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Typographic TH O U G HTS O N M O D E R N T Y P OG R AP H Y
Typographic is a monthly digital magazine featuring a wide range of articles on modern day typography. Published in San Luis Obispo, CA.
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Typographic TH O U G HTS O N M O D E R N T Y P OG R APH Y
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Image Source M E L A A M O RY, D E V I A N TA RT
TO DAY ’ S TO P 5 B E S T T Y P OG R APH ERS
TH E R E VIVAL O F HAN D - PAI NTE D S I G N S
CONTENTS 4 TYPOGRAPHIC MAGAZ INE
I NTRO D U C TIO N 04 Letter to the Editor
CU LTU R E : PA ST & P R E S E NT 14 Today’s Top 5 Best Typographers 40 Type in Film 50 A Brief History on the Ampersand 64 Harir—Reducing Noise in Arabic Script
E VE RY DAY T Y P E 06 Handlettering is Making a Comeback 38 Tattoos & Type 52 The Revival of Hand-Painted Signs
R E SO U RCE S 10 Designers with Go-To Typefaces 34 Free Fonts That Don’t Suck
E NTE R TAI N M E NT 36, 48, 60 Instagram Spotlight
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WHAT IS T YPOGR APHY? WHY DOES IT MATTER? HOW DOES IT IMPACT OUR LIVES?
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TO THE EDITOR
Image Source TO B I A S SAU L
he Merriam-Webster definition of “typography” is: “the work of producing printed pages from written material” or “the style, arrangement, or appearance of printed letters on a page.” How those letters, words, and sentences are styled and arranged affects how they are perceived. Good typography clarifies content, establishes hierarchy, and presents information in a manner that makes it easier to read, and, therefore, to understand.
Typography is also intertwined with our daily lives—we encounter type in everything from the products we buy, the signage around us, the books we read, the news we consume, and the directions we follow. Typography can be beautiful, functional, persuasive, and inviting. It can also fail, especially when there is a disconnect between how the type looks and what the text says.
This debut issue of Typographic Magazine was conceptualized and created by students in Art 338: Typography II at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo during winter quarter 2016. Students selected all topics included in this issue and the content ranges from the current hand-lettering revival, to lettering in tattoos, to the challenges of creating an Arabic script font, to type in popular film posters. The eclectic nature of this content reflects the diverse interests of the students in the class and the many ways in which we encounter typography in the everyday.
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E V E R Y D AY T Y P E
HANDLETTERING IS MAKING A COM E BACK
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THE BEAUT Y OF WRITING BY HAND REMINDS US JUST HOW ALIVE WORDS AND LETTERS CAN BE . — C R I S T I N A VA N KO
ow that digital has largely taken over the world’s communications, cursive is nearly obsolete in schools, and putting pen to paper is a rare experience for a large part of the planet—so, what hope does handwriting have?
Image Source TO B I A S SAU L
In a world created by coding, can beautiful letters made by hand still have their place? Cristina Vanko, a designer and art director at Y&R Chicago, believes hand lettering is still relevant, and in-fact, is even making a comeback, which she beautifully describes and teaches in her new book HAND-LETTERING FOR EVERYONE: A Creative Workbook published last week by Perigee Trade/ Penguin Random House. “From the best modern book covers out there, to your favorite local restaurant
menus, to a priceless form of personalized self-expression, the beauty of writing by hand reminds us just how alive words and letters can be,” said Vanko. Hand-Lettering for Everyone is a creative, interactive workbook aimed to teach everyone (and anyone) hand-lettering. “Trust me, it’s possible,” Vanko said. “It’s full of informative bits, inspiration, pep talks, and fun lettering exercises. This book opens readers up to the myriad ways to apply newfound lettering skills and boosts confidence along the way.” The book covers typography and hand-lettering basics, the art of sketchploration, fearless self-expression through playfulness, creative process tips, inspiring advice from top ISSU E 01 // M A R C H 2016 9
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illustrators, and inspiration for adding personal touches to any kind of hand-lettered text. The book, Vanko says, is full of creative prompts to take your hand-lettering for a test drive. “In advertising, hand-lettering can be a different way to bring messages to life,” she said. “We’re a tech savvy culture, and we’ve grown so accustomed to type in print and on screen—and now, even emojis!—that today, using your hands to create is considered a novelty. With hand-lettering, the letters itself are a piece of art. The formation of each letter is formed differently from letter to letter and crafted carefully to bring a brand’s meaning to life through lettering.” With Hand-Lettering for Everyone, Vanko begins with an approachable brief overview of the history of type and design and its fundamentals. Surprisingly enough, this is something that a lot of published books leave out. Vanko believes readers should have a basic understanding of typography, type anatomy, design, and layout before jumping into lettering.
