But if you’ve ever wondered what answer you would get if you asked Matthew Carter, Erik Spiekermann, David Berlow—or any of a number of other typeface designers—“What's new?,” the following should satisfy your curiosity.
DAVID BERLOWDavid Berlow is president, co-founder and number-one type designer at The Font Bureau. Since its inception, the digital foundry has developed more than 300 custom type designs for well-known clients such as the Chicago Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek, Esquire, Rolling Stone and Hewlett-Packard. Berlow has also drawn hundreds of commercial typefaces: Bureau Roman, Eagle, ITC Franklin, Rhode and the Titling Gothic and Vonness families, to name just a few.
When asked, “What's new?” Berlow responded, “I’m making a boat font.” (Yes, you read it correctly.) “It’s a custom type-face family,” Berlow explained, “to be used for signage, analog control panels and computer screens as well as for printing hard copy material like manuals and menus for a 190-foot boat under construction in the Netherlands.” For this unusual project, he commented, “The client was looking for a type design that would become part of the branding for the boat and would meet the strict rules of shipbuilding.” Berlow outlined some of the unique aspects of this project: “Making fonts work down to 9 or 10 point on backlit control buttons in a variety of colors was a new and problematic design challenge. We also had to make the typeface perform equally well in a variety of weather conditions above deck. In addition, the design had to be exceptionally legible and readable, demanding clarity and brevity in any emergency situation that might arise.”
Berlow said that the fonts-and the boat-are due to be completed early this year.
VERONIKA BURIANBorn in Prague, Veronika Burian received a degree in industrial design from the University of Applied Sciences in Munich, Germany, before moving to Austria, and later to Italy, to work as a product and graphic designer. Discovering her true passion for type, she later graduated with distinction from the masters program in typeface design at Reading University in England. Burian is now fully dedicating her time to TypeTogether, the type design studio she co-founded with José Scaglione. The young studio has already distinguished itself. Karmina, the team’s first collaborative work, won recognition at the European Design Awards competition in 2007.
Burian and Scaglione are currently engrossed in designing a typeface for newspaper use. Burian explained, “The type family, called Adelle, will cover both text and display ranges. It is being developed as a flexible family, and will benefit from many weights.” Burian and Scaglione’s goal is to create a very legible design that has a neutral look when used in text sizes, but will show more personality as it is set in larger display sizes. “Our objective,” she said, “is to have the energetic personality that is particular to slab serif typefaces become evident as the design is used at larger sizes for subheads and main titles.” Burian also acknowledged that creating such a broad type family for a wide range of uses, while also factoring in the many technical restrictions inherent in newspaper printing, is quite a challenge. She is hopeful that the family will be completed in the first half of this year.
Adelle, by Veronika Burian and José Scagione, is a new slab serif typeface family that, while designed primarily for newspaper production, should prove its worth in any project where the straightforward presentation of content is the goal.
MATTHEW CARTERMatthew Carter is one of very few type designers who has designed typefaces for fonts in metal, in photo and for the digital medium. Carter’s genius lies in his ability to perfectly balance the aesthetic and functional requirements of type. From his early apprenticeship as a punchcutter-to creating designs such as Snell Roundhand and Charter, Verdana and Miller-Carter has proven himself a master of both the art and craft of type design. He has also produced custom typefaces for clients as diverse as Wired magazine, Apple and the Washington Post.
Carter’s newest project emerged from his attempt to design a sans serif version of his roman family Charter. “That led nowhere,” he said, “but along the way an unrelated form suggested itself, which took me in a different direction. The sans serifs I have designed in the past (Helvetica Compressed, Bell Centennial, Verdana) have been pared down and rigorous in their form and responsive to technical demands. The form for this new typeface is less constrained and more gestural in its drawing.”
As Carter worked on the design, he began to think of it as a tribute to the late Berthold Wolpe. Wolpe designed numerous typefaces in the 1930s, but is probably best know for Albertus. “I worked with Berthold on the photocomposition version of his Pegasus type in 1982,” said Carter, “and have since digitized Hyperion.” Carter was particularly attracted to the calligraphic nature of Wolpe’s designs. “I have always envied the expressive vigor of his lettering and type designs. In particular,” Carter explained, “Albertus is a contrast to the hard-edged, more impersonal and more familiar style of the modernists.” Conversations with type designer and typographic scholar Sumner Stone about Roman inscriptional lettering have also had an influence on the design, Carter acknowledged.
