Opinionated Type

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

To Be Wise and Strong and Free

For Noah — Shawn Blanc.

My good friend, Shawn, writing his best.


The Complete Engraver Book and Two Free Fonts

The Complete Engraver is a tome by Nancy Sharon Collins about the place of engraving in typographic history. Ink used to be a luxury and paper was handmade, so the dedicated act of engraving something turned it into the proverbial priceless heirloom.

The Complete Engraver Book by Collins

The Complete Engraver Book by Collins

What we understand now as engraving took much dedication, patience, and skill to mature into an artful business. It took the perfecting of swashes and hairlines and rhythm, and it took a sense of relational maturity to do include just enough flourish and no more than the event called for. (Yes, that ended with a preposition. And?) Engraving is not done to worthless things; that is not its purpose. Engraving marks now for forever. It is a monument given at a precise moment, a purposeful recall imbued with every ounce of emotion one could possibly muster. It is not to be taken too lightly. Hopefully, beyond the droll act of pressing metal majuscules to hot wax, Collins’s book will convince us of that.

In the meantime, enjoy two free fonts that have nestled themselves somewhere between a 14-year-old’s whimsical doodles and the maturity of Jessica Hische’s designs — but created by a dude — Terrance Weinzierl’s Feldman Engraver and JMC Engraver.

Feldman Engraver and JMC Engraver at fonts.com

Feldman Engraver and JMC Engraver at fonts.com

Go forth and fancify something.

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

Jimmy Dean Breakfast Commercials: Shine On Campaign

These Jimmy Dean commercials crack me up. I think the cheesy music is perfect, but if I eat a Jimmy Dean breakfast will I be as big as a planet? Or just a gigantic ball of gas? That’s not what they should be getting across. Someone didn’t think this through all the way.

TypeTogether’s Maiola Featured on Wikipedia Rebrand Exercise

Small companies that put rebrand exercises on the web tend to get others talking. The rebrand making the rounds right now is Wikipedia from New!.

What caught my eye was that they used Maiola (PDF), one of my favorite typefaces from Veronika Burian and distributed by TypeTogether. I love how they chose such a dynamic serif rather than a safe sans. Maiola has a kinetic energy in every little stroke, even the dot over the lowercase i. I may have chosen to put “wiki” both in italic and bold just to keep a balanced weight to both sides because optically it doesn’t strike me initially as balanced; it’s a bit light on the left. But it sure is distinct, and distinction wins in branding.

Wikipedia Rebrand with Maiola

Wikipedia Rebrand with Maiola

Be sure to check out all the details and their thinking behind the rebrand. It’s a great example of being clear with objectives and with execution of an idea. However, I would argue two points. First, I think the large w should have been changed as well. WordPress uses a capital W also so I would like to see a bit more distinction for Wikipedia. Second, I’m not sure about making it look like a newspaper. The concept of news is that it should be completely factual; that is the opposite of Wikipedia since anyone — everyone — can edit or update an article based on . . . nothing. No credentials or experience are necessary. For example, I had a college history teacher who would give us essay assignments with the warning that we should not use Wikipedia. “Historical facts are not democratic,” she would say, and she promised to make changes to the pages before it was due just so she could downgrade us.

Anyways, I love Maiola; I’ve even made it the article heading typeface for my site. It is based in calligraphy and has planned irregularities in the glyphs to mimic hand-formed processes. This same concept is seen in John Downer’s Vendetta, but Burian, being Czech herself, set Maiola’s trajectory based on two little-known Czech type designers: Vojtěch Preissig and Oldřich Menhart.

The thought is that fonts look the way they should look up close, but the further you get from them, the more they change: sharp cuts and angles soften while smooth curves appear more blobby. Infusing a design with more sharp angles, then, keeps each glyph clearer and helps preserve the original voice of the typeface even as the reader gets further from them. From this perspective it’s easy to understand how Maiola’s sharp cuts, drastic angles, and contrast are as functional as they are artistic. Check out all the details hidden in this typeface.

