An H&FJ Type Tasting

Typefaces: Sentinel and Gotham

We keep a running tally of the interesting media in which we’ve seen our fonts used, from corrugated cardboard to topiary. The designers who choose our fonts often share their more startling experiments on our Facebook page, including more than a few typographic tattoos. But with the holiday season upon us, things have taken a decidedly gustatory turn.

Designer Luke Elliott kicked things off over Halloween with his Gotham jack-o-lantern, to our knowledge the first example of in-gourd typography featuring an H&FJ design. An anonymous designer followed over Thanksgiving with a beautiful collection of Gotham cakes that revealed the challenge of inlining a sans serif, in fondant no less. The latest contribution to the genre came last night, with designer Zach Higgins tweeting his exploration of the Sentinel Light Italic lowercase z rendered in toast. We’re left to wonder if our graded faces, such as Mercury Text or Chronicle Text, might provide designers with micro-fine control to adjust the relationship between color and burn. Please help us with this important research and share your findings. —JH

Good Fonts, Bad Fonts, and the Presidency

Somehow we’ve let the election season come to a close without thanking both parties for making this an 100% H&FJ election. Continuing the signature voice of its 2008 campaign, Obama for America kept Gotham as its typographic keystone, this year adding our Sentinel typeface as a companion slab serif. The GOP chose fonts from us as well, the Romney campaign settling on Mercury for its serif and Whitney for its sans.

We’d especially like to thank the teams at Obama for America and Blue State Digital for making us a part of their outstanding work on Barackobama.com. Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed that webfonts from H&FJ made their first appearance on that site earlier this year, an especially meaningful milestone for all of us. It’s not often that your first beta tester is the President of the United States.

If the coming days bring a bitter electoral challenge, or the next four years bring the nation continuing deadlock on Capitol Hill, Americans will know exactly who to blame: typeface designers. According to this study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, bad typography may be useful in softening the stance of the politically extreme. The theory is that awkward or uncomfortable typography disrupts a reader’s “confirmation bias,” one’s tendency to only see things that are agreeable. What amateur typography might do for a candidate’s credibility is anyone’s guess, and whether the study’s choice of Times Bold really counts as an acceptable control for “good typography” remains an open question. But I look forward to the 2016 election, in which the honorable grunge candidate will face off against his esteemed colleague using Comic Sans. —JH

Things We Love

Typefaces: Tungsten and Gotham

In a manner more typical of the corporate than the corporeal, designer Nicholas Felton marks the passage of each year with an annual report. Past editions of the Feltron Annual Report have ranged in sensibilities, from his editorial 2006 (smarter than the smartest magazine) to his diagrammatic 2009 (which out-Tuftes Tufte.) While the very concept is arch, making the Feltron Report a beloved fixture in the offices of so many graphic designers, I really have to hand it to Nicholas for never stooping to the obvious and allowing his yearly record to become a mere send-up of the annual report form. This year’s report, awash in our Tungsten typeface, is no exception: it uses the tools of data visualization and typography to tell a compelling story, and color a narrative that might so easily have been reduced to a mere family tree or a timeline.

Spend some time with The 2010 Feltron Annual Report: I think you’ll find it smart, touching, and inspiring, an uncommon trifecta. —JH

H&FJ Typefaces Join the MoMA Permanent Collection

The Museum of Modern Art has announced the acquisition of four type families by Hoefler & Frere-Jones — HTF Didot, Gotham, Mercury and Retina — for its permanent collection.

In designing new typefaces, we’ve has long been consumed with the interpretation of historical artifacts, the implications of cultural expectations and mechanical requirements, and the invention of new techniques. Four type families that embody our approach to type design are HTF Didot, Gotham, Mercury and Retina, and we are honored to have these designs selected by the Museum of Modern Art for inclusion in its permanent collection.

This acquisition marks an important expansion of MoMA’s design collection, which includes historically significant objects ranging from Frank Lloyd Wright’s model for Fallingwater to the original Macintosh 128K computer, into the category of typeface design. “Type design is an essential dimension of the history of modern art and design,” writes Senior Curator Paola Antonelli. “The best typefaces belong in MoMA’s collection.”