In an unusual move, Carter is collaborating with another designer, Sebastian Lester of Monotype Imaging. Carter is setting the direction for the design and editing its development, while Lester will do the “heavy lifting” of drawing the majority of the characters and productizing the design.
So far, the most difficult aspect of the project has been choosing a name for the typeface. “We're still looking for a moniker for the design,” said Carter. “Let's hope we find one before the family is released in late 2009.”
CHANK DIESELChank Diesel began making fonts in 1992 when he was creative director of the alternative music magazine, Cake. In 1995, making the most of his connections in the music industry, he road-tripped across the country, visiting designers at several record labels. He sold fonts to make enough money to get him to his next destination, which garnered him a reputation as “the traveling font salesman.”
Chank’s custom font service clients include Belkin, Cartoon Network, Church‘s Chicken, Marshall Field’s, Medtronic, Ocean Spray and Target. Humor and his range of talent distinguish Chank’s work from the crowd.
Next up, Chank will be leading a font-making workshop for children in Brooklyn. He plans to teach them about type by having them draw an alphabet on the sidewalk with chalk. He will document the process in a short video that will also be given away, and the resulting letters will be made into a digital font which will be distributed free on Chank’s Web site. When asked how the project came about, Chank's answer was, “I've hosted quite a few font-making workshops in the past where attendees learn to make a font in a day. We often create alphabets using locally available resources, like found objects at a campsite in autumn, or hip-hop bling in downtown Atlanta, or snow outside Minneapolis in January. I think there are a lot of hipster parents in Brooklyn, and I'm going to see if I can put their kids to work.”
Chank believes that the Brooklyn project will be very different from his other workshops because this is his first venture with children. “Of course all kids are special,” he said, “and since I’ve never worked with them before, who knows what the results will be.” He hopes to run the workshop on a sunny day this spring and have the font and video available online by mid-summer.
Who says that fonts must be made from wood, metal or bits and bytes? Chank Diesel's "bling" fonts are a sight to behold.
RICHARD KEGLERRichard Kegler is senior partner and founder of the P22 type foundry, provider of such designs as the revival of Frederic Goudy’s California, the Arts & Crafts family and the wildly popular Cezanne.
With Kegler as the driving creative force, P22's mission is to revive historical typefaces and lettering and provide them to the graphic design community. As part of the process, P22 often introduces typefaces that have never been available as digital fonts.
Paradoxically, “what's new” for P22 is “another new old font” that Kegler is working on with type designer Michael Clark. “It is a digitization of an antique script design originally made for brass stamping,” said Kegler. Clark was enlisted to draw the characters that are missing from the showing. “I’ve always been fascinated by typefaces and lettering that were never fonts," continued Kegler. “Digitizing artists’ handwriting, poster and painted sign lettering and other historical letter-forms brought about the Cezanne and Dearest script fonts, among others.”
In his quest for the truly lost-to-the-ages type styles, Kegler unearthed a 1925 catalog of brass type that was used for hot-stamping foil on book covers. Within this thin booklet, called Messingscriften Für Handvergoldung [Brass Types for the Type Holder], is a script face that had not yet been digitized. Not readily categorized, the script evokes authentic, casual and skilled handwriting. Kegler said that the font, to be named P22 Brass Script, should be available early this year.
The original partial showing and a few characters enlarged of Richard Kegler and Michael Clark's typeface to be released as P22 Brass Script.
AKIRA KOBAYASHIAkira Kobayashi is an unusual breed of designer. Although born and trained as a typeface designer in Japan, he excels at designing Latin-based alphabets. Kobayashi has created typefaces for Adobe, FontFont, Linotype and ITC; among them are ITC Silvermoon, ITC Vineyard, FF Clifford and Calcite Pro.
As type director for Linotype, he has worked with Hermann Zapf and Adrian Frutiger in reinterpreting their classic designs-including the Palatino, Optima, Avenir and Meridian families. Kobayashi also recently completed Eurostile Next, a revival of Aldo Novarese's original Eurostile.