Vanko’s book isn’t her first foray into the seemingly lost art of hand-lettering, she conducted a social experiment in 2013 she dubbed Modern Day Snail Mail. For one week, Vanko created handwritten text messages (no using the keyboard on her phone to send a message) and would write out her reply message on paper and then text back a photo of her message. Vanko’s project received notable media attention that ultimately led to her doing a TEDx talk hosted by the University of Chicago the following year. “Brand to brand, hand-lettering is able to touch on a range of emotional feelings,” Vanko said. “From the organic lines and gritty textures that make up fresh, homemade, and local looks to the swashy, painterly strokes that could make up a badass ad, hand-lettering is a great way to personify your client’s brand by using hand-lettered type that speaks for itself.”
“Most importantly, having this bit of background knowledge helps readers make the most of their newfound lettering skills,” Vanko said. ISSU E 01 // M A R C H 2016 11
DESIGNERS WITH G O -T O T Y P E FAC E S
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Photography by C H R I S TO P H E R S T U R M A N
E DWI N VAN G E LD E R Founder, Mainstudio Favorite Type Theinhardt, a sans serif. Why are you particularly attached to Theinhardt as a typeface? It’s based on Grotesk, a classic serif font, but it’s an updated, contemporary, and very flexible new take on the classic. I like its overall look and feel—stern yet friendly. It feels very now, very modern. There’s also something architectural about it, it’s got a graphic quality to it, so you can use it to create geometry in a design. It’s not illustrative, not an image itself but it fits really well into grids and systems—which obviously suits the way I work.
MAT MAITL AN D Creative Director, Big Active Favorite Type Venus SB Medium Extended, a sans serif, used on the startling, stark cover of Prince and the Revolution’s 1986 album Parade. How do you think the type works on Prince’s Parade cover? The typeface, Venus SB, was nice and simple. It’s got that Art D eco touch to it, in the R and the E. ISSU E 01 // M A R C H 2016 13
CH I P K I D D Associate Art Director, Knopf Favorite Type Blender, a 2003 typeface from Gestalten. What do you like about Blender? I’ve been using it a lot over the past few years (and yes, I bought the license to it before doing so) because it has a classic sans-serif presence that feels fresh, due to almost undetectable quirks in the characters that have curved edges.
SAG I HAVIV Partner, Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv Knopf Favorite Type Palatino, an old style serif initially released in 1948. What is the thinking behind Palatino? Palatino is actually quite a generic font. When we presented the identity, the people from the press were shocked that we would come in with a font that was available on people’s computers, for this, the most prestigious publisher in the world—how could that be? It’s looking to the future, but it’s anchored in tradition. 14 TYPOGRAPH IC MAGAZ IN E
E D DI E O PAR A Partner, Pentagram Favorite Type Albertus, a font designed for the Monotype Corporation in 1932 by German ex-metalworker Mr Berthold Wolpe. When did you first encounter the Albertus typeface? On the street signs in the City of London. I didn’t know what the font was until I got to design school. And I was so fascinated by it because of the way it’s cut. It’s based on metal engraving techniques, the effect being that it has is these acute angles, almost 45 degree angles in each letter. It’s also insanely hard to use. I’ve tried to use it and I’ve not been able to. Why is it my favorite font, then? I think that your favorite is always what you can’t have.
