May 2020, Type Digest

A font for the dark-mode UI, the quest for a perfect pangram, emojis in the modern-day type, the history of Latin alphabet, and the long-awaited release of the most today typeface.

June 4, 2020


Black Lives Matter

The main development of the month is a campaign and protests against racism and police brutality that started in the US after the death of a black man named George Floyd. The resident of Minneapolis was arrested on 25 May, and during an arrest, a white police officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes. George Floyd passed out, was taken to the hospital and died shortly afterwards.

We can’t ignore these events, even though we are based in Moscow and report about type and graphic design: our friends and colleagues world over change the way they post on social media, postpone releases of new fonts and stories, coming out against racism and police brutality. Importantly, they also start initiatives to help unprivileged people of colour get into type design.

Even if the solidarity campaign is focused on the United States, we know too well how deeply these things are rooted in Russia (and we don’t like it!) Reminding about it is the least we can do.


Six lectures on the history of Latin alphabet

Type designer and teacher Lynne Yun tells and shows how Latin became as we know it today, from Phoenician alphabet to Hermann Zapf. Quite graphic and very interesting.


Quotation marks

We are very pleased to see how popular our Manual is! This May we told the pretty complete story of quotation marks. Next on: spaces and spacing.


TypeMedia 19

KABK TypeMedia present an online catalogue of the last year’s graduate projects. Featuring Rezak by Anya Danilova, the author of our Manual.


Memorial typography on the front page of NYT

On 24 May, The New York Times published its first purely typographic front page in modern times — no pictures, no stories, only the list of Americans who lost their lives to the pandemic. Nick Sherman at Font in Use speaks about the typographic background of the design and provides a comment by Andrew Sondern, the art director at NYT.


OH no Type School

James Edmontson, aka OH no Type Company, started a series of cards where he elaborates on the important graphic details of the Latin alphabet. translates those to Russian: subscribe on our Instagram, and watch our stories in case you can read Russian. Once completing the #ohnotypeschool, James thinks of collecting all the posts into a book.


Ottmar Mergenthaler, the inventor of linotype

Typeroom tells the story of Ottmar Mergenthaler who was born in Germany, moved to America, and invented the linotype — the typographic machine that allowed for typesetting using typewriter keys, without wasting time searching the type case.


Micro workshop on micro typography from TypeCooper

TypeCooper to hold a one-day workshop on micro typography. Hierarchies of elements, fine-tuning long texts, working on better punctuation, and applying the good practices on the web. 20 June, class is limited to 16, $245.


Digital typefaces: back to 1992 and back again

Luciano Perondi, the founder of CAST studio, re-reads an Eye magazine’s 1992 article on digital type and recalls this interesting period — font piracy on the rise, type and graphics software becoming what we know it now, young digital designers starting to compete with type patriarchs mapping out the new ways for the industry.


Very long, but eventually it gets interesting. Starting from chapter five, the situation is developing very quickly. And it is absolutely impossible to stop reading once you’ve reached those words: “Basically, the situation was the following: computer engineers had the tools, but not the knowledge to design typefaces, while designers (Knuth called them ‘artists’) knew how to design typefaces but were not able to use the tools that would have simplified their work and allowed them to do more sophisticated things.


A typeface tailored for the dark mode

Until fairly recently, most typefaces were dark-on-white. The technology of the past century permitted easy typesetting letters of any colour on any background, and the late 20th century saw the development of on-screen typography — despite all this, today most type designers still work with black-on-white, while drawing new type.

Dalton Maag released Darkmode typeface with regard to our perception of white-on-black letters — they tend to appear bolder, so the typeface has a set of alternative forms, especially designed for these purposes. It is not hard to guess that the typeface is intended for UI, where the dark mode has become a thing.


The idea is good, and I hope it will set a standard for any typefaces used in interfaces. Although, this particular font, I believe, has inktraps quite excessive for large point sizes. One can go even beyond this and create separate styles for screen and for print. The idea is, when you read on-screen, the source of light is the screen itself —  while a hard copy, au contraire, is reflecting light.


Playing with weights, density, slant — this is how we usually deploy variability in body text fonts. Unthinkable fancy animation, unpredictability — those are reserved for display ones. But now Dalton Maag attaches to variability a functional meaning, based on the specifics of inverse colour scheme. A very logical move, so logical that it can be made a fundamental requirement to any UI-fonts.


Reviving the 15th century mainstream

Rotunda Veneta by Riccardo Olocco is a revival of a type cut in the printing house of Nicolas Jenson in 1474. Its details are carefully treated to make the typeface suitable for small sizes — and to preserve the vivid rhythm of the original.


