4 August, 2010
FORZA: A New Font Family from H&FJ
There are stylized typefaces that speak in a singular, powerful voice, and there are versatile ones capable of expressing many different moods. We feel the pull of both extremes, and are especially fascinated by the typographic styles caught in between. Sans serifs based on the rounded rectangle are an interesting study: they’re adaptable enough to have survived almost two hundred years, but in every incarnation they return with a new but overly specific agenda. The ones on enamel railway signs are charming, but a little sleepy; the ones on battleships are somber, if a little aloof. We’ve long wondered if this style could be harnessed to create a more expressive family of types, and recently had the opportunity to find out: Wired commissioned us to design a square sans as their editorial workhorse, one that could handle everything from philosophical essays to down-to-earth service pieces.
The result is Forza®, a new family of sans serifs from H&FJ. Forza’s sophisticated visual vocabulary makes it alert and engaging, and its broad palette of weights ensures that Forza can meet the needs of the most demanding designer, from painterly display typography to text-heavy listings. Ardent, disciplined, shrewd, and commanding, Forza offers a range of voices to choose from, and is now available in twelve styles, from $199.
7 January, 2010
Because We’re, You Know, Cyborgs
Odd choice of fonts. Only one way to improve on it. —JH
7 December, 2009
Typography Without Ink
This weekend, I replaced a DVD player that finally conked out after eleven years. Whatever delight I once took in acquiring a new piece of electronics has long been eclipsed by the responsibilities of dealing with its byproducts: its packaging, thankfully limited to recyclable cardboard and biodegradable packing peanuts, and also the carcass of the old device itself, which this year a local equipment recycler will be disassembling and recycling as responsibly as possible. Even the best process is not a perfect one, as industrial designers and packaging designers will be the first to admit, but every little bit helps.
The supplied accessories came in this cardboard box, which made me smile. Rather than print the cardboard before it’s cut and folded, whoever was responsible for this piece of packaging realized that the die-cutting step offered a no-cost opportunity to mark the sheet at the same time, by shaping the strikeline into letters that partially perforate the box. That I’m charmed by this solution probably comes as no surprise, since I have an admitted love of perforated letterforms, but I admire any effort that makes design more honest, easier to produce, and less wasteful to consume.
Because cutting dies can’t be curled too tightly, the medium demands big letters and brief messages, which I especially appreciate. Missing from this box is all the bumf to which we’ve become accustomed, but never needed in the first place: a reprise of the manufacturer’s name and motto from the outer box, a fuzzy rendering of the product that by now is on the coffee table, a wordy title like ETS1041E-ACC Supplied Accessory Parts Kit (US/120V), a list of serial numbers for other compatible components that you didn’t choose to buy, and finally a numbing set of bullet points that patiently explains in eight languages what you already know, which is that the box contains the power cord, a remote, and two AA batteries. “Accessories” says it all, and is a welcome relief to anyone now facing an evening of plugging it all in. —JH
10 March, 2009
The Gerrit Noordzij Prize, Part 2: Incoming
Type designers are accustomed to approaching the line between homage and parody with great care. It's especially daunting when its subject is a living colleague, as was the case last Friday when Tobias presented an award of his own design to Wim Crouwel, winner of the 2009 Gerrit Noordzij Prize. (In keeping with the tradition, the current holder of the prize designs the award given to its next recipient.) To design an award for Crouwel, a Dutch icon who is indelibly associated with a strong and recognizable personal style, takes great sensitivity: imagine having to design a business card for Piet Mondrian, or select a ringtone for Igor Stravinsky.
If there is anyone able to see past the obvious, it is Wim Crouwel. In the 1960s, Crouwel's fresh yet doctrinaire approach to graphic design earned him the pejorative nickname "gridnik," which Crouwel, with typical flare, adopted as a moniker, and later chose as the name for his best known typeface. In his acceptance speech on Friday, Crouwel described his decades-long disagreements with his friend Gerrit Noordzij — in whose name the award is given — and both men reflected gleefully on their continuing philosophical differences. This fruitful synthesis has colored both the study and the practice of graphic design, and it's satisfying to see it recognized. This is what awards should be for.
In keeping with the custom, Tobias designed an award that uses his own work but includes a nod to Crouwel's. In celebration of the pre-history of the Gotham typeface, Tobias arranged for the fabrication of a traditional enamel sign, featuring an abundant grid of Gotham's many styles (64 out of 66, to be precise.) Hearing Crouwel speak with such good humor at the presentation ceremony, I was almost tempted to reveal Tobias's original idea, which was to find a way to bridge the Dutch tradition of chocolate letter-making with Crouwel's arresting new alphabet of 1967. ("I probably could have done it with Kit-Kat bars," Tobias mused.) I am certain Crouwel would approve. —JH