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C U LT U R E : PA S T & P R E S E N T
T O D AY ’ S TOP 5 BE TYPOGRA 16 TYP TYPOGRAPH OGRAPH IC MAGAZ IN E
F E AT U R I N G Jessica Hische Dana Tanamachi Craig Ward Tobias Saul
EST APHERS ISSU ISSUE E 01 01 // // M MA AR RC CH H 2016 2016 17
Image Source J E S S I C A H I S C H E
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Photography by E DY TA SZ YSZLO
grew up in Pennsylvania, raised by In 2006, I graduated and landed a two non-creatives that decided it job as a freelance designer for a little would be OK to let their little girl studio in Philadelphia where I helped pursue a seemingly impractical career. design fancy books and re-affirmed I ended up attending a wonderful art my passion for illustration and imschool thanks to an amazing high age-making. By winter, unsure if they school teacher and an admissions wanted to take on another full-time counselor that took a chance on my under-developed “I ventured out on my own and portfolio. Though I fell in embarked on a little project that love with every artistic would end up changing my cadiscipline Freshman and reer and earning me the moniker Sophomore year, I declared ‘That Drop Cap Girl’.” as a Graphic Design major when I found myself procrastiworking on painting projects to work on posters and identities. employee, my hours were cut and I I annoyed the heck out of my fellow put together an illustration promo to classmates, doing way more work than get freelance work. That promo ended assignments generally called for, but up landing me an illustration rep and it all paid off in the end and most of a job for one of my heroes; I migrated them have since forgiven me for ruinto Brooklyn to work for her. After two ing the curve. and a half years of very little sleep and a lot of lettering, freelance work began ISSU E 01 // M A R C H 2016 19
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Image Source J E S S I C A H I S C H E
overwhelming my life and my desire to do side projects became too much to bear. I ventured out on my own and embarked on a little project that would end up changing my career and earning me the moniker “That Drop Cap Girl”. I’ve been on my own as a letterer, illustrator, type designer, and relentless procrastiworker since 2009 and have worked for (and continue to work for) a lot of wonderful clients like Wes Anderson and Penguin Books. I’ve shared studios with amazing people including the folks over at Studiomates and of course my beloved Pencil Factory, where I continue to spend time on return trips to Brooklyn. I split my days (not evenly enough) between Brooklyn and San Francisco—the place I now call home and where I’ve set up a collaborative studio and workshop space with my brother from another mother, Erik Marinovich. When I’m not manipulating beziers or working on fun projects, you can find me at the airport en route to a speaking engagement. I love what I do for a living and try as hard as I can to help others find a way to do what they love. www.jessicahische.is
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A TA N A M A C H I
Photography by U P P E R C A S E M AG A ZI N E
ana Tanamachi is a lettering artist and designer who enjoys living a quiet life and working with her hands. In 2009, an impromptu chalk installation for a Brooklyn housewarming party landed Dana her first commission for Google and set the popular chalk-lettering trend—and her career—in motion. After working under design icon Louise Fili, she opened Tanamachi Studio, a boutique design studio specializing in custom typography and illustration for editorial, lifestyle, food, and fashion brands. She has been commissioned globally by clients such as Nike, USPS, Penguin Books, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, and West Elm. Named a Young Gun (YG9) by the Art Director’s Club in 2011 and a Young Creative to Watch by HOW Magazine, she has had the distinct honor of creating custom cover art for O, HOW, and TIME Magazines. Dana’s ISSU E 01 // M A R C H 2016 23
first of three exclusive product collections with Target hit stores nationwide in 2013 and her book DIY Type (Potter Style) was released in 2014. In 2015 she relocated from Brooklyn to Seattle and debuted Tanamachi Goods, a line of beautifully hand-drawn print and gift products reflecting her personal aesthetic and featuring mediums beyond chalk. www.tanamachistudio.com
Image Source TA N A M AC H I S T U D I O
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A I G WA R D
Photography by B I L L WA D M A N
raig Ward is a British born designer and â€œ....he is known primarily for his art director currently pioneering typographic works.â€? based in New York. Occasional artist, sometime author and contributor to several industry such as London, Paris, New York, Los journals, he is known primarily for his Angeles, Chicago and more. pioneering typographic works. This Now in its second edition and pubwebsite represents a selection of his lished in January of 2012, his first output since his graduation in 2003. book, Popular Lies About Graphic Design, His awards, amongst other agency immediately became an Amazon best credits, include ADC Young Gun (2008), seller. It has since been translated into recipient of the Type Directors Club German, Spanish and Chinese. Certificate of Typographic Excellence www.wordsarepictures.co.uk (2009, 2014) and the Communication Arts Award of Excellence (2014, 2015).
A regular public speaker (Adobe Creative Max, Los Angeles; TEDx, Philadelphia; OFFF Festival, Paris; AIGA, New York and many others), his work has also been shown, awarded and documented in countless books, magazines and exhibitions in cities ISSU E 01 // M A R C H 2016 27
Image Source C R A I G WA R D
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obias Saul, born in 1990, is a lettering artist and graphic designer from D端sseldorf, Germany. From an early age, he dealt with graffiti and illustration, which made it easy for him to develop a feeling for letters and layouts. During his study of communication design, he got inspired by other hand lettering artists and quickly developed a great passion for this special symbiosis of lettering and illustration. His major fields include logo, branding and packaging design. Just like in old times, all of his works begin with pen and paper and get digitalized later to put the finishing touches. www.tobiassaul.de
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Image Source TO B I A S SAU L
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lex Trochut was born in 1981 in Barcelona, Spain. After completing his studies at Elisava Escola Superior de Disseny, Alex established his own design studio in Barcelona before relocating to New York City. Through his design, illustration and typographic practice he has developed an intuitive way of working that has resulted in his expressive visual style.
