Akzidenz-Grotesk Beer is a non-commercial personal project created by the Portuguese designer Jo達o Andrade.
H AT E
by martin majoor
H E LV E T I CA
Fifty years ago Helvetica was released under the name Neue Haas Grotesk. It seemed to have come at the right time in the right place. But is Helvetica really so good? The dawn of sans serifs In Germany at the end of the XIX century, the Grotesk (the German name for sans serif) gained popularity. These Grotesks turned out to be the most influential faces in the history of the sans serif. Several German type foundries published their own Grotesks, always more or less lookalikes. Jobbing type In 1896 Berthold, the biggest German type foundry, started releasing the Akzidenz Grotesk family, built up from existing and new Grotesks. In the years that followed Berthold managed to make a coherent family, and Akzidenz Grotesk became a success. The different versions of the Akzidenz family were produced by anonymous punch cutters. One name, however, did survive: that of Ferdinand Theinhardt, who is known as the designer of Royal Grotesque and Breite Grotesque, two members of the Akzidenz family. It is tempting to imagine that Theinhardt was the first in Germany to design a sans serif typeface. Whoever did, on what did he base the shapes of his new letterforms? Did these sans serif forms just cross his mind or did he have some sort of model to base them on? Theinhardt and all the unknown punch cutters would have been familiar with seriffed typefaces such as Walbaum and Didot. This can be seen clearly when characters of Walbaum and Akzidenz Grotesk are superimposed upon each other. The ground form or skeleton of both typefaces is almost identical. But these classicistic typefaces were far from an ideal base for a sans serif. In Walbaum, the thin tail ends in characters such as the ‘C’, and in numbers such as ‘2’ and ‘5’, were elegant, but when these thin parts were made thicker to create a sans serif form, the result was a sans serif typeface with almost ‘closed’ forms. And that is exactly what can be found in Akzidenz Grotesk. Where the roman of the Akzidenz Grotesk is derived from Walbaum-like typefaces, the italic is nothing more than a slanted version of the roman. Why was the italic not based upon a real italic? It is not so difficult to make an Akzidenz Grotesk italic based on Walbaum italic. A real italic probably was too much work or too difficult to make, while a slanted roman was relatively easy to copy from the roman. Charm and clumsiness In 1957 Max Miedinger made Helvetica. In fact it was called Neue Haas Grotesk, but for marketing reasons the name was changed to Helvetica in 1960. Miedinger based his design on other Grotesks, one of which was Haas Grotesk (1912). But Haas Grotesk had been based on Akzidenz Grotesk, so it is fair to say that Helvetica was based on Akzidenz-like typefaces. Compared to Akzidenz Grotesk, Helvetica has hardly any new features. Though claimed to be an improvement on Akzidenz Grotesk, it lacks all the character and charming clumsiness of Akzidenz Grotesk. Helvetica is blunt and colourless; the fact that its italic is slanted makes it even blunter. What a missed opportunity! Aggressive marketing Why is Helvetica so popular? First, Helvetica was aggressively marketed in the 1960s. Second, Helvetica became almost the only typeface to be used by the Swiss typographic style of that era, which continues to be very influential. The third reason is that Helvetica is neutral and colourless; it is not dangerous. This makes it easier for graphic designers. With neutral Helvetica, the character must come from the typographic designer. One can make a good poster with a bad typeface, but one will not automatically make a good poster with a good type. In the past 50 years there have been many beautiful graphic designs using Helvetica, but this has more to do with the quality of the designers using it than that with the quality of Helvetica as a typeface. As a text typeface Helvetica is only available on all computers that it is used by so many people. You cannot blame them, they have no typographic education. They just have to set some text in some typeface. Paul Rand advised his students to use Helvetica only as a display face, and never in text, ‘because Helvetica looks like dogshit in text’. A system for the sans serif jungle Again, as in the 1900s, all the type foundries followed one another, afraid as they were of losing market share. The result was a range of neutral typefaces. Univers was designed by Adrian Frutiger. Many Univers characters echo the problems that are found in Helvetica, especially in the almost closed forms and in the fact it had a sloped roman instead of an italic. But Univers was a much more original design, with one strong feature that was new in type design: it was made up of an almost scientific system of 21 weights and widths that could be mixed perfectly. A few years ago Univers was completely redrawn. In the 1980s computers started to penetrate the world. Helvetica came free with Adobe PostScript printers, but when other manufacturers cloned PostScript they could not use Helvetica. Instead, they substituted the hugely unoriginal Arial, which is very similar to Helvetica. Designed for Monotype in 1982, Arial was originally marketed as follows: ‘A contemporary sans serif design, Arial contains more humanist characteristics than many of its predecessors and as such is more in tune with the mood of the last decades of the twentieth century. Terminal strokes are cut on the diagonal which helps to give the face a less mechanical appearance.’ Love and hate Regrettably, Arial is now found on every computer. The popularity of Akzidenz-like typefaces has not faded, and Helvetica remains immensely popular. In 2002 Lars Müller published a little book Helvetica - Homage to a Typeface. In the future there will probably be more of these Akzidenz-like Grotesks, simply because we have been indoctrinated by Helvetica for the past 50 years. The best way to design a sans serif is to base it on a serif typeface. Akzidenz Grotesk and its contemporaries were indeed based on serif typefaces, however indirectly. But Helvetica, Arial and the Akzidenz-like remakes from the 1950s and later could have been much better. Helvetica was a bad idea. We can only hope that in the still-young history of the sans serif, things will change in favour of more intelligent, more original sans serif typefaces.
