“Design the font for use on the cover of a magazine called type and write a short article for
the magazine using a range of typefaces, with typographic illustrations, drawing on all that
you have learned in this section. The article should include sections on:
• what makes a typeface interesting
• how a typeface is constructed
• question marks.”
I had a look at this subject from various angles. Obviously what makes a typeface interesting is open to interpretation, and I wasn’t sure if the construction referred to the anatomy of type, or how its actually designed by a typographer. Anyway…here’s my research
Traditional Font Foundries
I found a really interesting video on a traditional font foundry. Mackenzie & Harris was established in 1915, its the oldest and largest type foundry for letterpress printers in the United States. Traditionally, letters are cast from molten lead, and the arranged by hand. This company now use a later technology; the casting machine, which requires a keyboard operator who has completed a six year apprenticeship! Many of their staff have worked at the company for decades, and naturally there is a concern as to how to train young people, to continue this skilled work.
Modern font foundries
It is always interesting to look into how professional typographers design type. I have mentioned Erik Spiekermann before, but the typrface designer Steve Matteson is interesting too. He heads a whole design team working on fonts. They have some high profile clients such as Microsoft and Google, and are also some fonts they feel have had their day, such as Curlz.
The Typographica website has a large drop down menu under the heading of font foundries, which led me to find the following video about Paul Wyatt and his company Fontsmith. Despite having access to all modern computer software, they give a great deal of attention to hand rendered design.
Fontsmith from Paul Wyatt on Vimeo.
Sign writing and calligraphy has a long tradition of working by hand which continues today… This is a video of a chap using brushwork on glass. Its just beautiful!
There’s plenty of information about the anatomy of typeface. I brain stormed to see how many terms I could remember
And then sketched some diagrams, either from memory, or using reference pictures. It seems to help me remember terms better if I draw them myself!
I found a series of six short films on well known typefaces; Futura, Bodoni, Centaur, Rockwell, Clarenden and Optima.
All six videos of the “This is typography” series are here:
I’m starting to see the simliarities and influences between fonts, and how certain letter forms have changed and developed over the years. For example that Avenir is closely related to Futura and so on…
Various books come in handy here too
Graphic Design Rules has an excellant chapter on typography. Its pretty flippant and entertaining too… Oh!! And I painted my nails the other day, brilliant timing to have my hand in a view. Not my normal bag lady chic.
Check this out! Calligraphy for children. Before Playstation and everything…
My brother got interested in calligraphy years ago, but judging by the price in old money, this must have come from a second hand bookshop. (I’m not sure how I’ve ended up with it!)
“A Book Of Lettering” seems to date from 1936! Maybe it was owned by my grandparents… Here’s a look inside (Just like Amazon eh!)
Its very clear about various typefaces being used for different purposes such as leatherwork, embroidary, or stonemasonary, interesting point!
I looked up the origin and history of the question mark, some references here
The secret life of punctuation
story of symbols
history of the question mark
And I have to thank my brother at this point, as he is a medieval historian! He was able to separate fact from fiction for me, and gave me this helpful link.
Next I began looking in detail at different typefaces, and I was surprised at the variation in question marks.
I found myself sketching loads of question marks, both from my font collection, and elsewhere. They are all very rough, in gel pen, I just wanted to get a feel for them,, rather than make anything accurate or pretty. It surprised me that I got a bit addicted to recording all the shapes, it was weirdly absorbing!
Here they are
Up until now, i have to confess I haven’t had a huge urge to have a go at hand lettering, it just seems fiddily and time consuming (I know, I know that’s what graphic designers used to do)… I’ve tried a little bit of calligraphy in the past, got frustrated so I gave up pretty quickly! It just annoys the hell out of my perfectionist side!
That said, now that computers render a typface perfectly… it occurs to me that all the wobbily imperfections I can produce might be an interesting effect for this project! I’m wondering wether to illustrate typography examples by hand…and to keep things fairy rough and hopefully a bit endearing?!
Designing a Typeface
There are several visual tasks really, one is designing the font for the cover, and the illustrations for inside the article. Also, what about the rest of the front cover – both text and images? And the body copy of the article?
The first step for me is to experiment with materials…
Here’s the cable from my iron, not very easy to control! its used the being coiled round the handle, and doesn’t like to lie straight!
Some objects seem to already represent a letter. Here’s the letter “A”?!