comes secondary. As a designer, Alex focuses on the potential of language as a visual medium, pushing language to its limits so that seeing and reading become the same action and text and image become one unified expression. Mixing styles and genres and drawing equally from pop culture, street culture, fashion and music, Alex has created design, illustration and typography for a diverse range of clients: Nike, Adidas, The “As a designer, Alex focuses on the po- Rolling Stones, Katy Perry, tential of language as a visual medium, BBC, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, The Guardian, The New York pushing language to its limits so that Times, Time Magazine and seeing and reading become the same many others. Alex’s work action and text and image become one has been internationally unified expression.” recognized, appearing in exhibitions and publications worldwide. He has given talks For Alex, typography functions on and been honored by the Art Directors two hierarchical levels. First, there is Club—including being named a 2008 the image of the word we see; reading Young Gun—the Type Directors Club, ISSU E 01 // M A R C H 2016 33
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Image Source A L E X T R O C H U T
and the Creative Review, among others. His monograph, More Is More, explores his working methodologies and influences and was published in 2011. Alex currently lives and works in Brooklyn. www.alextrochut.com
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Image Source FA B I A N D E S M E T
FREE FONTS T H AT D O N ’ T SUCK
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M ISS IO N G OTH IC
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Lost Type Co-op Mission Gothic is a relic; a ghost from an era where letters were hand-painted on wood and glass. Made up of five weights and two styles, Mission Gothic is one of the most expansive type families available from Lost Type Co-op.
B UTLE R Fabian De Smet Butler is a free serif typeface inspired by a mix between both Dala Floda & the amazing Bodoni family. The main goal was to bring a bit of modernism to serif fonts by working on the curves of classical serif fonts and adding an extra stencil family. Great for posters, very big titles, books & fancy stuff.
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LE AG U E G OTH IC
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The League of Moveable Type League Gothic is a revival of an old classic, and one of our favorite typefaces, Alternate Gothic #1. It was originally designed by Morris Fuller Benton for the American Type Founders Company in 1903.
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E D M O N DSAN S
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Lost Type Co-op Edmondsans is hard-working display face in three weights, featuring some useful niceties like small caps, non-lining figures, and a few alternates.
CH U N K
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The League of Moveable Type Chunk is an ultra-bold slab serif typeface that is reminiscent of old American Western woodcuts, broadsides, and newspaper headlines. Used mainly for display, the fat block lettering is unreserved yet refined for contemporary use.
MA J E STI BAN N E R Lost Type Co-op Majesti Banner is the first release in a new family that will also include a text and display version in the future. Its high contrast letterforms, ball terminals, and variety of OT features make it a highly suitable typeface for large point settings.
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SPOTLIGHT @TH E DAI LY T Y P E This self-styled biggest Instagram collection of typography pictures appears to live up to its name, with a pleasing variety of typography on show, covering everything from hand lettering and typographical illustrations through to print design and those type-laden motivational posters that everyone loves. If you want a couple of pieces of quality type to turn up in your stream every day, youâ€™ve come to the right place.
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TAT T O O S & TYPE 1 “I have had a lifelong obsession with Mr.T. And there is also a secondary meaning, a kind of pun: piti-ful.”
2 “My dad brought me up with the right kind of music and great taste . . . ‘I hope I die before I get old’ is a lyric from the Who’s ‘My Generation.’ It was written about Keith Moon, the greatest rock drummer of all time. I play drums, and I have modeled all of my drumming after Keith Moon. Besides the literal meaning, it also means to stay young at heart.”
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Image Source TAT T Y, B O DY T Y P E B O O K
E V E R Y D AY T Y P E
3 “My friend Justin was a tattoo artist. ‘Stay Fly’ is a Three Six Mafia song we would all dance to. One night he ripped open his shirt and showed me a ‘stay fly’ tattoo on his chest to cheer me up. Soon after that he was killed in a car accident, so a bunch of his friends got the exact same tattoo, from his tattoo artist friend Scotty, who did all the tattoos for free as a tribute to Justin.
4 “It’s my birth date in Roman numerals. With the world obsessed with cloning, it seemed only sensible to brand ‘the original’ me. Taking a cue from the Roman numerals used in films, if you are going to date yourself, it could only be done in one typeface: Times. It’s a timeless classic, with a suitable gravitas.”
5 “These initials are a way to honor my lineage: my grandfather’s initials, my father’s initials, my initials. I had hoped it would hurt more than it did. I wanted to understand a fraction of the pain my father had been going through with his chemo before he died.”