‘No kerning required’ raised my eyebrows: it now seems to become a thing of the season. I see more and more new typefaces inspired by this rule. Trying to design a set in a way that combinations of uppercase and lowercase letters won’t offend the eye is always a nice exercise.


Searching for the ideal pangram

Pangram is a phrase that contains each letter of the alphabet at least once. Designers love to test their typefaces using those, and pangrams that actually mean something, with the letters not repeating themselves too much, are considered the most chic.

Jonathan Hoeffler decided to dump these almost classical rules and created three long incoherent texts which are good for checking all the most frequent and troublesome glyph combinations — and for revising the overall texture (thankfully, the letters are present at about the same frequency as we see them in English language in general).

An articulate script for an sports car manufacturer

Black[Foundry] rightfully brag about their project for Alpine, a French racing car manufacturer (not to be confused with a German automaker Alpina). A variable brush script speaking both velocity and freedom, it could be easily mistaken for a skilled calligraphy.


Rodchenko, from Modernism to Constructivism; Vkhutemas, history and papers

The art historian Alexander Lavrentiev speaks to Type Journal about the early days and creative values of his grandfather, Alexander Rodchenko, who is believed to be one of key figures of the Russian avant-garde.

Meanwhile, their Instagram account posted a first series of stories on Vkhutemas. The Russian State Art and Technical School (workshops) first opened in 1920 in Moscow; apart from Rodchenko, Vladimir Tatlin, El Lissitzky, Wassily Kandinsky, Vladimir Favorsky, Fyodor Schechtel and many others worked there as teachers. The stories dedicated to the centennial of Vkhutemas will be posted all summer.


The interview is put together bery voluminously and very emotionally, mentioning both Rodchenko’s methodological quest and personal feelings and experiences, as well as several stages of the evolvement of his artistic principles.


The most relevant typeface of our times, finally released

Trois Mille (which means Three Thousand in French) started as Marc Rouault’s graduation project at the KABK Type&Media master’s program. As early as back in 2015 the designer was exploring the possibility to create a neo-grotesque with variable contrast basing on broad nib’s calligraphy. Today, a static sans serif with hair-thin stroke intersections is the latest type fashion; Trois Mille has grown into 294 styles and has finally been released by Sharp Type foundry.


URW Type Foundry, Monotype’s yet another acquisition

Monotype is continuing to acquire type studios all around the world: in May the corporation has agreed to acquisition of the Hamburg-based URW Type Foundry, founded in 1971. In its early years URW was a typographic software developer; in 1975 they started their own collection of digital typefaces. Fun fact: in 1995, Monotype sued URW — the studio repeated Monotype typefaces and released them under similar names. The US court found URW guilty of fraudulent trademark use and forbade such practices — the decision, however, did not affect letterforms, which are not protected by the US laws.


Detailed contemporary serif for micro typography

Production Type has released its Big Daily Short family: elegant, multi-weight, inspired by newspaper fonts, and tailored for small sizes. Particular focus was placed on italics — without compromising the elegance, it looks absolutely natural in the modern on-screen typeset.


Impressed by the curvy shapes of Extra Light, Extra Light Italic!


Emoji, a look from the type perspective

Emoji is one of the most important additions to the Unicode in the last few decades, however, practically not quite reflected on by the type industry. The Chief Emoji Officer at Emojipedia, Jeremy Burge became a guest of Glenn Fleishman’s Tiny Typecast, discussing the problems of standardization, unification, and displaying of emojis on different platforms and devices.


Complete Works of Marx and Engels — an unfinished design story, decades in the making

The typographic historian Dan Reynolds tells about the design process for the Marx/Engels Gesamtausgabe (The Complete Works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels). The project started in the German Democratic Republic in 1968 and was supposed to end in 2010 — however, only 58 out of the planned 114 volumes have been published yet.

Book series this large is a rare project spanning decades of time, multiple technological practices, and even multiple political situations. Albert Kapr, the original art director of the series, virtually had to decide on typefaces, layout and printing methods by guessing and predicting the future of book printing — which actually seems to be a very marxist type of task.


Interactive 3D typography, the visuals for an exhibition in Barcelona

The Barcelona-based Gimmewings studio design an interactive maze of letters — in fact, a separate videogame accompanying an offline exhibition called Gameplay.


The project is a timid attempt to understand how typography works in the virtual world.

There seems to be a potential for a different reading practice — interactive, complemented with the third physical dimension, where the meaning of said things are presented to the audience in a different perspective and in a different order. Already now, the conventional sequential reading is being replaced by rapid scanning of information contents — see the recent research by Nielsen Norman Group called How People Read Online.

This kind of project is necessary for the future of type.

This May, our Instagram was directed by Anton Synytsia. Thanks, Anton!

In June we invited Alexey Ivanovsky.