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Dancing with the Dead
by Allan Haley

Bembo Book is slightly narrower than the earlier digital version, making it more space economical. In addition, lowercase ascenders are noticeably taller than capitals and give the design a stately feeling.

Hutch, from Font Bureau, is a modern interpretation of Cochin, another French typeface. Cochin was first released in about 1915 by the Peignot type foundry in Paris and was based on the lettering of late eighteenth-century French copperplate engravers. The design was adapted for Monotype machines in 1917, and American Type Founders produced a version in 1925. In 1977, Matthew Carter drew an interpretation of the design, called Cochin, for Linotype phototypesetting machines.

Metal and phototype versions of Cochin were used in some of the first issues of Rolling Stone magazine. When Joe Hutchinson, the magazine’s current art director, approached famed publication designer Roger Black about creating a display typeface for the publication, Black immediately suggested Cochin. “The typeface goes well with Matthew Carter’s Miller, the Rolling Stone text typeface,” Black explained, “so when Hutchinson decided he wanted a new font that would look like it belonged at Rolling Stone, I naturally suggested Cochin.”

Hutch, a new Cochin for Rolling Stone.

David Berlow, Font Bureau founder, and Jim Parkinson, who drew some of the first designs used in Rolling Stone, collaborated to create the new design.

“We made three main modernizations to the design,” says Berlow. “One involved making the weight, stroke contrast and spacing more in line with a modern face for display uses. Another involved separating the more eccentric characters out as alternate designs. And the third was to add even more alternates for greater expression.”

Berlow drew the roman weights. For Parkinson, drawing the italics meant reworking the designs he had handlettered for Black in the 1970s. “Roger decided he wanted to use Cochin as a display type for a feature in a new magazine,” recalls Parkinson. “He sent me samples from a specimen book. I photocopied them and started lettering. Roger wanted a bunch of swash characters—more than existed in the basic typeface. I started copying swash letters from other typefaces and ‘Cochinizing’ them. Then I just started making stuff up.

“When Roger and Joe (Hutchinson) and David (Berlow) started the Cochin project for Rolling Stone,” Parkinson continues, “Roger remembered the crazy Cochins I did more than 30 years ago. He asked me to digitize them and add as many additional swash alternatives as I could dream up. I did two or three batches, but David wanted more—and I was having fun—so there are lots of them.”

Fonts for metal and early phototypesetting machines like the Linotype and Monotype had to be created within a crude system of predetermined character width values. Every letter had to fit within, and have its spacing determined by, a grid of only 18 units. This meant that if the ideal proportions of a particular character did not fit within a subset of these 18 units, it had to be altered so that it did. As a result, type designers were often compelled to compromise their designs from what they felt was ideal so they would work within the confines of the technology.

The original Frutiger typeface was such a design. The face dates back to 1968, when Adrian Frutiger was commissioned to design the signage for the then-new Charles de Gaulle Airport in Roissy, France. Frutiger’s goal was to create a sans serif typeface with the rationality and clean lines of his Univers design, but softened with organic, almost calligraphic, nuances.

Technological spacing restrictions hampered the original Frutiger design.

The Frutiger signage was completed and installed at de Gaulle airport in 1975. It took two more years to convert it into fonts for phototypesetting. In the process, Frutiger was forced to make changes to many characters to accommodate the spacing limitations of early phototypesetting technology.

Neue Frutiger, drawn as a collaboration between Adrian Frutiger and Linotype type director Akira Kobayashi, is based on the original Frutiger typeface, but incorporates many changes. The most obvious is an increase in the family’s range of weights. Neue Frutiger has ten roman weights, each with an italic counterpart. Other, more subtle, improvements were also made. Because the new design is not bound by the design restrictions put on the first Frutiger, Neue Frutiger improves on the original design in important areas, such as character design and spacing. Kobayashi and Frutiger also concentrated on enhancing character legibility at small sizes. Neue Frutiger enjoys all the design and spacing refinements that current digital technology can provide.

Jim Parkinson tells the story that, while browsing in a used bookshop in Northern California, he asked the clerk if the store had any typeface specimen catalogs or old books on lettering. The clerk pointed to a sign in the back of the shop that read “Archaic Skills.” Parkinson and many other type designers may well find their inspiration in the “archaic,” but their resulting typeface designs are as fresh as tomorrow morning. CA

Author's note: Hutch is available from the Font Bureau; P22 Civilité is available from P22; Bembo Book is available from; and Neue Frutiger is available from Linotype. Haley
Allan Haley ( is a storyteller and a consultant with expertise in fonts, font technology, type and typographic communication. He held the position of director of words and letters at Monotype for fifteen years and has six books and hundreds of articles to his credit. He is a past president of the Type Directors Club and was executive vice president of International Typeface Corporation.