One of Kobayashi’s current projects is a reinterpretation of the DIN typeface family. Originally developed in 1936 by Deutsches Institut für Normung [German Institute for Standardization] as the standard typeface for use in engineering, technology, traffic and business, DIN has recently become extraordinarily popular with graphic designers worldwide. “The project began in November 2007,” explained Kobayashi, “when the director of font development at Linotype asked me to draw some trial sketches to see if we could refine the existing DIN fonts and make them more versatile.” According to Kobayashi, the idea was to improve the din family and make it more useful to graphic designers. “We agreed that the new din had to be more ordered and flexible, have more weight variations and include some new OpenType features.”
The family is in the final stages of development and should be available by the time you are reading this article.
ROD MCDONALDIf there were such a position as Canada’s typographer laureate, Rod McDonald would be the perfect candidate. An accomplished lettering artist who came to typeface design somewhat late, McDonald has created award-winning designs for magazines, newspapers and other custom font clients. He has also drawn the commercial typeface families Cartier Book, Slate and Laurentian. Slate has recently been expanded to include a series of condensed designs and a slab serif suite called Egyptian Slate.
“My current project,” McDonald said, “involves the reworking and updating of Monotype’s classic Grotesque series that was first released in 1926. It is a demanding assignment that has involved extensive research into the derivation of the original designs.”
The new Ideal Grotesque design is a composite of the Monotype Grotesques, Berthold's Ideal Grotesk and Venus. The three faces are closely related, making it a natural to bring them together into one well-integrated typeface family. As part of the process, McDonald is adjusting the weight of the caps to bring them into better harmony with the lower case. All characters will also be re-proportioned to some degree, and new weights will be added to the originals.
According to McDonald, “The most challenging part of this project is retaining those elements that make the three originals so charming while still having a typeface that works well in a broad range of sizes.” He hopes to have all the designs ready for release in late spring.
ERIK SPIEKERMANNAlthough equally comfortable-and prolific-as a writer, graphic designer and typographer, Erik Spiekermann has always put type at the epicenter of the communication process. He is not just a typeface designer, nor does he confine his work to graphic design. Spiekermann has been called an information architect, but he bristles at the characterization, saying he finds the title pretentious. He is not about trends, fads or sizzle. He tackles design projects to achieve customer goals. Spiekermann maintains that a graphic design has to be modest. “It is not about the designer ” he said, “but about solving a problem for the client. If it doesn't solve the problem, it's not good design.”
When asked about his newest project, Spiekermann replied, “It's for TERN, which stands for Trans European Road Network, an organization that sets the standard for road signage across the European continent. Basically, I'm working for 26 countries and 30 clueless clients.” The project entails the development of a standard typeface for road signage across the European continent. “This is mainly for dynamic signs-large electronic boards with LEDs,” Spiekermann explained. Early on, he designed a number of dedicated bitmaps, which were tested against the existing bitmap fonts used by various countries. The latter were simple conversions from outline fonts and performed poorly in tests against Spiekermann’s dedicated bitmaps. Following this, the group requested a scalable version of the font. According to Spiekermann, "This also tested very well, but it is not terribly elegant when seen on paper. The font is intended to be used alongside the electronic displays, so it has to be similar in character.”
Although the project is frustrating at times, Spiekermann is clearly excited about it. “It's a pan-European project,” he said, “involving a lot of bureaucracy and many naïve administrators. But it is a great opportunity to deliberately design something for the public space that so far has always been left to engineers-as well as perhaps design something that will make the roads a little safer.” Spiekermann wouldn't even hazard a guess as to when the project might be completed.
Erik Spiekermann's TERN typeface family may not be elegant, but could become the European standard for transportation signage. "Pretty?" Not so much. "Powerful communicator?" Absolutely.
Boat, brass, Brooklyn, Berthold-and decidedly not boring: “What's new?” certainly yielded a fascinating variety of stories from this collection of type designers. ca
Author's note: Want to be a part of typographic history? Send your idea for the name of Matthew Carter’s new sans serif typeface to Allan Haley at email@example.com. If Matthew Carter chooses your name, he will send you an autographed CD containing the OpenType version of the complete family.