Toward a Philosophy of Webfonts: A Lecture at Beyond Tellerrand, Berlin

If you’ll be in Berlin next week, I hope you’ll join me and my fellow speakers for Beyond Tellerrand, the design technology conference that’s quickly become a favorite locus for interesting design thinking. Equal measures of visual design and web technology always combine for an inspiring and provocative couple of days.

I’ll be talking about webfonts, and a critical framework that I’ve found useful in understanding their intentions and assessing their quality. And if all goes well this week, I’m hoping to have the opportunity to introduce some new features that we’re developing for Cloud.typography, our second such announcement this month. —JH

Fonts For The Web: Two Lectures by Jonathan Hoefler, November 2 & 14

What makes a good webfont? Before we wrote the first line of code for Cloud.typography, or lit the first pixel of our first ScreenSmart font, we began the search for a solution to this riddle. The answers are unexpected: a good webfont is more than just legible, and more than just attractive, and some provocative solutions come from some unexpected places. Webfonts can learn a lot from nineteenth century engraved maps, twentieth century dictionaries, and twenty-first century authors.

If you’re in New York this month, join me at Ampersand NYC this Saturday, November 2, or at a special lecture for AIGA/NY on November 14, for an exploration of what constitutes fine typography on the web. I’ll be sharing a behind-the-scenes look at how we brought our library of fonts to the web, and some new ways of looking at type that are useful for every cross-disciplinary designer. —JH

Hoefler & Frere-Jones on PBS

Typefaces: Gotham and Tungsten

“Off Book” is a series from PBS Arts dedicated to documenting the creative process, and expanding the definition of art. Produced by New York filmmakers Kornhaber Brown, the series premiered with an exploration of “light painting”, and the intention to explore a new artistic genre every episode. Episode two focusses on typography, with our own Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones representing the sub-sub-sub-genre of typeface design. Pentagram partners Paula Scher and Eddie Opara discuss their unique perspectives on typographic identity (in both senses of the word), and designers Julia Vakser and Deroy Peraza of Hyperakt discuss the range and reach of data visualization, a genre unto itself. And kudos to Kornhaber Brown for wrapping up with the one-minute segment, “How to talk about type like you know what you’re talking about.” Required pre-holiday watching for our families. —JH

An H&FJ Lecture at the Cooper-Hewitt

Continuing its celebration of the tenth anniversary of the National Design Awards, The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum is offering a wealth of excellent programming this season. On display through April 4, 2010 is Design USA: Contemporary Innovation; if you’re planning a visit soon, make it next Tuesday evening, when you can also attend Thinking in Type, a lecture by Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones. Registration is required, and seats are limited.


Thinking in Type
Tuesday, December 8, 2009, 6:30–8:30pm

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum
2 East 91st Street
New York, NY 10128

To the Best of Our Knowledge

Since you’ll be at home tomorrow anyway, hopped up on leftover miniature chocolate bars that you couldn’t pawn off on discerning neighborhood kids, tune in to Wisconsin Public Radio to hear To the Best of Our Knowledge: tomorrow’s program will be about fonts. Join me, Tobias Frere-Jones, and Matthew Carter for an hour of typography, either on the air or online. Other guests include Kitty Burns Florey discussing handwriting, Tracy Honn on the work of the Silver Buckle Press — and discussing the Amazon Kindle, one of my favorite people, Nicholson Baker. —JH

Teens, Typography, and Tim Gunn

“Designers…”

I knew I wanted to work with type by the time I turned eleven. Back then, my curiosity about letter-making could only be satisfied in oblique and solitary ways, most of which involved borrowed sheets of Presstype, and goofing off with the family typewriter. The Mac couldn’t have come soon enough.

Young typophiles today have more outlets for their enthusiasm (you are here), but next Monday will gain rare access to the profession as well: National Design Week begins October 18, when the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum will inaugurate the festivities with its 2009 Teen Design Fair in New York. Teenagers with an interest in design are invited to learn about type design — as well as graphic design, fashion, industrial design, and architecture — by chatting one-on-one with dozens of practitioners, including me. And Project Runway host Tim Gunn emcees the event! —JH


Teen Design Fair
Monday, October 19, 4:00-6:30pm

The Times Center
242 West 41st Street
New York, NY 10018

“Someone Found a Letter You Drew Me, On the Radio…”

Typeface: Gotham

This afternoon, typography joins the ranks of the wonderfully obscure on Please Explain, my favorite segment of the Leonard Lopate Show: Steven Heller and I will be on hand to discuss, if not actually explain, typography. If you’re in the New York area, join us around 1:20pm EST at WNYC-FM 93.9 or AM 820, or follow the podcast at wnyc.org. —JH

What Was Next

Most of the talks that we’ve given are lost to the sands of time, but this afternoon I was happy to discover that one of our favorite presentations lives on. For the AIGA Design Conference in Denver, we were asked to meditate on the topic of “What’s Next,” for which we presented a study of typographic history — and why the ‘historical revival’ might be a twentieth century idea whose time has passed.

The AIGA has posted the audio of our talk, which tracks with the images above; it runs about 45 minutes, including some questions from the audience, in which Tobias reveals some of the unpublished developmental names of Gotham. Also keep an ear out for two provocative concepts: a French wine scholar offers a pithy gloss on experimentalism, and a certain type designer defines “the underpants-on-the-head school of revivalism.” —JH

Tobias Frere-Jones: An Exhibit at the Royal Academy of Art

Tobias is the fourth and current holder of the Gerrit Noordzij Prize, which was presented to him in 2006. Every few years, the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague celebrates an individual for his “unique contributions to type design, typography, and type education,” qualities which honor both the recipient and the prize’s namesake: Gerrit Noordzij, as an instructor, a designer, and a type designer, has influenced generations of typographers, and has been singularly instrumental in establishing typography as a realm for disciplined, critical thinking.