The typefaces chosen for the MoMA collection have been selected for their social relevance, the ways in which they reflect technological progress, and their importance to cultural history. “Each is a milestone in the history of typography,” writes Antonelli. Alongside our typefaces are major works by a number of our friends and colleagues, including Matthew Carter, Erik van Blokland and Just van Rossum, and the many contributors to Emigre. H&FJ is proud to be in such distinguished company, and to be a part of MoMA’s recognition of our industry’s craft.

The Murderer Wore Serifs

Typeface designers live with the permanent possibility of encountering their work at unexpected moments. Your old college now uses a font that you designed; in a movie, whose story takes place before you were born, your typefaces are used for prop newspapers and storefronts; the intimidating signs that scold you in public places now address you in your own handwriting. These odd social dislocations have lately been compounded by an additional weirdness, the phenomenon of the literate non-specialist. There are now celebrities and politicians who know fonts by name, so off-duty type designers run an increasing risk of hearing their typefaces mentioned by talk-show hosts or newscasters — to say nothing of seatmates on long airline flights, or anyone desperate for conversation at a family funeral.

None of these strangenesses prepared me for learning this morning that in The Scarpetta Factor, a crime novel by Patricia Cornwell, there is a plot point that revolves around our Gotham typeface. The font first makes an appearance on page 400, when it’s name-checked by an FBI document specialist during the delivery of an expert opinion, but it returns on page 415 for a two-page discussion about the typography of a suspicious package. “Gotham is popular,” says the computer-whiz niece of our sleuth, Dr. Kay Scarpetta. “It’s supposed to suggest all the right things if you want to influence someone into taking you or your product or a political candidate or maybe some type of research seriously.” Our clients have always known as much; we can only assume that one of them is the murderer. —JH

Typography Shared

Typefaces: Ziggurat, Archer, Gotham

Designers who use our fonts have been sharing their work on our Facebook page, much to the delight of both the designers at H&FJ, and our followers online. Some recent lovelies, clockwise from top left: Christopher Simmons designed this cheerful festival poster using Ziggurat, Leviathan, and a little Hoefler Text; a corporate identity that uses Archer (and a clever emboss) by Mike Kasperski; Gotham in a terrific typographic abecedarium by Paul van Brunschot and his students; a lovely collection of journals by Jodi Storozenko, featuring Archer in a moment of quiet repose; and a bit of Gotham in Anna Farkas’ exhibition identity for The renaissance of letters. Feel free to share your own creations: more then 6,500 other designers are tuned in. —JH

These Aren’t The Fifty States You’re Looking For

Photo: Michael Moran. Typeface: Gotham Bold

In Fast Company, Ellen Lupton writes:

The graphic designer Michael Bierut, a partner working in the New York office of the firm Pentagram, designed a 21-foot sign for the new U.S.-Canada border crossing at Massena, New York. The sign, as well as the building, which was designed by architects Smith-Miller & Hawkinson, has received substantial praise as a bold and daring piece of federal design. Too daring, perhaps. The sign is being dismantled by the Customs and Border Protection Agency for fear that it will be a target for terrorists.

I share Michael Bierut’s hesitation in second-guessing the seasoned professionals at the Department of Homeland Security, who surely know more about armed extremists than I would ever want to. Still, I think there’s a compromise to be struck: if the goal is to create a typographic fig leaf that disguises one’s arrival at our 9,161,923 square kilometer nation, why not change the inscription to “Bienvenidos a México?” —JH

The New Gothams: 46 New Fonts from H&FJ.

Typeface: Gotham

Fans of our Gotham typeface will be pleased to find that as of this morning, there are three times as many Gothams in the world as there were yesterday.

Designers who work with Gotham have enthusiastically deployed the fonts in a range of environments. We’ve seen Gotham on soda cans, boarding passes, billboards and banner ads; we’ve seen it engraved in marble on a cornerstone, and cast in rubber on the sole of a shoe. One newspaper used Gotham for financial listings, another for saucy tabloid headlines. But what we see the most are designers facing the challenge of making one typeface work across all channels. Last year saw one of the most remarkable examples of this: journalists couldn’t stop writing about something that designers have always known, which is that a candidate for president should use the same font for everything, from lawn signs and flyers to the campaign’s website.

Making a font work everywhere is a tall order. H&Co’s designers love these kinds of challenges, and are driven by an incurable compulsion to make fonts that can answer everyone’s needs. But designing a typeface is an arduous process requiring serious commitment, and we realized early on that if we weren’t careful, there could suddenly be an endless number of very specialized Gothams. The prospect of a “Gotham for embroidery” collection and a “Gotham for box scores” was daunting, and ran counter to one of H&Co’s core philosophies: that type families should be as small as possible, but as large as necessary.