Maiola Sample

Maiola Sample

Burian created Maiola in completion of her MA at Reading. It has won numerous awards, has been used in everything from magazines to fine book printing, and started her type design career with a masterful first step.

Here’s a FontShop link to Maiola.

Michael Crichton’s Best Sentence

I stumbled upon Michael Crichton’s book Timeline the other night. The movie was ridiculous, but I had a few extra minutes so I read the first 300 pages. (Don’t be impressed. It was the large print edition.)

I like how he respects even his minor characters — that is, after all, one of the better and most well-known pieces of advice for writers — and one sentence particularly stuck out in the “Dordogne” section.

Some young archeologists are toiling away in France, attempting to excavate a small village dating around the mid-1300s. They take a break, go into town for a meal, and are joined by two American stockbrokers who are visiting France with their girlfriends. Here’s Crichton’s description of the girls:

The women were both publicists in the same PR firm; they had just finished a very big party for Martha Stewart’s new book. The group’s bustling sense of their own self-importance quickly got on Chris’s nerves; and, like many successful business people, they tended to treat academics as if they were slightly retarded, unable to function in the real world, to play the real games. Or perhaps, he thought, they just found it inexplicable that anyone would choose an occupation that wouldn’t make them a millionaire by age twenty-four.

Chrichton then moves on to the questions they ask:

“Why are you working there? What’s so special about that place, anyway?” one of the women asked.

“The site is very typical for the period,” Kate said, “with two opposing castles. But what makes it a real find is that it has been a neglected site, never previously excavated.”

And then Crichton writes the sentence from one of the rich girls that I think ranks as one of his best due to its simple understatement:

“That’s good? That it was neglected?” The woman was frowning; she came from a world where neglect was bad.

There are so many ways to go with just that one line — “she came from a world where neglect was bad” — her childhood, her dating and breakups, her property and trinkets, her career disappointments, her sense of personal value. Just think of the enormous amount of weight that single sentence would have over someone’s life. How would that drive a person’s decisions — to never be neglected? What kind of woman would she become? What company would she keep and how would she get rid of those she didn’t want around anymore? He could have unpacked this one phrase with an entire chapter about her alone.

But Crichton moves right along, leaving that statement to hang in mid-air without any resolve. And I love it.

Hunt Roman Typeface Review at Typographica

“Hunt Roman can be considered a prototype for exclusive typefaces, designed for one specific purpose, as opposed to the universally applicable typefaces of the time, such as Adrian Frutiger’s Univers or Max Miedinger’s Helvetica.The friendship between Jack Stauffacher and Hermann Zapf is the foundation for the development of this typeface.”

(via Hunt Roman Typeface Review at Typographica)

Hunt Roman Typeface by Hermann Zapf

Hunt Roman Typeface by Hermann Zapf

This good little article about an exclusive typeface demonstrates what I’ve said before: Much of design is about great relationships.

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.

Video: Jonathan Hoefler on “Type at the Crossroads”

Video: Jonathan Hoefler at AIGA: “Type at the Crossroads”

This is one of the best expressed understandings of type on the web that I have seen. From the introductory Helvetica musings to unpacking the technical details of generating fonts for the web, Hoefler is funny, erudite, and a wordsmith. And opinionated, which makes it that much better. His take on what makes a typeface that certain typeface is spot on — spoiler: it’s the feel of it — and the solution H&F-J have landed on is so obviously correct — get it to feel right by letting the idea of a certain typeface determine the form it must take in each medium.

After this, I understand better why it is taking so long for them to get their typefaces on the web. They are, after all, one of the last foundries to port their catalog for Internet use. At least we know they’ll be done right once they’re released. Until then we can try to contain our smoldering jealousy for those lucky ones already using Whitney on their site.

