without too much of a distracting voice. Seravek feels like the type that’s been seen before: comfortable, not too flashy. Whereas the choice of, say, Gill Sans would’ve pummeled the reader with it’s way of reading due to Gill’s unmistakeable tone, Seravek is content to let you use the voice that’s already in your head.

TypeTogether launched as a powerhouse font foundry and they haven’t slowed down. Each release garners fresh awards, and each partnership showcases a new type design star. Maiola, Karmina Sans, Skolar, Bree, Givry, Adelle, Ronnia. These have ruled the new designs of the last several years — especially those designs that are specifically focused on type. And they keep forging new relationships with the top grads from each master’s class of their alma mater. On top of that, Gerard Unger, Jupiter himself, has aligned his orbit with TypeTogether’s stellar team.

But don’t think of it as if you have to notice them in order to be in the know; just know that you get to. There’s honor enough in just being alive at a moment when the planets align.

Eric Olson has made a name for himself all by himself. Klavika is one of the quintessential square sans faces, as impacting large as it is legible when small. Bryant is an underused geometric star. Maple is just begging to be a great company logo. (I could see it for Town & Country magazine’s masthead.) His Seravek was a perfect sans choice for long-form reading. I’ve recommended it before.

Seravek Sample

Seravek Sample

Hopefully we’ll see more great decisions like these from Apple and the others who battle for the digital reading category. Right now, this is a great start.

Let’s say five more typefaces were going to be added in the next few months. What would you suggest for extended reading on digital devices, whether e-ink or glass-and-pixels?

UPDATE: Yves Peters has now posted on the update in iBooks.

Microsoft Video “Productivity Future Vision”

This video has been making the rounds lately. A few things struck me as I watched:

Microsoft’s Imagined Future of Productivity

  • All text will be written in Gotham.
  • Only Microsoft can come up with such an abstract title.
  • There is no difference between a tap that selects, records, enters a chat, or backtracks. And no one is confused about this.
  • The giant Microsoft table has been replaced with a giant whiteboard on your desk.
  • There are some really great gadgets going on there. And they look like Apple products.
  • The future is filled with iPad- and iPhone-type devices, down to the details — rounded corners, good and neutral typography, gadget dimensions, etc.
  • There are no 4-inch handheld devices in the future, only 3.5-inch devices exactly like the current Apple products.
  • Interfaces can be created on the fly (1:35).
  • Textured backgrounds are important on flat devices (2:52).
  • You can select or tap in the air surrounding the device, but touching the sides does not register any extraneous input.
  • You can select from the back of a device just as you would on the front.
  • Some of that stuff is cool and even helpful. Now make it. Better yet, make it first and then tell me it’s available.
  • Black is still in. And Minority Report is still awesome.
  • The Microsoft Courier has made its comeback, well, at least into the land of vaporware.
  • Overall, I can’t imagine Microsoft actually doing most of this, if any at all. For goodness’ sake, we still don’t have the Surface, but we’re stuck with the Ribbon.
  • There is little difference between 3D and 2D, even in interaction.
  • The “pause” of holding your hand in a certain position while you wait for your tablet computer to do its thing apparently takes four seconds (4:34–4:37). Whose idea was it to pause the video of the girl so the polar bear can do its thing?
  • Mommy doesn’t wear her wedding ring on business trips.
  • Siri is a main and natural part of our technology interaction.
  • Even with the door of the fridge closed, it still takes forever to decide what to eat.
  • How is my fridge going to be run by Microsoft Office?
  • Did I mention the Gotham typeface? Because that can’t be overstated.

Paula Scher Makes Up With Helvetica? | Typography Commentary | Typographica

Paula Scher Makes Up With Helvetica? | Typography Commentary | Typographica.

I realize this is an old article, but I thought it worth mentioning that Scher has answered this question several times: She originally designed the HP templates with Gotham, but H& F-J wouldn’t agree to embedding it due to the probability that it would get ripped off; they didn’t want that since it was/is their top-selling typeface. Thus, Helvetica was her choice.

However, that still doesn’t answer: Why not use something else? To my knowledge she has not answered that question sufficiently. She just says it was “the obvious choice” for the requirements. And I can understand that.

Something else strikes me, though. Why have very few gotten upset at Apple’s templates in Pages? Sure, they’re better, but it’s the same theory — democratizing design sans the individualized partnership with the designer. Does the same sentiment exist concerning Apple?

Most will not pay for a designer, but would still like a professional look for their business. And many just can’t afford it now; they may be in the beginning stages, so they teach themselves, and often that starts with studying work that is already well done, such as a template designed by a professional. I’m okay with that for a short season. Hopefully the time will come when they realize they need to progress past that initial and elementary step.

PBS: Type Video

Great little overview video on type, with some good thoughts like the one from Paula Scher:

“Words have meaning and type has spirit, and the combination is spectacular.”

Gotham is used throughout, but make sure you watch until the end.

Optical Sizes in Typography

Typefaces are usually made with a specific set of parameters in mind: how will it be used, within what medium, with ink or digital or both, and at what sizes? The best type creators get as specific as possible about those answers in order to formulate their best response. They create an answer to a problem we encounter often.