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C U LT U R E : PA S T & P R E S E N T
TYPE IN FILM Captivating Uses of Typography In Movies
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up for debate. He uses the typeface in promotional materials (including either posters or trailers, but not necessarily both) for six out of thirteen of his major motion pictures, most notably in posters for 2001: A Space Odyssey and Eyes Wide Shut. He’s not alone in his love for the clean, modernist lettering; Wes Anderson has used Futura in every one of his films, and it marks some of the best-known brands in the world, including IKEA, Crayola, Louis Vuitton, Volkswagen, and Absolut Vodka.
20 01 : A S PACE O DYSS E Y 1968 Typeface: Futura (Extra Bold), created in 1927 by Paul Renner. Stanley Kubrick is well-documented as a fan and frequent user of Futura, though to what true extent has been
In a bit of life imitating art, Futura is given the honor of gracing Apollo 11’s dedication plaque to man’s first steps on the moon in 1969, just a little over a year after Kubrick released 2001: A Space Odyssey. While this coincidence is probably simply due to the popularity of the typeface, Futura was invented by Paul Renner with innovation in mind; known for its geometric simplicity, utmost functionality, and balanced weight, Futura represents Renner’s philosophy that typeface should follow modern ideals rather than be dictated by tradition. “With Futura, in typographical terms, the industrial revolution had reached its logical conclusion,” CreativePro notes in its dissection of Renner’s most famous design. ISSU E 01 // M A R C H 2016 43
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STAR WARS 1977 Typeface: Helvetica Black (modified), created in 1957 by Max Meidinger. Ah, the “invisible typeface” Helvetica Black once again, except this time its use comes rife with controversy. According to Suzy Rice, who would design the first iteration of the now-unmistakable stacked Star Wars logo, George Lucas said that he wanted the titling to appear “very fascist” and “very intimidating.” To Rice, the obvious choice was Helvetica Black, thanks to a book about German typography that she was reading the night before the meeting. Apparently, the book established Helvetica Black as the inevitable evolutionary product of a typeface design that Joseph Goebbels had ordered to represent the German Nationalist party on all of its signage. “To state the obvious—contrary to bizarre gossip as if I’d stated otherwise—Helvetica wasn’t used by Goebbels nor was Miedinger, to my knowledge, associated with Goebbels,” Rice clarifies, “Meidinger’s ‘Helvetica’ came much later but was described in this book I’d been reading as somewhat similar
visually to that earlier signage.” With its history and stylistic severity, Rice felt Helvetica Black fit Lucas’ need for an “intimidatingly fascist” design and used it to influence her eventually hand-drawn lettering. The final masthead is a revised version of Rice’s original design, with concept artist Joe Johnston modifying the “W,” widening the letters, and increasing spacing throughout in order to accommodate the pan shot that was planned for the opening credits. The opening credits for Star Wars is possibly one of the most iconic sequences. It had such an impact on George Lucas he used it on every Star Wars movie. Switching the perspective of the text becomes really engaging - especially with the amount of copy displayed. Two typefaces are used in the opening sequence, News Gothic for the episode number and main body of the text, and Univers for the title of the film.
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BACK TO TH E F UTU R E 1985 Typeface: Unique, created for the film by Andrew Probert The lettering for the Back to the Future title was one of many accomplishments credited to Andrew Probert, who also developed the film’s storyboards and finalized the design for the movie’s most important feature: that sweet time-traveling Delorean. The logo was initially used as the titling for Back to the Future’s one-sheet, and was later added to Drew Struzan’s poster artwork. The lettering was later developed into a typeface aptly called “Time Travel” by David Occhino, who was thoughtful enough to include both “Forward” and “Back” styles to “convey action and momentum with an ‘80s flair.” The typeface is so accurate toward Probert’s original lettering that the official Back to the Future website uses it for its own titling and logos.
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P U LP FIC TIO N 1994 Typeface: Aachen bold Invented in response to the advertising exposion in the 1960’s and its need for large-format typefaces, Aachen bold is a slab font reminiscent of the ink-stamped “Wanted” posters from the century’s prospecting towns. The woodcut-style typeface is used for sensationalist “true story” magazines. Pulp Fiction is, in essence, an homage to the genre, and Juan Vinueza followed that thematic trajectory when designing the film’s poster by basing it off the style of vintage pulp novels. “Typography,” Vinueza says, “follows the poster’s aesthetics. It’s retro, but it’s kitsch as well. It’s very difficult to make adaptations in modern, retro-themed posters. You make a tribute to the past, yes, but you have to catch contemporary audiences with it.”