Inge Druckrey Film: “Teaching to See”

Inge Druckrey Film: “Teaching to See” on Edward Tufte’s website

A 37-minute film covering the teaching of Inge Druckrey. More than a teaching lesson — almost like a manifesto, but with subtlety. Tons of examples are shown, including the minimal dot and line exercises used to design our entry in the Olympic poster competition.

It’s only available on Tufte’s website for the time being, so give it a minute to load and then learn from one of the best.

These Are Things Website: Home of the Modern World Map

These Are Things.

Jen and Omar have made a very special website here. Click the red triangles to go to the next frame or just scroll through. I promise you’ll like what happens — all thanks to some fancy and very open coding.

map elements

Fonts in use: Museo Slab for text, Gotham for site name and random bits, and Futura for headings.

Once again maybe maps can be cool. And fun.

Impermanent Beauty: Art by Gregory Euclide

Gregory Euclide uses whiteboards — between teaching classes — for some of his astounding works. Here’s his website with samples, as well as his Flickr account and Behance. With subtle hues of black contrast, and few other colors, and strokes that wind from background to foreground and back again, I find it difficult to reconcile how capriciously they could be wiped away.

Gregory Euclide, Laid Down and Wiped Away #5

Gregory Euclide, Laid Down and Wiped Away #5


Gregory Euclide, Laid Down and Wiped Away #6

Gregory Euclide, Laid Down and Wiped Away #6

Notice the interlocking triangular warning trefoils at the bottom left and the directional arrows at the middle left. In view of how our choices affect the planet, Euclide says his themes center around the now and how humans should approach nature as a steward rather than a taker. He hopes his art would inspire conservation and responsibility for the fragile environment we have. I see the side of a globe, the interaction between industrial and natural elements, and, in some ways, a weeping earth, all running together in poignant vignettes.

Please Define Failure

Concerning Microsoft’s tablet announcement, dubbed Surface, Shawn Blanc today said:

The keyboards are a necessary component because of the software.

The Surface for Windows 8 Pro runs full-on traditional Windows apps — apps which you cannot use with touch input. You need a keyboard and trackpad for those apps.

In what way is a physical keyboard considered a success when it is necessary for a mobile computer? So then how long until reverting to old hardware is inherently understood as a failure? Why not bring back the terminal prompt while we’re at it? “Everything is a remix” was an observation, not necessarily a compliment.

I’m happy Microsoft is making some effort in this category, but when your software holds back your hardware from progressing, or vice versa, I mark that as a failure.

My New Site

I’m no longer posting here.

I have left this site for a better one.

My new happy home is http://www.opinionatedtype.com.

It’s clean and beautiful, and that’s where I’ve been posting for a few months now. Update your RSS or your bookmarks or whatever you happen to use, and come see it in a real browser instead of just a feed.

The Breakdown: Reuters Hates the Unreleased iPhone. We get it.

Less than two hours ago, Reuters posted this article, which is so full of nonsense that it makes “The Jabberwock” look rational.

I’ve reposted it here for demolition. Let’s look.

“SEOUL (Reuters) – Samsung Electronics Co launches its latest Galaxy S smartphone in Europe on Tuesday, with the third generation model expected to be even more successful than its predecessor,”

Nothing should be easier than being more successful than old technology.

“which helped the South Korean company topple Apple Inc as the world’s top smartphone maker.”

Toppled already? That was quick. I mean it only took half a decade. Oh, and what measurements are we using? Because current revenue and gross margin weren’t included, at almost 30 billion and almost 50 percent for Apple, but only 17 billion and 13 percent for Samsung.

I understand, though. Math is something we used when we were in school. But now that we’re out, we’ll stick to link baiting.

“The S3, which tracks the user’s eye movements to keep the screen from dimming or turning off while in use,”

Google Glasses proof of concept. I mean really, at this point if the word tracking is used, we expect Google is behind it and making a buck.

“hits stores in 28 European and Middle East countries, including Germany and Britain, as Samsung aims to widen the gap with Apple months ahead of its rival’s new iPhone, expected in the third quarter.”

