kottke.org posts about fonts
For August, the writers at HiLobrow will have a month of appreciations of fonts and typefaces, lovingly titled “Kern Your Enthusiasm.” Matthew Battles kicks things off with the legendary Aldine Italic developed for Venetian publisher Aldus Manutius, a new set of metal letters that helped jumpstart a little thing we call the Renaissance.
When Aldus put the first version of a typeface we call italic to use in 1501, the printing press had been proliferating in Europe for half a century. In other words, it was about as old as the computer is now. It was a time of immense invention and swiftly spun variety in the printed book, and a time of new mobility and independence of thought and activity among certain classes of people as well — and the combination of new ways and new tools meant new kinds of books. Crucially, the book was getting smaller, small enough to act not only as a desktop, but as a mobile device.
Previous HiLobrow series include “Kirb Your Enthusiasm” (on Jack Kirby), “Kirk Your Enthusiasm” (on Star Trek’s Captain Kirk) and “Herc Your Enthusiasm” (on old school hip-hop, where I contributed a short thing on Afrika Bambaataa.)
After a thorough review, Typographica has chosen their favorite typefaces of 2008.
Sensationalism aside, it’s significant that the ever-increasing quality in type design these days — dubbed by some as the new “golden age” of type — has caused this year’s list to supersede previous lists in many ways.
Check out these “flair” typefaces from the 70s.
They were very big around 1970 or so. Bookman set the example, even though it’s from much earlier. By the mid-seventies, they were adding Bookman-style swashes to everything. They were usually called Whateverthefontwascalled Flair.
Scroll down the page for samples of Univers Flair, Franklin Gothic Flair, etc.
The goal of Oded Ezer’s Typosperma Project “was to create some sort of new transgenic creatures, half (human) sperm, half letter”. (via buzzfeed)
The Goodie Bag podcast has an entertaining little video on Trajan, the font used ubiquitously in movie credits and posters:
Like indoor plumbing and toga parties, Trajan hails from Rome. Matter of fact, you can find almost 2,000-year-old inscriptions on Trajan’s column, where they have totally off-the-leash keggers on Saturdays… Russell Crowe has co-starred with Trajan three times now.
This reminds me of Red is Not Funny, J. Tyler Helms’ illustration of the wide use of bold red letters in distinctly unfunny comedies. (via cameron hunt)
Erik Spiekermann on FE-Mittelschrift, the typeface used for German license plates.
The official typeface for our license plates is now called FE-Mittelschrift, with FE meaning it is Fälschungs-Erschwert, i.e. difficult to forge. Apparently car thieves, terrorists and notorious law-breakers had been exploiting DIN’s geometric construction principle and turning E into F or 3 into 8 etc by simply using a bit of black tape or white paint.
Here are all the alphanumeric characters:
Note the tamper-resistant differences between the 6 (no notch) and 9 (notched), the E & F, the I & 1, the O & zero, the P & R, and so on.
Subtil, a display typeface by Hanno Bennert and Alexander Gialouris that was a winning entry in the Type Directors Club 2007 competition. Love those subtly rounded ends.
New web site for Hoefler & Frere-Jones, the noted and celebrated typeface designers, including a weblog. Subscribed. Oh, and the browser fonts of choice for the meticulous duo? “Lucida Grande, Lucida Sans, Verdana, Georgia, Helvetica, Arial” (thx, jonathan)
Peter Saville, the British designer closely associated with Factory Records,
is offering free downloads of some of the fonts he used in designing record sleeves and other work for New Order, Joy Division, and other Factory Records artists (see update below).
Update: Several Peter Saville fans from around the world have written in to say that the above site is not Peter Saville’s official site (this is). It’s also unclear whether those fonts were indeed made by Saville (probably not) or ever offered for download free of charge (probably definitely not). But they’re still neat fonts, so download at your own risk.
Update: Kai has identified some of the fonts offered as shoddy versions of the following:
Joy Division Closer - Trajan (Adobe)
Blue Monday - Engravers Gothic (Bitstream)
New Order 1981 - Futura (Bauer)
New Order 1993 - Handel Gothic (Linotype)
New Order Ceremony - Albertus (Mecanorma)
New Order 316 - BT Incised 901 (Bitstream) = Antique Olive (Linotype)
New Order Regret - Rotis Serif (Agfa)
In this case, you get what you pay for, I guess.
Michael Bierut’s 13 reasons to choose a particular typeface for a project. “Once I saw a project in a student portfolio that undertook the dubious challenge of redesigning the Tiffany’s identity. I particularly disliked the font that was used, and I politely asked what it was. ‘Oh,’ came the enthusiastic response, ‘that’s the best part! It’s called Tiffany!’”
Exhibit on Helvetica (the font, not the film) opens tomorow at the MoMA and will be available for a good long time (until March 31, 2008). “Widely considered the official typeface of the twentieth century, Helvetica communicates with simple, well-proportioned letterforms that convey an aesthetic clarity that is at once universal, neutral, and undeniably modern.”
Winners of the Helvetica haiku contest I pointed to a couple of weeks ago. My favorite of all the ones listed: “i shot the serif / left him there full of leading / yearning for kerning”. Close second: “She misunderstood / When I said she was ‘Grotesque’ / Akzidenz happen”. I am a sucker for puns.
Quick quiz: Is this text set in Arial or Helvetica? If you’re struggling with that, check out How to Spot Arial. (thx, hubs)
The top 100 fonts as determined by a panel of designers and type experts. Top 10: Helvetica, Garamond, Frutiger, Bodoni, Futura, Times, Akzidenz Grotesk, Officina, Gill Sans, and Univers. A PDF of the results (with photos, in German) is also available. (via type for you)
List of the 7 worst fonts. What, no Hobo or Brush Script? Comic Sans is, of course, #1 with a bullet. (via wider angle)
Typography language pedantry: font vs. typeface. “‘Fonts’ and ‘typefaces’ are different things. Graphic designers choose typefaces for their projects but use fonts to create the finished art.”
Helvetica, The Movie! “The film is studded with the stars of typography: Erik Spiekermann, Matthew Carter, Massimo Vignelli, Michael Bierut, Wim Crouwel, Hermann Zapf, Stefan Sagmeister, Jonathan Hoefler, Tobias Frere-Jones, Experimental Jetset.”