I have some thin copper sheeting that I briefly wondered if I could use for type design, then I stumbled across this lettering on a mail order website, which is the sort of thing I was picturing in my head. But I feel trying to design a metallic font is a rather impractical and very time consuming starting point.
Next I moved on to pen and paper, how the hell did I manage to leave out letters of the alphabet??
I found this harder than I was expecting. It becomes clear that you can’t just randomly embellish! (Hmm stating the obvious?!) There needs to be some sort of theme, and consistency. I particularly found script typefaces just didn’t flow in any sensible direction! I found I was getting new ideas whilst drawing the lettering, so I lost focus, and the letter spacing is often not well planned. This might have been much better if i had used a proper grid and an ink pen or brush!
That said, I picked a few I thought it was worth developing. Then, an exciting thing happened! My partner gave me an airbrush for my birthday. Its brilliant. I have absolutely no control over it yet, but it seemed the perfect opportunity to try lettering. ( I’ve converted these to black and white, as I was playing with green ink and it doesn’t show up very well!)
I opened the pictures in photoshop, tidyed up, and used Illustrator, live trace feature, to get a vector of the individual letters for each of these designs…
Although the airbrush lettering worked OK, I found it easier to use the pen tool to reproduce this one. Its quite hard to work up lettering to look neat, you can see this is still a little wonky!
Next I needed to develop my magazine cover – I’ve thought about adding ink blotches similar to the ones produced on paper by the airbrush, and also maybe stock photography. This mock up includes the headings for a few additional articles, which are relevant to the subject of type. I already had this image stored on my computer, but its a shame its a pencil, not a pen.
Another thing to ponder, is of course what font to combine with my own on the front cover. It has to be something that can be used as body copy, so I can get a sense of unity with the cover, and the actual article inside.
Here’s some coloured ones (based on this coloured card I put together for a previous exercise)
…As you can see, they are a little busy, and I also think the triangle at the bottom is a bit distracting. I don’t really think these elements work that well together.
Though I slightly prefer it with this font.I should mention that this was also the result of Live Trace in Illustrator, which created a fluffy ragged edge…I quite like this effect, but more as something that might be suitable for another project in the future.
Here’s some more ideas…I found a more suitable piece of stock photography of some pens, which I blurred and cropped, to sit in the background of my cover.
I’ve also experimented with serif and sans serif sub headings for the articles, with and without a background photo.
Next I needed write my magazine article, and create the layout for it. Having gathered together my research notes, I got stuck in – but it was a bit weird writing to fill a double page spread, as I really didn’t have a clue how much to write! I ended up writing a good chunk of the information I wanted to include, seeing that it took up too much space, and editing it down whilst having a rough idea of leaving space for illustrations.
I left the illustrations til last, as i wasn’t completely sure which pieces of information would need to be illustrated, until I had actually written the article. My first thought had been to draw lettering by hand but I really wanted things to look a little more polished. It seemed the most important information to put across was the anatomy of letterforms, and the development of Old Style, Transitional and Modern typefaces. I could have obviously added additional illustrations, but I was also trying to think about the proportions on the page.
Here what I came up with…I felt that the Blackoak was a bit too dominant, so I swapped it for another slab serif – Clarendon.
I’ve found some diagrams are a bit unclear in showing the difference between the counter and the bowl, so that was one of my objectives! I haven’t included absolutely everything, as there are so many terms. It might have been good to add an “S” to show the spine…but hopefully this gives a flavour of the terms applied to letterforms. I chose baskerville, as its such a traditional, elegant serif font.
Obviously, I was aiming for these to tie together, so I used the same black/grey/pink colour scheme.
As I had discovered that this supposed history of the question mark is not actually factually correct, I haven’t reproduced my own version of it as an illustration!
Putting it all together.
I produced two versions, one with separate illustrations, and one combined in a single box. You can see I’ve experimented with ragged right and justified, also the margin and gutter width. I’ve used baskerville for the main heading, to match the illustrations, and although that means I haven’t demonstrated different fonts for this heading, I really think this is the best choice for continuity. Obviously the illustrations had to have a serif font, to demonstrate a serif! Some versions have sans serif body copy (myriad pro) for contrast.
I think my ability to design type is rather poor at the moment, but its all a learning curve! I didn’t use a sans serif heading for the article, because I just really love how Baskerville looks here, and sometimes it just seems the moment to leave things alone and stop fiddling.