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M OO N R IS E K I N G DO M 2012 Typeface: Tilda Tilda is a script typeface designed by Jessica Hische for use in the Wes Anderson movie Moonrise Kingdom. It was published as a commercial font through Font Bureau in 2014. The design was inspired by titles from the 1969 film La Femme InfidĂŠle.
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SPOTL @J E SS ICAH ISCH E The queen of typography, she creatives beautiful fonts for a wide range of clients. The account offers up some sneak previews as well as finished pieces. If you’re interested in seeing more from Jessica - namely cats, leggings, scrummy food and the occasional baby, then you’d better get following.
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LIGHT @T Y P OG R AP H YI N S PI R E D Arguably one of the most popular typography Instagram accounts, Typography Inspiration is the perfect burst of illustrated fonts for just about every style. Already amassing over 23,000 followers, Typography Inspiration is clearly doing something right. Join in on the font fun and you wonâ€™t regret it.
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& C U LT U R E : PA S T & P R E S E N T
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE by C A ME R O N C H APM AN
he ampersand can be traced back to the first century AD. It was originally a ligature of the letters E and T (“et” is Latin for and). If you look at the modern ampersand, you’ll likely still be able to see the E and T separately.
The first ampersands looked very much like the separate E and T combined, but as type developed over the next few centuries, it eventually be-
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came more stylized and less representative of its origins.
You can see the evolution of the ampersand below (1 is like the original Roman ligature, 2 and 3 are from the fourth century, and 4-6 are from the ninth century).
as part of cursive scripts that were developed during the Renaissance. They’re often more formal-looking and fancier than the standard Carolignian ampersand. The word “ampersand” was first added to dictionaries in 1837. The word was created as a slurred form of “and, per se and”, which was what the alphabet ended with when recited in English-speaking schools. (Historically, “and per se” preceded any letter which was also a word in the alphabet, such as “I” or “A”. And the ampersand symbol was originally the last character in the alphabet.)
The modern ampersand has remained largely unchanged from the Carolignian ampersands developed in the ninth century. Italic ampersands were a later ligature of E and T, and are also present in modern fonts. These were developed
The ampersand is a part of every roman font. It’s used in modern text often, probably most frequently in the names of corporations and other businesses, or in other formal titles (such as Dungeons & Dragons). It’s experiencing a bit of a resurgence in general usage, as it commonly replaces “and” in text messages and Twitter updates. Ampersands are also commonly used in programming, particularly in MySQL, C and C++, XML, SGML, and BASIC.
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E V E R Y D AY T Y P E
by E STE R B LOO M
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Small businesses are increasingly relying on visual artists to convey that their products arenâ€™t mainstream or mass-produced.
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THERE’S A BOOM RIGHT NOW. HAND - PAINTED IS POPUL AR . —J E F F R E Y S I N C I C H
ven in an age of emoji, when people revel in communicating online using a shared set of colorful icons, it makes sense that there are still those who are able to eke out a living painting signs for businesses by hand. What is more surprising is that many people do—all over the country, from Utah to New York. Indeed, an art form that seemed moribund as big-box stores and chain restaurants multiplied is relevant again, and lucrative. And although much has changed about the enterprise itself, the essentials remain largely the same.
“People want [their small businesses] to be individual, to stand out,” explains Jeffrey Sincich of J&S Signs. He and his partner Josh Stover, both originally from Florida, now run their business out of Portland, Oregon. “There’s a boom right now. Hand-painted is popular,” he says. A hand-painted sign suggests that a store has a personality, that its products aren’t mainstream or mass-produced.
