Opinionated Type

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

Category: Business

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

|  |  |  |  |

Download the Wayfinding Sans Pro PDF

Buy Wayfinding Sans Pro at:

Wayfinding Sans Pro website


Scrabble Typography Edition

Scrabble Typography Edition – Winning Solutions, Inc.


Scrabble with Walnut Wood & Type

Scrabble with Walnut Wood & Type


Best way to win against a type fanatic is through distraction. Here’s to well-crafted, walnut-and-birchwood distractions.

Apple’s Siri: The UI-versal Solvent

Just as each tollbooth taxes the commuter, each UI/UX translation that has to happen to get from input to output presents a problem.

A calculator uses plain numbers for the main four computations. One input, one output — numerals — and what you type is what shows up without translation. An abacus may somewhat be more complicated in that the same type of bead has more than one meaning, with the only differentiator being color, size, or position.

Abacus on Wikipedia

Abacus on Wikipedia

More complicated tasks need modes. Calculating a specific tangent of a wave involves multiple calculator steps, such as pressing a button prior to, in the midst of, or after running a calculation to receive the answer in the correct format. On one calculator I have, when I divide 14 by 3 the answer given is 14/3. Useless for most purposes. It’s only after I press Casio’s S<–>D button that I get a workable answer of 4.666666667. I can do something with that.

Adobe’s Creative Suite is even more complicated due to its power. You can’t just write. You have to choose the text tool, select the destination, type the word, then format it by type choice, size, weight, and the like. These options thankfully open a wide range of possibilities.

Multi-touch made your finger the UI, doing away with the stylus for all but the most precise artistic tasks. The processing was hidden behind the multi-touch glass and all we saw was an application zooming to do our bidding.


Siri the Helpful

But modes don’t really exist with Apple’s Siri. Giving a command to Siri is just that. Speak a command to Siri and it responds verbally, accomplishing the task you’ve given it.

The beauty of Siri is that you are the UI. Your voice is the medium. No other mode is needed. Siri is the personal mediator, with the processing hidden behind a simple, helpful façade. Now, it’s not quite to the level IBM’s Watson is capable of — including understanding denotative themes and tying together only loosely related strands of thought — but Siri does away with the complex in a way we are only used to with other people. It takes all the layers of interaction that we once thought necessary and reduces them down to two: input and output, where the method and the medium are the same — your voice.

Apple has brought AI to the masses in its most basic form. The days are numbered for those dialog boxes that ask multiple times if we’re sure we want to complete such-and-such action. We now have a cascade of options for accomplishing tasks: keyboard, mouse, multi-touch, voice. And each one requires less interaction to get what we want done.

Less interaction, less mistakes; less mistakes, less frustration; less frustration, more enjoyment; and more enjoyment means more accomplishment and more interaction with those enjoyable tools. Apple was not the first voyager to the mineral springs of voice commands, but with Siri, Apple has bottled the universal solvent for much of our UI problems.

Guardian Newspaper’s Three Little Pigs Video Ad

Picking up where the Three Little Pigs story leaves off, The Guardian does a fantastic job of throwing in everything from financial reform to conspiracy theories. This is an example of great advertising. Funny, thoughtful, extending a storyline we’re already familiar with, they got their point across, and I didn’t mind watching it one bit.

If you liked this commercial and feel in the mood for a bit more of the adventures of diminutive swine, check out this hilarious retelling in the Shakespearean style by comedian John Branyan.

Awesome Adelle Typeface Deal

For everyone interested in fonts, here are two weights of the incredible Adelle typeface for an 80% discount. These Heavy and Heavy Italic weights together are only $25 bucks, it’s only available for a limited time, and you can’t beat this face for a modern news feel. When you use this face, you’ll have heavy-hitting headlines and a real sense of balance.

Use this link to grab yours and pass me some kickback love:



Adelle Heavy and Heavy Italic Sample

Adelle Heavy and Heavy Italic Sample


Speaking of TypeTogether, have you seen their Freebies page? Really good stuff there.