So we organized all of these ideas into a coherent design brief, mapped out a way to bring a larger Gotham family to life, and then devoted years to drawing the new fonts that we’re delighted to present today. Today’s Gotham contains a total of 66 styles, neatly organized into four widths: regular Gotham, the new Gotham Narrow and Extra Narrow, and the newly-expanded Gotham Condensed. They’re all now available, in packages starting at $169, exclusively at H&Co.

Taxonomy Meets Typography

Tina at Swissmiss turned me on to this lovely poster by Decoylab, which wouldn’t you know it makes lovely use of Gotham Extra Light. I’m amazed that designer Maiko Kuzunishi came up with so many recognizable silhouettes, more so that she found so many that are sympathetic with the shape of their initials. (The B is almost a butterfly already, but who’d have seen the J in jellyfish?) Maiko imagines her poster as a fine addition to a child’s room, and I agree: it’s cheerful, engaging, and subliminally inculcates in tomorrow’s animal lovers a taste for fine typography. —JH

Fontogenic

Typeface: Gotham Medium

Veteran campaigners know that the best way to gain someone's vote is to be photographed holding their baby. It seems that the same goes for fonts: it’s hard to take a non-partisan stance when one of the candidates looks so good standing in front of your typeface. Helvetica director Gary Hustwit shared this image with us, along with a hopeful observation about both the candidate and the typeface behind him:

“I think it’s interesting that the design of Gotham was influenced by early Modernism, another movement that was about change and social idealism. And I like that the design aesthetic that may help move Obama into the White House was inspired by the humble NY Port Authority Bus Terminal sign.”

A Font We Can Believe In, from the Helvetica Film Blog. —JH

Indy Boys Fly The Biggest Heds

Now that’s what I call a banner headline. Yesterday’s Indy Star had a nice enough 180pt Gotham Condensed on page one, but it took a win for the Colts in Superbowl XLI to produce this whopper: a 9,800pt headline emblazoned on the outside of the newspaper’s offices. Biggest Gotham ever?

Eli Manning’s got to be wondering why, after quarterbacking the Giants to a victory in Superbowl XLII, he hasn’t gotten the same reception as his brother Peyton here. Every single one of the New York dailies uses an H&FJ font, and our office buildings are considerably taller: couldn’t 620 Eighth Avenue or 220 West 42nd Street manage a Gotham Condensed headline in 50,000pt? (Where’s that Christo guy when you need him?) —JH

A Banner Day

Typeface: Gotham Condensed Bold and Black

Primary season means banner headlines, and banner headlines mean condensed fonts. Above, some of our favorite Gothamophiles working hard to cement Gotham’s connection to politics; here’s Gotham Condensed being put through its paces at a range of sizes. Scott Goldman wins the size prize at The Indianapolis Star — and his state wasn’t even voting yesterday!

We’ll post some political front pages from the New York papers, provided they ever stop talking about the Superbowl. —JH

Ice Ice Typeface

I’ll admit it: snow-covered typography is a guilty pleasure, and one I get to enjoy throughout the year. Summertime icicle fonts are never hard to find, once soft-serve ice cream trucks establish strategic flanking positions on either side of our office. And in the winter, their appearance on the sides of HVAC trucks heralds the return of seasonal boiler problems, a cherished part of the winter experience in New York.

Although all H&Co fonts are guaranteed frost-free for easy maintenance, the wags at Deitch have come up with this seasonal adaptation, in keeping with their site’s summer delight theme. Under these snowcaps is our very own Gotham Bold font, artful iciclized by illustrator/guitarist Rick Froberg. So great! —JH

Gotham Now 100% Batman-Compliant

Oh come on. People have been trying to make this headline work for years.

Working on a book for DC Comics last year, our friend Mike Essl encountered two non-standard accents in the name of bat-nemesis Rā’s al Ghūl: an a-macron, and a u-macron. Mike’s the kind of guy to roll his own (a lesser man would have called tech support), but we’re happy to announce that the new OpenType edition of Gotham contains these accents and more, as part of H&FJ’s Latin-X character set.

Gotham contains all the accents for Turkish, too, in case you’re visiting that other Batman. —JH

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