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Appropriately, the pricing structure for signs can be as variable as the signs themselves. Some artists charge by the project and others by the hour, and one sign can cost anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars. An industry pricing guide helps set and maintain baseline standards. Most small businesses turn to local artists, since work often has to be done on-site and sending large or delicate items through the mail can be dicey. Still, “there are tons of communities that could support this,” says the visual artist Stephen Smolinski, who is encouraged by the success he and his compatriots have found in Goshen, Indiana, and who is segueing from making signs part-time to fulltime. “Lots of creatives starting businesses look to other creatives,” he says. Some chains have adopted the practice, too, because it can make them seem folksy and independent. The grocery store Trader Joe’s has, despite nearly $10 billion in annual revenue in the U.S. alone, maintained its decidedly non-corporate vibe in part by putting up hand-painted signs in its stores. Ashton Ludden, a visual artist, works for the Trader Joe’s in Knoxville full-time, illustrating everything from ISSU E 01 // M A R C H 2016 57
whimsical murals on the walls to descriptions of dry goods on the shelves. “Some stores have a team of six artists,” Ludden says. “We have one and a half—me and another girl.” Though she doesn’t own anything she makes, she is proud of her contribution: “It’s
a neat experience to be anonymous. Even the customers don’t know.” Making signs for Trader Joe’s works well for Ludden, as it gives her a steady income and health care. And, when Ludden’s workday ends, she is free to focus on independent projects. “When you clock out, you’re done,” she says. “Work does not travel home.” Other sizable entities employ sign painters, too, from Hollywood, which often requires a specific look for its period movie sets, to the theme park Dollywood, which has hired artists to help maintain its old-timey aesthetic for three decades now. Disney retains a team of sign painters to set the tone of some attractions in its amusement parks. Even the basketball courts can be done by artists by hand. But much
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of an average sign painter’s livelihood comes from smaller clients, like local movie theaters, ad agencies, and restaurants. Shelby Rodeffer, who is originally from Nashville, Tennessee, but now works full-time in Chicago, says the country’s renewed enthusiasm for unique, hand-painted signs is based primarily on young consumers’ Etsy-type enthusiasm for distinctiveness and character and has flourished via social media. Indeed, the sign-painters I spoke to credited Instagram with helping them build their personal brand. But, Rodeffer acknowledges, not everyone is thrilled: The old guard, which saw their craft go into its deep decline in the ‘80s and ‘90s when digitally produced signage went mainstream, feels both shut out and resentful. “They’ve been burned by our new generation,” she says. There’s a feeling that today’s upstarts are insufficiently respectful of the ways things used to be done. “Forty years ago, you couldn’t be a renegade. The field required lots of tutelage,” Josh Stover ISSU E 01 // M A R C H 2016 59
says. “We’re all just picking up our tools and going for it.” He recalls that when he approached a member of the old guard to ask if he had any advice about joining the profession, the man said, “Yeah: Don’t do it.” Apprenticeships do seem rarer and less necessary these days. And only one school in the country still focuses on teaching the craft—Los Angeles Trade Technical College, which offers a two-year associate’s degree in Sign Graphics. “I considered it, but I was already getting work,” says the artist BT Livermore of Minnesota and now Portland. Other sign painters hadn’t heard of the school’s program at all. Most of “That ability, to make a living doing them have Bachelor’s something they love, has made this degrees as well as generation of sign-makers optimistic.” Master’s or MFAs, so they wondered why they should take out more loans when they can simply prove themselves through their output and still get enough clients to make a living. That ability, to make a living doing something they love, has made this generation of sign-makers optimistic. Sincich and Stover say that, based on current conditions, they “don’t see how they wouldn’t be able to make a 60 TYPOGRAPHIC MAGAZIN E
living.” Rodeffer has found that she can charge $250 for a workshop and fill the room. Livermore, who also teaches workshops in the basics of lettering by hand, is confident that as long as there is capitalism, “there will always be a market for signage.” Rodeffer concurs, citing a saying popular in the field: “A business with no sign is the sign of no business.”
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E N T E R TA I N M E N T
SPOTL @ B E STD R E SS E D S IG N S If hand-painted typography is your bag, you’ll instantly want to follow Boston-based Instagrammers Best Dressed Signs. Rustling up a range of colourful and creative signage, the typography on offer is absolutely delicious. Throw in a couple of cats and you know you’re doing the internet right.
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LIGHT @JACK DZ N Jackson Alves is a type designer and teacher based in south Brazil. Showing off his calligraphy and lettering skills, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better Instagram account for such examples. We’ve been drooling over his creations all afternoon and we think you will too.
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C U LT U R E : PA S T & P R E S E N T
b y BAH MAN ESLAM I
OUR DAILY LIVES ARE FULL OF NOISE , BUT WHEN WE IMMERSE OURSELVES IN READING , IT SEEMS TO DISAPPEAR . BUT WHAT IF THE SHAPES OF THE WORDS WE READ ALSO CONTAIN PERCEPTIBLE NOISE? DOES IT DISRUPT THE READING PROCESS, OR DO WE LEARN TO FILTER IT OUT ?
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When I was in elementary school I really didnâ€™t like conventional Persian typefaces. They seemed very noisy with their inelegant spacing and lack of even minimal kerning. Mechanical typesetting systems had proved to be ill-suited to reproducing the graceful, historic shapes created by calligraphers, who had far more flexibility in drawing and combining letters. And these awkwardly adapted letters were
Image Source T Y P OT H EQ U E
directly transferred to digital typesetting systems as well, with the result that a whole nation had to adapt to a new type of writing system that was aesthetically inferior to and less readable than traditional handwriting.
