7 May, 2009
Typeface: Verlag Light
For one quarter of its lifetime, the Guggenheim Museum has enjoyed the use of a signature typeface created by H&FJ. The project originally commissioned by Abbott Miller, a sans serif in six styles called Guggenheim, has since grown into a family of thirty styles, now known as Verlag. This expanded set of fonts, now including five weights in three different widths, is now available from H&FJ. And gratifyingly, it’s still being used by the Guggenheim — now more than ever.
If the fonts’ thirteen years of continuous use can be attributed to anything, it’s the careful formulation of the original brief. The iconic lettering on Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous rotunda furnished the seed for the project; unchecked, this might have grown into an overly stylized typeface, too eccentric to be of much use. A more short-sighted designer might have made the easy play for nostalgia, but Miller took a more thoughtful approach, envisioning all the different applications that the typeface would come to serve. The family of types we created was therefore more interpretation than facsimile, a versatile family that we all hoped would evoke the qualities of the museum without simply replicating its signature. It was the right call: the fonts once used only by the Guggenheim New York’s publication department now serve the signage programs of four museums, the institution’s Webby Award-winning website, and now the new identity for the Guggenheim Foundation, also designed by Miller, and premiering this year as part of the Guggenheim’s fiftieth anniversary. —JH
9 April, 2008
Adventures in Kerning, Part II
Typeface: Verlag Book
A kerning table, which makes special allowances for characters that don’t fit together naturally, can reveal a lot about the personality of its designer. Every font pays special attention to the pair Va, but the font that includes Vr suggests a familiarity with French (vraie) or Dutch (vrou). Pairs like Wn or Tx hint at an even broader perspective (Wnetrzne, Poland; Txipepovava, Angola), and the designer who kerns the ¥4 has presumably spent some time thinking about finance. Including ÅÇ is the mark of someone who’s trying too hard: these letters don’t nest together naturally, but nor do they appear together in any language.
When I first learned about kerning, mystifying to me was the presence of Yq in almost every one of Adobe’s fonts. Adobe’s early faces sometimes neglected far more common pairs, or even whole ranges of the character set — many fonts didn’t kern periods, dashes, or quotation marks — but Yq was ever-present. When I met him in the early nineties, Adobe’s Fred Brady hinted at why: located in northern California, Adobe’s designers often had a thing for viniculture, and one of the world’s most famous dessert wines is produced by Château D’Yquem.
We’ve included Yq as a standard kerning pair ever since, though I’d never gotten to see it in action until yesterday. Here, in the window of Sotheby’s on Bond Street, is our Verlag typeface, Yq kern and all. There are kerns obscurer still that we’re waiting to see in public, though I don’t suppose I’ll be seeing the 9th century Old English word wihxð (wax) in the window of Sotheby’s anytime soon. —JH