Only 28? Do you know how many countries are over there? And if you’re going for big numbers and don’t want to include America, then China and India are the best bets. Especially if, as you have shown, revenue and margin aren’t high on the priority list. By all means, Germany should make the cut.

“The Galaxy S3, running on Google’s Android operating system, boasts a 4.8-inch screen,”

Two bummers in one sentence. But at least listing off bullet points is easy-peesy.

“bigger than the 3.5-inch display on the iPhone 4S and the 4.7-inch screen on HTC’s One X model.”

Oh, so now math is your strong suit. Must be only when it suits the one-sided argument being laid out here: bigger screen is obviously better, rather than better screen is better, even if that screen is only one-tenth of an inch bigger. Next up: projection screen in your pocket. Obviously better. Because it’s bigger.

“In the kind of anticipation that has become the norm for new Apple gadget releases, hopeful customers began queuing outside an electronics retail store in Berlin on Monday night eager to be the first to lay their hands on the S3.”

How many? It’s never said. And kudos for the quasi-cultish reference. The overlord will not forget your act of servitude.

“Major global carriers – from Vodafone to Singapore’s SingTel – [sic for the lame hyphens which should be em dashes] have been aggressively promoting the S3, fuelling [sic, should be one l according to Oxford] speculation the smartphone could top the Galaxy S2’s 20 million unit sales worldwide.”

They’ve only sold 20 million S2s around the globe? But there’s almost a billion people just in the Middle-Eastern-and-Euro pond they’re fishing in. And Apple sold almost twice that amount just in the last quarter alone.

“In the two years that [that is such an unnecessary word] we’ve been offering pre-orders, it’s the most pre-ordered Android device we’ve had in our line-up,’ said a spokesman for Vodafone UK, declining to disclose exact numbers. ‘It’s on track to meet, if not exceed, the level of pre-orders we expected by the time it actually launches.’”

“We didn’t expect much, so it’s not as great as it sounds, but we know how to spin us some headlines! Set the expectations low, then blow them out of the water!”

“Samsung introduced its first Galaxy in 2010, three years after the iPhone’s debut,”

Steve Jobs wasn’t kidding when he said they were at least five years ahead of the competition at the first iPhone release.

“to counter Apple’s roaring success in smartphones at a time when other rivals such as Nokia were struggling to make much impact.”

Apple’s roaring success? Check. Other companies struggling? Check. Nothing much has changed here.

“Samsung sold 44.5 million smartphones in January-March – equal to nearly 21,000 every hour – giving it 30.6 percent market share. Apple sold 35.1 million iPhones, taking 24.1 percent market share.”

Enough already with the one-metric qualifier for success. And again, em dashes—like this— or spaced ones — like this — would make you look like a, um, uh, professional.

“‘The Galaxy S3 is a real challenger to the upcoming iPhone,’ said Francisco Jeronimo, an IDC analyst based in London.”

Says the person with no information whatsoever.

“‘This is likely be [sic, missing word] one of the most sold smartphones this year, though the real test will come when the next iPhone is launched.’”

Mr. Obvious, your obvious observation is not subtle. Analysts of this sort should never be paid. Say something I couldn’t have figured out on my own, would ya?

“The race for global smartphone supremacy comes as Apple has accused Samsung of copying some of its products. The South Korean company counter-claims that Apple has infringed its patents. Both have denied the allegations, and a long-running court saga continues.”

What other random details can we throw in this article? Steve Jobs is no longer running Apple. Did you mention that?

“Apple plans to use a larger screen on the next iPhone, according to people familiar with the situation. The iPhone 4S was introduced last October.”

But these people are super-secret, almost non-existent. Or they are rumor-mongering hacks with no familiarity with Apple’s product plans. Either way, only the second sentence is true.