in 10 steps
C R E AT E
T Y P E
Use your mind before your pen.
Eyes is always the best way of measuring. Trust yourself.
Project, design, produce, postproduce.
Sketch, sketch, sketch.
Based on the book “Cómo crear tipografías” by C.HENESTROSA, L. MESENGUER and J. SCAGLIONE
About your new type, ask yourself: who, when, how, why, where.
Star creating n, o, v. Then make the a, and then the rest.
Digitalize it. Use as less anchors as you can.
Do not give up. You’re almost done. Enjoy all the process.
Realize that if you create a b, you’ll have d, p and q too.
Share it. You’re here to learn. Show your mistakes and help the others.
T R AC K I N G by daniel rodríguez
K E R N I N G
T RAC K I N G Some programs let you add or substract space between a selected character set. In the typesetting technology this separation was done with sprockets (tracks). That’s why we call this operation tracking.
K E RNI N G
To learn more abour Kerning, visit the web type.method.ac and play!
When you are designing a typeface you don’ts just have to draw each glyph in its own box. You should also give a position within the type, marking the previous and posterior limits with individual vertical lines. You must find the right space for the character you are designing, so it wont break the rhythm of the text. But some couples of letters do not like each other and you have to create exceptions to the rule, telling the program that with some pairs (kerning) it must add or subtract some space, keeping intact other combinations. In fact we could define kerning as the way you apply tracking into a pair of glyphs from a typerface.
COMBINING TYPERFACES by douglas bonneville
Creating great typeface combinations is an art, not a science. Indeed, the beauty of typography has no borders. While there are no absolute rules to follow, it is crucial that you understand and apply some best practices when combining fonts in a design. When used with diligence and attention, these principles will always yield suitable results. Today we will take a close look at some the best practices for combining typefaces — as well as some blunders to avoid. C o m b i n e
S a n s
S e r i f
wi t h
S e r i f
By far the most popular principle for creating typeface combinations is to pair a sans serif header typeface with a serif body typeface. This is a classic combination, and it’s almost impossible to get wrong. Example: If we have Trade Gothic Bold paired with Bell Gothic on the left side. They are both sans serif typefaces. However, they have very different personalities. A good rule of thumb, when it comes to header and body copy design problems, is not to create undue attention to the personality of each font. Trade Gothic is arguably a no-nonsense typeface. Bell Gothic, on the other hand, is much more dynamic and outspoken. Putting these two together creates an unwanted conflict in the design. Trade Gothic wants to get to the facts, but Bell Gothic wants to have some fun. This kind of tension is likely not part of the design goal, and should be avoided. They are both focused on bold clarity with highly-readable glyphs due to their tall x-height. Both typefaces, in this context, are on the same mission, and that makes for a great combination. Avo i d
S i m i l a r
C l a ss i f i ca t i o n s
Typefaces of the same classification, but from different typeface families, can easily create discord when combined. Their distinct personalities don’t play well off of each other and create a kind of typographic mud if careful attention is not paid. Example: we have a heading set in Clarendon Bold, which is a slab serif. We’re going to mix it with Officina Serif which is also a slab serif. Slab serif typefaces are known for their distinct personality, and they like to dominate any area in a design they are used in. Putting two slab serifs together can create a needless and unsightly tension. We can make other convinations like putting the Clarendon Bold with the much-more neutral New Baskerville. New Baskerville is a versatile transitional serif typeface with wide glyphs that goes nicely with the heavy-set Clarendon. At the same time, it backs down and lets Clarendon have all the personality it wants. This combination works quite nicely as a result. Choosing typefaces from different classifications at the start avoids needless tension in your design and typography later. A ss i g n
D i st i n c t
R o le s
