Type Digest, April 2020

Letterform Archive goes online; MS Word declares war on double spaces; the first ever sans serif typeface comes alive in Commercial Classics collection — and a whole bunch of other news of the month.

May 5, 2020


Graphic design in tackling public health crises


Some call COVID-19 crisis unprecedented, although in fact humanity had seen many pandemics and epidemics throughout its history — including in modern times, when Western society already had graphic design. Eye On Design is retracing infographics, propaganda, and illustrated checklists over the last two centuries: leprosy, malaria, Ebola, STD.


Bespoke type for Wales


British studio Smörgasbord — that’s how Swedish people call buffet — released a typographic system for Wales tourist brand. The project benefited from a close collaboration with Colophon Foundry, as well as some additional piece of advice from Joseph Burrin. Initially they designed Cymru Sans, a sans serif with numerous ligatures and this slight Medieval touch, and later the studio produced Cymru Serif, a pairing Scotch Roman (coming up with a slogan Different strokes for Different Folks — translator’s note). Smörgasbord developed typographic guidelines, and even additional font versions for various brand purposes. For example, a slithered serif is to be used by Creative Wales, — while Transport Wales will have an elegant stencil sans serif.


Great to see such an organic and modern representation of a specific national typography. We all should learn from them.


I actually expected something different, like yet another geometric sans serif that will get lost among many others. But as it turns out, it is a pair of an ornate serif and a moderately ornate sans serif. And they are interpolated! (I thought of doing something like that a couple of years ago, so I am pleased to see someone accomplishing it on a large scale.)


Quite a sizeable project — one can tell that they did a great deal of work. Although, personally, there is something that bothers me. The concept focuses on the idea of ‘sense of place’ — a sense which, in fact, must be earned by years of constant use and frequent appearance in the conditional territory. Most questionable, in my opinion, is the sans — it is more mechanic, compared to serif. For some reason, it lacks open bowls in B, d, dd, g, P, R, & — while serif has them. The form of K, is also different. I also find it controversial the form of l they used to distinguish it from similar letters.


The project uses Llyfr Du Caerfyrddin (the Black Book of Carmarthen), the earliest written source in Welsh, as a starting point, and then supplements it with elements inspired by Arabic script. This results in a moderate font, yet with daring ascenders/descenders and ligatures in the set.


Rather interesting research. As a result, the authors created some amount of novelties, most of them relating to the letter d — which, oddly enough, happens to look very Cyrillic.


Tracking longstanding type foundry buildings all over the world


Lubalin Center collects information on still-standing type foundry buildings: centuries ago, in the era of tangible type, type foundries needed plenty of space, with many of them building themselves a separate edifice. As time passed, typographers moved out, people started to use these buildings for other purposes — they became offices, residential houses, or opened their doors to different creative industries.


2020 Call for Entries for Gerard Unger Scholarship


TypeTogether will consider applications for Gerard Unger Scholarship until 1 June. The scholarship is open for all the 2018/2019 or 2019/2020 type design master degree graduates. The winners will receive design and publishing support, a paid internship at TypeTogether, and also some funding to cover an educational trip to attend a typography conference.


Call for entries by ADCR Awards


For the sixth time already, ADCR Awards 2020 (prize founded and organized by The Art Directors Club Russia) has announced its call for proposals. We provide the information support to this Awards, as their media sponsor, — all the more since this time around ADCR introduced their new subcategories Logotype and Typography.

We believe the prize has a positive impact on the typography culture in Russian-speaking advertising, — as well as remind its customers of how essential and powerful the typeface can be as a tool.

You have to pay to submit your ADCR Awards application, but they give a special price for students (it is significantly cheaper to enter the competition if you are one of them).


How to work with typography across multiple scripts


The blog of TypeTogether foundry published a guide to multiscript typography for designers who have to combine several scripts in one project. An excellent chance to extend your typographic perspective — since for many of us it is limited solely to the European languages and character sets.


The guide lists some universal rules, useful not just for working with multiple scripts — but helping create a wider relationship with typographic systems in general.


Romek Marber, 1925–2020


Romek Marber was born to a Jewish family in Poland, deported to the ghetto, escaped, arrested, imprisoned, and transported to Germany. After release from the Nazi camp, Marber went to London where he studied at the St Martin’s School of Art. This man has had a profound impact on British design in the 1960s, working on covers of The Economist magazine and Penguin books.


The type of tomorrow: 1959 perspective


Nick Sherman (here’s our interview with him) scanned an article from The Penrose Annual 1959 on the new opportunities brought by phototypesetting technology. The text entitled From the Rigid to the Flexible predicts more natural kerning (which became a common thing for us a long time ago), a huge range of weights within one family, and addresses the issue of recreating metal type in digital form — what matrix or which proof shall be considered as original?


Anna Seslavinskaya: Year 1959. Whom is the future with? It was thought to be with commercial letterers, trained in the use of phototypesetting tools, having “first-hand, day-to-day contact with alphabet trends and needs, particularly in the realm of display faces”. “The best of these men will be the type designers of tomorrow, and their brilliance will depend not at at all upon successfully overcoming the strict limitations of metal blocks, but upon their artistic ability as exhibited in good manual technique, a faultless eye for ‘colour’, and a flair for drawing interesting and useful alphabets.” Doesn’t it seem an accurate definition of variable fonts to you? :)


Vertical script: applying Asian methods to Latin type


Falling Script, it is not the first time that someone tries to adapt Latin type to vertical writhing, — but this time an attempt is certainly interesting. The font already has lower- and uppercase, small caps, and an alternative style where the text line gets continuous.