Optical sizes within a type family answer many of the questions about which circumstances require which weight of type. In printed material, many will use the book or regular weight for text and set it at around 10–13 points, depending on how they want it to look on the page. The smaller a text needs to be, the more oddities it will need to contain in order to be readable and to be recognized as belonging to a specific family.

Think of the caption weight of type. In order to still look like the text weight, the strokes need to be thicker, the serifs need to be more pronounced, and the little quirks that our mind recognizes as specific to that type family will need to be emphasized. But using the caption weight as text is quite jarring because the main thing we recognize is thicker, pronounced oddities not meant to be seen at larger sizes. It steals our attention. Matthew Carter’s Bell Centennial, for instance, works in phone books and where information is densely packed, but it is not elegant in headlines — not that it hasn’t been tried, it is just not elegant.

Bell Centennial, 72pts, from MyFonts.com

Bell Centennial, 10pts, from MyFonts.com

Optical sizes — the changes made to a typeface’s structure to account for our perception at different sizes — is such a big deal that it has even been capitalized upon to create type families. Take Vendetta, for example, made by John Downer in 2006. Vendetta is based on the irregularities of a person’s handwriting. It tries to convince us that we are looking at something scribbled on paper rather than pixelated on a screen. Its oddities work in its favor at small sizes, but become quite pronounced as the size is increased.

Vendetta Medium, 12pts, from FontShop.com

Vendetta Medium, 74pts, from FontShop.com

Vendetta Medium, 96pts, from FontShop.com

Vendetta Medium, 144pts, from FontShop.com

Now, the Vendetta example is not a strict optical size example, but it demonstrates how and why choosing the correct weight matters. In fact, choosing the right weight for your purposes comes second only to choosing the right typeface. Using Vendetta for the movie Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events was perfect — a human feel, but a bit creepy and a bit off. And mixing the regular with the italics for each name added to the tension. Bell Centennial probably would have failed at that job, but so would have Helvetica and Mrs. Eaves and Futura. Vendetta matched the tone of the title art without dumbing it down it to a cartoonish level unbecoming of the title sequence. Choosing to use a caption weight for text brings down the entire project to a level unfit for professional typographic needs.

So make sure that after you pick just the right typeface, the right weight is also chosen. Keep pursuing the excellence within your reach.

Sports Illustrated’s Big Headline

I’m a reader, a writer, and a geek of sorts. So that doesn’t leave much time for sports. I can’t tell you anything about players or teams or stats or colors or rivalries. The last players I got excited about were Michael Jordan (when he played basketball) and Pete Rose (before his issues). And the best game I’ve been to was the Chicago Bulls at Charlotte. One player got thrown out, there was an overtime, and a short guy on the Hornets showed up some over–six-footers on the Bulls.

All that to say, a while ago I noticed the sweet ligature on the cover of Sports Illustrated. They solved a problem with some flair: How can we make the title as big as possible and still keep its personality? Below, an older version is first, then the newer cover.

Comparing the two covers, you can see a clear progression from the old version to the new. The basic sans was updated to an ultra-heavy spurless sans, given an outline, and given a small drop shadow down and to the right. The tracking is incredibly tight, as are the counters and curves. They kept the short ascenders and descenders, even cutting off the p more than it was before. It looks like the descender of the p comes down only as much as the distance between the crossbar of the t and its cap height and the height difference between the I and l. The S feels about the same, but the t has lost the left side of its crossbar — a fantastic solution that fits the tone — and the u and a gained soft curves on the bottom left that contrasts the sharp corners on the bottom right. An r–t ligature would not have been right, but that r–a ligature is what seals the deal for me. Just perfect.

Where Helvetica Shines

If you must use the Helvetica typeface, don’t use it in paragraphs; that’s not what it was created for. (And don’t even mention the pariah, Arial.)

The problems with Helvetica are that its character forms are not distinct enough from each other, the shapes are pushed toward the outside of the space they hold (which makes them oddly squat and claustrophobic), and the leading (fixable) and counter spaces (unfixable) are too tight in automated templates where the point size is small. These problems start getting corrected only as the words get into heading and display sizes — around 16 points or so.

So use it for headings then and not for paragraphs. And feel free to use all caps here — that’s where Helvetica can shine.

Typographers Are Actors

My high school drama teacher once said, “The best actors are those who can step the furthest away from themselves convincingly.”

This also applies to those in the art of typography or type design: They momentarily step out of themselves and try to become something else. Yes, the “crystal goblet” theory applies here because both the actor and the typographer must not be seen. In a theatre we should be shocked by the presence of the credits because we were so engaged in the sincerity of the acting itself. We should be equally as shocked by the clarity of a sign or a paragraph that, only after we have read it, do we reflect on how effortless it was. Save for ornamentation, effortless legibility is a noble goal.