This Friday, the prize passes to the next recipient, an occasion marked by two festivities: Wim Crouwel will receive the 2009 prize, and the Royal Academy will open an exhibit of Tobias’s work. If it’s any indication of the scope of the show’s contents, let me just say that even I was surprised by some of the things Tobias pulled from the files; it is an exhibit not to be missed.

The exhibit opens this Friday, March 6, and runs through Saturday, March 28, in the KABK Galerie. —JH

London Calling

Just a quick note to let Londoners know that the Editorial Design Organization will be hosting an evening of editorial typography, featuring Janet Froelich of the New York Times Magazine, and Jonathan Hoefler of H&FJ. Free to EDO members, £20 for non-members, £5 for students.

American Night at the EDO
Wednesday, April 9, 6:00-9:00pm

Rootstein Hopkins Space
London College of Fashion
20 John Princes Street, W1G 0BJ
Inquiries to Gill Branston, 020 8906 4664

Helvetica for the Holidays

Christmas is about more than just eggnog and carols and sitting by the tree. It’s about having to explain to your family yet again what exactly it is that you do for a living, and suffering through comparisons with your cousin who’s “also into computers.”

If there’s anything that mom and dad truly need this holiday season, it’s to be tied to the andirons and belabored about the head with a copy of Jan Tschichold’s collected essays in the original German (still available in hardcover.) But in the spirit of giving, as well as various local ordinances, get them instead a copy of Gary Hustwit’s Helvetica on DVD, which goes on sale today. It’s smart, engaging, witty, and a great introduction to graphic design for the non-designers who spawned you. It also affords ample opportunity to use the phrase “that’s Hoefler & Frere-Jones: I buy fonts from those guys all the time,” which mom and dad might remember come next year. —JH

Fonts on Television

Thanks to a few well-traveled blogs, this clip has been getting some traffic lately: it’s a segment about typeface design that ran on CBS Sunday Morning last summer, featuring us. Correspondent Russ Mitchell spent some time at H&FJ, and speaking with Steve Heller, to introduce non-designers to the strange world of font design.

Now that the clip is easily freeze-framed, a few designers have written to ask about the fonts themselves. (The opening montage features our Shades and Didot families, and the fonts created for People magazine are part of Verlag Compressed.) But two frighteningly hardcore individuals have outdone themselves, writing to inquire about the font shown at left. In this candid scene, which is definitely not staged at all, the camera captures Tobias and I discussing a font proof. Gentle stalkers, you are correct! What appears here is part of our work for The Nature Conservancy, and you’ll find a more extensive look at it here. —JH

Rocky Mountain Type High (.9186 inch)

A quick invitation for everyone who’s coming to Denver this weekend for Next: the AIGA Design Conference: Jonathan and Tobias will be speaking on Friday at 2:15, discussing how recent changes in the profession have brought about what might be the end of historical typography, and what this means for designers going forward. (They’ll also be offering a rare sneak preview of some projects that will debut in 2008.) A conference schedule appears here — come and join the conversation!

Oakleaf: Behind the Scenes

Kathy Willens, Associated Press

The typeface we designed for The Nature Conservancy is an extension of our Requiem font, which explores the work of sixteenth century scribe Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi (1480–1527). Arrighi is best remembered as an exemplar of the written italic, but his upright roman capitals capture an interesting balance of calligraphic and typographic traditions. The three variations of the capital T on the left offer different ways of reconciling the influences of the seriffed inscriptional letter and the swashed written one, and it was this kind of tension that we hoped to explore further. On the left screen is an enlargement from Arrighi’s 1523 writing manual Il Modo de Temperare le Penne, and on the right are two variations of the capital E in the font we designed. The cursive form on the left was one of the first digital drawings made by designer Andy Clymer, and we all thought it was immediately successful. In the final font, it’s almost perfectly preserved from this initial stage.

Continues…

Oakleaf: Glyphs Gone Wild

This weekend, 107 news outlets around the world picked up this AP story about the custom typeface we designed for one of our favorite organizations, The Nature Conservancy. “What it looked like,” writes journalist Erin McClam, “was not so much an alphabet but a masquerade ball for 26 capital letters that had arrived early, stayed late and gotten into the good liquor.”

The font, which we’ve been calling “Oakleaf,” is a cousin of our Requiem typeface. (These characters aren’t currently available for sale, but keep an eye on this page for updates.) The AP should be posting has just posted more illustrations of the font, but in the meantime here’s the money shot to which the article alludes: the word “Koninklijke,” H&FJ designer Andy Clymer’s homage to his alma mater, the Type & Media program at the Royal Academy of Art (Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten) in the Hague. —JH

Eight Screenings; Five Degrees

The New York premiere of Helvetica sold out so quickly that Tobias and I almost didn’t get seats, and we’re in the film. So get your tickets now for the NYC cinema run, which starts Wednesday at the IFC Center in Greenwich Village. Director Gary Hustwit will be on hand for a few of the screenings, as will Tobias Frere-Jones and Michael Bierut — check the film’s calendar for the full scoop.

BREAKING — It’s through Helvetica that we’re connected to David Carson, through Addicted to Love that he’s connected to Matthew Broderick, through War Games that Matthew’s connected to Maury Chaykin, and through Where the Truth Lies that Maury’s connected to Kevin Bacon, bringing the H&FJ Bacon Number to a sizzling four. —JH

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