Being vertical, this font manages to keep the rhythm and the slope! Not an easy one to read, — but the project is not at all about simplicity.


ATypI decides to cancel its 2020 conference


Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI) decided not to proceed with its Paris conference that was planned for October this year. It is postponed until 2021, with the date of a follow-up conference in Stockholm changed to year 2022. This year, ATypI plans on some kind of virtual event (further details TBA).


MS Word starts flagging double spaces after a period as errors


With its latest update Microsoft Word will highlight two spaces after a period in red as an error. Apparently, many American writers like to do so!


Aren’t we perhaps witnessing the start of a long path to replace double primes with proper quotation marks?


This lockdown does wonders to people! There is now an actual chance Microsoft will finally produce a decent text editor. Or they could even get rid of the bloody PowerPoint, once and for all.


Original Sans, the oldest sans serif ever


Commercial Classics released a digital version of a sans serif cut by Vincent Figgins’ foundry back in 1828. Not exactly the first sans serif in history, it was the first to ever be called one. Originally it only had upright uppercase letters — but the new digital release is equipped with both italic and lowercase.


Every period in history has its own particular style, reflecting the context of that time, — and yet how easy it is for a form from the past to find its place in the present!


How to make socialism look American?


In April, democratic socialist Bernie Sanders announced his withdrawal from the US presidential race. Eye On Design revisits the design process for Sanders’ 2014 campaign — that logo turned out to look very American, but not at all socialist. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 2018 identity looks way more leftish — with its pronounced influence of Soviet design of the 1920s, which is conventionally synonymous with communism and socialism.


Very interesting. It is about the visual language in ideas.


A new book by Schrift Publishers


Early April, Schrift Publishers announced a fundraising campaign for the book called Mnogo Bukv (‘Too many letters’ in Russian, — translator’s note), a collection of interviews from typejournal.ru. One month to go, and some half of the needed 500,000 rubles has already been raised. — Now would be the best time to support the project!


Letterform Archive, now online


Letterform Archive, one of the most important museums of typography, is now available for online tours. The website features around 1,500 out of the 60,000 showpieces — that is more than 9,000 images in high quality. Type the asterisk sign in the search bar, and you’ll get the random bulk of reference material.


Nekrasov Library also digitized its archive (and it’s not just books!)


One more new source of historical type is the website of the Moscow-based Nekrasov Central Library. In addition to books, Electronekrasovka has also digitized its fairly large collection of tags and labels, making it perhaps one of the biggest online compilations of applied graphics in Russian language.


Paratype launches the Lab — a FutureFonts-inspired storefront


Now you can buy new fonts by Paratype even before they are finished, 650 rubles per typeface. Currently, Paratype Lab has seven font releases, each with a different degree of completion: A neo-grotesque PT Root is yet to have kerning and italics, while a display narrow Spile is already fitted with ligatures and six alternatives sets (with even more to come).


Nice practice. Especially as it is difficult to get to FutureFonts — these guys openly admit that they won’t answer all the requests.


Glyph Collector, a tool to help your type revival project


This is an app for those willing to explore and revive typefaces of old. All you need to do is upload a scan and one glyph of each character — all the other glyphs will be collected automatically.


It is always easier to re-produce some good old stuff than to invent something new and wonderful! The question of whether we really need it or not, still remains open. Speaking of performance of the application: I went to the Nekrasov Library archive and got myself an issue of Iskusstvo I Khudozhestvennaya Promyshennost magazine dated 10 September 1900. Complying with all the recommendations, I fixed white balance and adjusted contrast. The problems started as early as on the first page, that contained the magazine’s logo. It took an hour for the app to attempt processing this page, — and it failed. My conclusion: this application allows for uploading scans with only text on them, no possible graphics will do. I put the first page aside, uploaded the second one. I tried to get a lowercase **б **— after 45 minutes of processing (and massively overloading my processor), the app generated 54 glyphs. 24 of those were different letters. The lesson learned: with the use of any photo editor you can do the same work — but faster and with less errors.


Type Crit Crew connects young type designers to experienced professionals


Juan Villanueva, Monotype’s in-house designer, launched Type Crit Crew, an initiative enabling aspiring type designers to get free advice from professionals. Everything is organized through Google Docs; you can seek up to thirty minutes of remote consulting per month. Click on the link for more details.


That’s a brilliant idea! Before this, for getting feedback from some experienced type designer, you needed either to know them personally or show your prints in between talks at type conferences (and those are gone now). But here you are offered such a great opportunity. Besides, their list of professionals includes 12 designers who can advise on Cyrillic, with four of them speaking Russian.


36 Days of Type, taken by Letterspace Museum


Since 2014, Barcelona-based Treintayseis have been carrying out the annual challenge called 36 Days of Type — inviting designers to draw Latin letters and Arabic numbers. The project outgrew an organized initiative format a long time ago — every March pretty much anyone shows their works hashtagged #36daysoftype.

This year, 36 Days of Type was joined by Amsterdam Letterspace Museum, and major type-design professionals from all over the world have each created one crazy variable glyph.


A great specimen of what variable fonts are capable of. Can be used as a guidebook for your own experiments.


Graphik Compact, Platform, Atlas


This April we released no less than three new Cyrillic sans serifs, all originally produced by Commercial Type. Those are: a modest Atlas (+ monowidth Atlas Typewriter), lucid geometric Platform — and Graphik Compact (the name says it all).

In April it was Polina Kukushkina who we made responsible for our Instagram. Thank you, Polina!

The May shift has already started, — and Anton Synytsia is in charge