Recognizing Meaning in Movies

In a dramatic movie, the silent message conveyed in the blank stare or quick lip curl is stronger than any spoken line could. I think of a split-second in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade that speaks volumes without even seeing Harrison Ford’s face. Indiana Jones has just had a startling conversation with someone seeking the cup of Christ. His team has found key clues to its location, but has been attacked and the leader taken prisoner. As we see Jones accepting the probability that the chalice can be found, he turns to the persuasive financier, Walter Donovan, and says, “You’ve got the wrong Jones, Mr. Donovan. Why don’t you try my father?”

With that brush-off, Jones picks up his hat as the scene comes to its climax. His unfocused hand clutching his hat stays in the foreground at waist height while the camera focuses on Donovan in the background. Donovan’s disheartening reply comes: “We already have. Your father is the man who’s disappeared.” The camera doesn’t swing up to reveal his reaction, it just watches his hand sink ever so slightly on hearing this news. We knew exactly what Jones was thinking in that moment.

Recognizing Meaning in Typefaces

Humans are not letters. We don’t look or act like letters. Typographers must become the characters — something completely foreign to their way of being — in order to express them as art and as containers of meaning. How is it that we can see the word serious written in one typeface and believe that it is somber, but in another typeface we understand that it is meant sarcastically? To me it seems an almost metaphysical thing for humans to get so far away from themselves as to create character shapes that engender feelings. Sure, with motion it becomes easier to convey feeling and tone, but how is it possible with a static character? The typographer has tapped into our intuition in this case and drawn out of us their true meaning. Repeat: The typographer has drawn out of us their true meaning. The forms they create tell us exactly what they were thinking without having any contact with them. Whether we are a type aficionado or not, we are feeling the letter. That’s possibly why comedies use one style of type (big, red, capitalized 3-D, apparently), serious dramas use another (Helvetica thin, Gotham, Futura, or Mrs. Eaves), and horror movies use another (um, sharpened Trajan . . . with a blood trail).

The best actors can become so absorbed by the aura of another era that they become iconic. The futility and depravity in Hotel Rwanda; the interpersonal tension, spite, and misunderstandings in Crash; the family connections and personal expectations in The Godfather; the struggle between identity, destiny, and desire in Superman.

Making Identity and Typeface Match: Tone

Words have definitions — they must, there is no doubt — and type carries feeling, but well-chosen type causes words and feeling to match. “Font design,” Rian Hughes once said in a MyFonts interview, “is a curious mix of the technical and the aesthetic, the left and right brain.” He continued, “A bad typeface is an unresolved typeface, one that doesn’t know what it’s trying to convey.” When typographers do their job with excellence, they have become absorbed by the thoughts, feelings, and aura of another time only to transfer those to the reader. The best typographers are geniuses at this. They cause us to read the word but feel the form. When rebranding, companies will often say of their rejected type choices, “It’s too friendly . . . too serious . . . we’re a vibrant, growing company and this is too boring . . . we want something historical, not futuristic.” They are intuiting the feeling of the typeface and matching it with who they believe they are. They can feel when it doesn’t match, even if they can’t explain why. They are referring to tone.

Actors Convince

The best actors convince the public of their role. Denzel Washinton in Training Day; Robin Williams in Dead Poets SocietyAladdinAwakenings, and One Hour Photo; Charlize Theron in Monster; Donnie Wahlberg’s character Vincent in The Sixth Sense; Jaime Foxx in Ray and Collateral; Val Kilmer in Tombstone; Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man; Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. Whether they garner awards or not, they become the standard for that kind of role. And they don’t do it just once; the better they are, the more convincingly they are able to do it time and again. Those who tell the story best own it. That’s why many believe that fairy tales are no longer public domain or originated by the Brothers Grimm, but by Disney.

Type Designers Convince

The best typographers have inhabited an era and convinced the public of that role. They have told the story best. Arno, Myriad, and Minion by Robert Slimbach; Swift by Gerard Unger; Feijoa by Kris Sowersby; Mostra Nuova, Proxima Nova, and Kinescope by Mark Simonson; Parkinson and Mojo by Jim Parkinson; Amplitude and Farnham by Christian Schwartz; FF Unit and the FF Meta family by Erik Spiekermann; Cezanne by P22; the Soho and Neo families by Sebastian Lester; Bree, Karmina, Maiola, and the Helvetica expansion project by Veronika Burian and José Scaglione; FaceBuster by Silas Dilworth; Helvetica by Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffman; numerous scripts by Hermann Zapf; Klavika by Eric Olson; Liza and Fakir by Underware; Verdana and Georgia by Matthew Carter. These and countless others have told the story best.

The Best Story

As with any supreme art, great typography lets us become absorbed in the unspoken feeling of the moment because the artists themselves were able to inhabit and express that aura. In this, typographers are actors. They step out of themselves and become something else: robotic, ’70s psychedelic, velvety, disinterested, amorous, fearful, regal, luscious, strong, elegant, agitated. They transfer the feeling to us — not just the letter or the word. And they do it with aplomb, convincing the public of the time and place the typeface represents.

Dictionaries may own the definition, but typographers own the meaning and the feel — yes, the sum connotation. Look throughout history and you’ll see that this is why typographers have always told the best stories.