“The quality level was high, across the board,” juror Gail Anderson said. “There were no duds—excellent posters, and strong editorial work dominated.”
“I was incredibly impressed with the quality of entries in the competition,” juror Jessica Hische said. “It was definitely tough to narrow it down from everything that was submitted.”
“As someone who is generally focused on typographic minutia and form/counterform, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the more playful lettering and alphabets that took a completely different approach from my own,” juror Jesse Ragan said. “Most of all, I was very pleased to see such unbridled enthusiasm and energy for making letters. Something in the air lately has empowered a wide range of people to try their hand at lettering, and we saw some beautiful and unexpected results.”
While the judges were generally pleased with the submissions, they were left wanting more.
“More websites!,” Ragan said. “Web typography has been getting so good lately, but we didn’t see that reflected in the entries. And more web fonts and other typefaces designed specially for on-screen use.”
“I was disappointed not to see more original typeface designs,” Anderson said. “I wish more typographers had submitted their work. And I thought there would have been more books and book covers.”
Other disappointments? “I’m pleased about the renewed enthusiasm for handmade lettering, but too many designers fall into the trap of sacrificing quality for the handmade touch,” Ragan said. “It’s possible to create a spontaneous or naive effect without sacrificing sophisticated letter-drawing. And too many graphic designers pile on generic swashes to spruce up an otherwise lackluster design.”
“The video entries surprised me the most. I was expecting to see a lot of words flying around on screen, but there were some really well thought-out pieces that used type sparingly and beautifully.”—Jessica Hische
While we strongly recommend printed submissions for the typeface category, two thirds of the entries were still submitted digitally. “It’s very difficult to judge type design entries on screen,” Hische said. “I wish we could have seen more of them printed out.” Anderson agreed. “Font submissions should be viewed as large printouts, rather than projected, so intricate details can be more readily examined.”
I asked the jurors what technical developments will change the way we use typography in the future?
“Screen resolution will be a dominant factor,” Anderson said. “Writing and drawing tablets will become more and more intuitive. And whatever Apple comes up with next will drive us towards even better integration of people and computers.”
“Both web fonts and responsive web design became much more widely adopted in the past year,” Ragan said. “We’ll see growth and maturity in the ways those innovations interact with each other. The fact that a wide range of web fonts are readily available to everyone—including non-designers—means that professional designers will have to focus on demonstrating restraint and sophistication in their use of them.”
Lastly, I asked the jury what challenges are facing the next generation of type designers?
“Retina display screens, tablets, cellphones and whatever’s next—How does one typeface respond to so many different environments?” Anderson asked.
“Does scalability become even more of an issue?”
“Editorial designers are shifting the weight of visual communication from traditional illustration to illustrative lettering. The lines between illustration and lettering are getting less clear.” —Jesse Ragan
“One of the biggest challenges is the surge in interest in designing typefaces,” Ragan said. “Fortunately, the demand for typefaces seems to be rising with the supply of designers. But the field is starting to get a lot more competitive, and it’s getting harder to stand out from the crowd. Type customers are more likely to turn to a designer for a specialized aesthetic. But traditionally, typeface designers have delighted in versatility, shifting from one aesthetic to another.”
“I think the biggest challenges for the future are the same ones we face today—convincing people that type design is an art that must be preserved through patronage—that it shouldn’t be free or cheap and that it involves real craft,” Hische said. “The fact that most young designers have been raised on computers will affect the design and type world tremendously. The future is bright and will be packed with designers that learned to draw with vectors not long after learning to draw with crayons. We just have to make sure they value the work that they do and do their part to keep the industry alive and well.”
As in our other competitions, we employed a two-step jurying system, screening and finals. For screening, print entries were spread out on six rows of tables by category and each juror reviewed the entries independently. Any juror could put an entry into the next round by handing it to a member of our staff. Digital entries and motion graphics were screened by checking an “in” or “out” box on scoring sheets. During finals, print entries were again spread out on tables by category. Two paper cups, one white and one red, with slots cut in the bottom, were placed upside down to the right of each entry, white cups for “in” votes, red cups for “out.” Each juror voted by placing a different colored ceramic tile into the appropriate cup. A check of the tile colors ensured that each judge voted on every single piece.
After all the jurors were finished voting on the print setup, they moved to another hall for a final session of projected images or motion graphics. Again voting was done by each juror checking the “in” or “out” column on the scoring sheets. Judges were not permitted to vote on projects with which they were directly involved. I voted in their stead.
I would like to extend our grateful appreciation to our jurors for their conscientious efforts in selecting our third annual typographic exhibition. —Patrick Coyne ca
Designer, Writer and Educator
Gail Anderson is a New York-based designer, writer and educator. From 2002 through 2010, she served as creative director of design at SpotCo, a New York City advertising agency that creates artwork for Broadway and institutional theater. From 1987 to early 2002, she worked at Rolling Stone, serving as designer, deputy art director and finally, as the magazine’s senior art director. Anderson is co-author, with Steven Heller, of New Modernist Type, as well as New Ornamental Type and New Vintage Type. She is a contributor to Print magazine’s blog Imprint and Uppercase magazine. Anderson teaches at the School of Visual Arts and has served on advisory boards for The Type Directors Club, Adobe Partners by Design and the Society of Publication Designers. She is the recipient of the 2008 Lifetime Achievement Medal from AIGA.
Letterer and Illustrator
Jessica Hische is a letterer, illustrator and self-described “avid internetter.” After graduating with a degree in graphic and interactive design from Tyler School of Art (Temple University) in 2006, she worked for Headcase Design in Philadelphia before taking a position as senior designer at Louise Fili Ltd. There she learned most of her skills as a letterer and spent upwards of sixteen hours every day working (nine for Fili and seven-plus for freelance clients). After two-and-a-half years, Hische left to further her freelance career and embark on several fun personal projects. She began the Daily Drop Cap project; every day she created a new illustrative letter, working through the alphabet a total of twelve times. She currently serves on the Type Directors Club board of directors and divides her time fairly evenly between San Francisco and Brooklyn.
Type Designer and Educator
Jesse Ragan has been designing letterforms for as long as he can remember, dating back to his childhood in North Carolina. He learned from the best how to make them into typefaces: as a student at Rhode Island School of Design, an intern at Font Bureau and as a full-time designer at Hoefler & Frere-Jones. Since 2005, Ragan has worked independently in Brooklyn, developing typefaces and lettering for clients including Pentagram, Landor and House Industries. Among his many design credits are collaborative contributions to Gotham, Archer, Chronicle, Sentinel and Omnes. Ragan teaches at Type@Cooper, the postgraduate certificate program in typeface design he co-founded at Cooper Union in 2010. He also lectures occasionally on his work as a designer and educator.