NEG ATIVE SPACE IN PERSIAN CALLIG RAPHY The beauty of Persian calligraphy lies in a complex system that developed over centuries, finally culminating in the Nasta’liq style. It includes principles that govern not only how letters and words combine, but how negative space is managed to produce consistent text lines and consistent text colour throughout those lines. For example, the principle of Khalvat va Jalvat (Persian for “expansion and contraction”) governs the position of individual letter combinations to distribute the negative space throughout the lines so every word has the same grey. This is similar to letter ISSU E 01 // EM01 A R// C HM2016 ISSU A R C H65 2016 65
spacing and kerning in roman scripts, but much more complex because the heights of individual connections change dynamically to harmonise the negative space around the letter fusions. Another important principle, Savad va Bayaz(“white and black”), governs how letters and letter combinations should be shaped to produce an even pattern throughout the text; it deals with the proportions of letters and the relationship between the black space of the letters and the white space of the counters. Thus far, digital emulation of all these parameters
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has proven impossible or impractical, and although some digital Nasta’liq systems are available today, none even comes close to fully emulating the complex balance of handwritten script. Another important feature of Persian calligraphy related to the management of negative space is the use of diacritics. Naskh, the calligraphic style from which most Arabic/Persian typefaces are derived, was created for writing long passages of the holy Qur’an, and its design incorporates diacritics, which not only avoid ambiguity when reciting the text, but also shape the negative space around the words. When Naskh letters were adapted for mechanical typesetting they were stripped of their diacritics, but the design of the letters remained unchanged, violating the principle of Savad va Bayaz and unbalancing the negative space. On the other hand, us-
ing diacritics is no panacea, as demonstrated by the countless inscriptions with awkward diacritic placement. Furthermore, Nasta’liq is largely written without diacritics, managing negative space either by defining it with an abrak (Persian for “tiny cloud”) or by slanting the baseline to allow letter combinations to stack and better fill the space.
Some calligraphers say that abrak is only ornamentation of the layout and has nothing to do with the negative space. But so often when we remove
the abrak we can notice that the calligrapher wasn’t able to perfectly manage the negative space and used abrak to hide the lack of good letter spacing and adherence to the basic principles of Persian calligraphy.
RED ESIG NING THE W HITE SPACE Computer typesetting and the limitations of the OpenType system impose multiple compromises on Arabic typefaces. In fact, using OpenType to create a conventional Arabic text typeface with balanced white space is nearly impossible due to the fact that the correct positioning of the dots is determined by the word shapes, not the letter shapes. Furthermore, elements of the letter shapes (such as the horizontal position of the baseline and the structures of the connections between letters) are also dynamic, tied to the shape of each word and the surrounding words as well. Thus redesigning the letters to make the white space beautiful presents a significant challenge.
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Harir is designed to take advantage of the horizontal lines created by the stroke contrasts. Counters are larger, bringing their upper parts into alignment with these black zones, and dots are also placed in these zones wherever possible. This emphasizes the black zones and creates two parallel white zones, leading the eye smoothly across the text. Noise around word shapes is reduced, letter combinations are more consistent, and the essential structure of the conventional letterforms is preserved.
SKETCHES AND THE D ESIG N PROCESS Generally, the structure of Harir is based on Arabic/Persian typefaces like Nazanin and Mitra. (I canâ€™t overemphasize how much the works of Tim Holloway have been an inspiration for me.) I based the calligraphic elements on the Nastaâ€™liq and Naskh styles, drawing occasionally on Thuluth calligraphy as well. The stroke cuts are angled, and the beginnings and ends have the same angle. After I finished the design I noticed that the letterforms had also been influenced by contemporary automobile designs.
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Early versions of Harir used a straight baseline, but I eventually switched to a curved baseline, which is more elegant and more typical for handwritten text (especially in Persian culture). I didnâ€™t create discretionary ligatures; they would have created irregularities in the text pattern like â€œspeed bumpsâ€? that would slow the reader down. I started with the bold font, generating seven versions during the design process and making minor changes to the typeface at every stage. Afterwards I proceeded to the regular and finally the optical sizes. Harir is not merely a technological solution, Harir is designed to make text reading a smoother and more pleasant experience on screen and in print.
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CO NTR I B UTO RS The content seen in this magazine was contributed by those in Art 338-03, Type 2, taught by Charmaine Martinez at California Polytechnic State University. This issue features a combination of found and original content.
Designed by Shania Cheng March 2016 ISSU E 01 // M A R C H 2016 71
Typographic T Y P O G R A P H I C M AGA ZI N E .CO M