“In a departure from its predecessor, whose look and feel became the main subject of the legal dispute with Apple, the latest Galaxy has a more rounded outline. It also has voice recognition, dubbed S Voice, which will inevitably be compared to Apple’s Siri, and image recognition software that can tag and share photographs.”

Ah, the lonely S. Apple has never used that before.

“Prices vary depending on the contract. A model with 16 gigabytes of memory costs up to 189 pounds ($300) under a 12-month contract with Vodafone. A similar package for the iPhone 4s costs 159 pounds, but comes with a more expensive monthly data plan.”

“Samsung said it will release the S3 via 296 carriers in 145 countries by July.”

“Profit from Samsung’s mobile division nearly tripled in January-March to $3.6 billion, accounting for 73 percent of operating profit.”

Good for them. Now, in comparison.

“Samsung – whose shares have gained 82 percent since late-August, beating Apple’s 58 percent rise – is now banking on an aggressive marketing campaign ahead of the summer London Olympics to further drive sales. It has said its mobile market share in China doubled after the 2008 Beijing Olympics.”

And we’re back to math. Yes, 82 is more than 58. But look at the graph.

“‘The S3 is supported by an unprecedented promotional campaign,’ said Geoff Blaber, an analyst at CCS Insight in London. ‘Samsung’s timing with the Galaxy S3 is perfect.’”

Perfect remains to be seen. As far as we know, the next iPhone is perfect. But you already hate it, so we don’t have to go there.

“($1 = 0.6396 British pounds)

($1 = 1185.3500 Korean won)

(Additional reporting by Paul Sandle in LONDON and Tarmo Virki in HELSINKI; Editing by Ryan Woo and Ian Geoghegan)”

Final note: edit first, then post.

Apple’s 2012 WWDC Logo

Apple’s 2012 WWDC Logo

Apple’s WWDC 2012 Logo

This beautiful logo is brightly colored and made of the icon squares we’ve come to associate with iOS devices. It’s a good step away from the monochrome Apple logos we’ve seen over the last several years, and seeing the individual rounded squares gives a great sense of the developer community that has flourished on the iOS foundation. Though the multilayered effect is good and the heart of the logo beats red, blue still seems the dominant color.

To the unseen designer of this logo, good job. Very effective. I wonder if there’s a method to the design, like certain kinds of apps are certain colors while sizes are based on sales? I’d love to see if there’s a rationale to it.

An Interview with Jon Tan: The Setup

An interview with Jon Tan: The Setup.

On 13 June 2011, not even a year ago, Jon Tan did an interview with The Setup, a site that asks what the pros are using and what their ultimate setup would be.

The last three paragraphs are the most amazing to me because, besides a few tangible limitations like a tablet that can grow to be more than the size of a projector and software that knows your thoughts, much of it is now available.

As others have said, we are living in the future. The future is now.

Sebastian’s Drawings

Sebastian’s Drawings

Stylish. Simple. Gorgeous. Rapid-fire expressiveness with heart and humor. You can feel a story brewing behind each frame.

(Via Shawn Blanc.)

Memoriam Typeface Half-price at MyFonts

Memoriam Typeface Half-price at MyFonts.com

Starting as the New York Times commemorative script for those who left this world in 2008, Memoriam took the editors and designers by such surprise that they used it throughout the entire magazine as its primary visual binding. Patrick Griffin and Canada Type did a thoroughgoing job of this typeface.

Memoriam Typeface Sample at MyFonts

From there, Memoriam made not a few waves in the design and type communities. It oozes elegance and finesse, and the OpenType version lets the designer take full advantage of the extreme contrast and the swashes that could either float or sink a barge, depending on use. Speaking of use, due to its ultra-fine details, Memoriam should only be used in extremely large sizes.

Memoriam Styles, Sample Letter E

Memoriam Styles, Sample Letter E

Memoriam has grown to include an inline and outline version. The sale is only at MyFonts — through 15 April 2012, the three primary weights (and swashes) are only $75 total for the OpenType version. A few extra hours at work should help you secure your copy.