One very easy way to combine multiple fonts from several typefaces is to design a role-based scheme for each font or typeface, and stick to it. Example: Akzidenz Grotesk Bold in all-caps in an author slug on the top. We then use Rockwell Bold for the article heading. Our body copy intro and body copy typeface is Bembo at different sizes. We saved the highly-distinct Rockwell for attention-getting headlines, and fallen back to a conservative sans serif heading and serif body copy combination we discussed earlier. But even in that choice, we have a great variation of size, weight and function among the fonts used. C o n t ra st
Fo n t
We i g h t s
A sure-fire way to muddy your typographic hierarchy is to fail to distinguish elements in the hierarchy from one another. In addition to variations in size, make sure you are creating clear differences in font weights to help guide the reader’s eye around your design. Example: if we have a decent size contrast, but not enough font weight contrast. The Myriad Light, when set above a Minion Bold, tends to fade back and lose visual authority. However, we want the reader’s eye to go to the heading, not the body copy, at least initially. We can also have set a Myriad Black above Minion, normal weight. It might be a bit heavy-handed but there is no confusion as to what the reader is supposed to look at first.
C re a te
Va r i e t y
Ty p o g ra p h i c
C o lo rs
Typographic color is the combined effect of the variations of font weight, size, stroke width, leading, kerning, and several other factors. One easy way to see typographic colors is to squint at a layout until you can’t read it anymore, but can still see the text in terms of its overall tonal value. Example: Din Bold/ Clarendon Light/ Bembo Bold. You’ll notice that layout on the left bleeds into one undistinguished blob of text, ever so slightly more dense at the bottom. However, the layout its visual hierarchy, even if you can’t read it. No matter how far away you are from this page, there is no confusion regarding where the title is, and where your eye should go next. Clever use of typographic color reinforces the visual hierarchy of a page, which is always directly tied to the meaning of the copy and the desired intention of the message. D o n ’ t
M i x
M o o d s
One often-overlooked typographic mistake is not recognizing the inherent mood of a typeface. Typefaces have personality. They change to some degree based on context, but not greatly. It’s one problem to misidentify the personality of typeface for a particular job, but it’s a double-problem to add another poorly chosen typeface to the mix! Example: Franklin Gothic Bold paired with Souvenir. The basic feel of Franklin Gothic is stoic, sturdy, strong, but with a refined sense of elegance and mission. It’s not a cuddly, but functional. On the other hand, Souvenir is playful, casual, a little aloof, and very pretty. These two typefaces together come across like a Buckingham Palace guard who is dutifully ignoring a playful little girl at his feet trying to get him to smile. This kind of mixed-mood just doesn’t work very well. Mixing the mood of typefaces can draw attention to the typography instead of the message, which results in a poor design. Both typefaces have wide glyphs and very circular letter shapes. Both typefaces have a subtle but not overly-prominent quirkiness. Neither dominates the other. They both work, in this example, to create a fun and upbeat mood. There is no sense of undue tension. C o n t ra st
D i st i n c t
w i t h
N e u t ra l
A clean, readable typographic design requires careful attention to intended and unintended tension. One place to look for unintended tension is with personality clashes among your type choices. If one of your main typefaces has a lot of personality, you might need a secondary typeface to take on a neutral role. Example: Dax Bold with Bernhard Modern. This is a poor choice for at least two obvious reasons we’ll examine.First, Dax has narrow glyphs and a big xheight while Bernhard Modern has some very wide glyphs and one of the lowest x-heights among popular classic typefaces. Second, Dax is an informal, modern, and bright typeface. It’s a great fit for a techie, savvy, modern message. Bernhard Modern on the other hand is classy, quiet, sophisticated, and even a touch intimate. Combine the lack of chemistry among those attributes together with the very different personalities of each typeface and you have a poorly functioning bit of typography. Avoid Combinations That are Too Disparate When too much contrast is created in certain settings by selecting typefaces that are too much unalike, it can create a visual imbalance which works against the overall design. Example: Antique Olive Nord — an extremely heavy font — paired with Garamond Narrow. The over-zealous contrast and its effects are apparent. In most cases, this extreme contrast goes beyond attention-getting and goes right to awkward. It doesn’t serve the message of the copy well.