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
October 25 has been designated World Pasta Day, and as part of typography’s contribution to this important initiative, we’re pleased to share the following: an excerpt from the typeface “Nr. 941. Dubbelmittel (corps 28),” as it appears in Berlingska Stilguteriet Stilprof, a type specimen book from the Berlingska type foundry of Lund, Sweden, circa 1900. It is a dimensionally extruded ring accent, shaped like a piece of rigatoni.
This concludes our contribution to World Pasta Day. See you in 2011. —JH
I have for exactly one year been waiting to open up the monumental copy of Ornamented Types of L. J. Pouchée that we have in the office, to find the example of the delicately curlicued shamrock type that historian James Mosley attributed to an unknown punchcutter he designated “Master of the Creeping Tendril,” and to post it here.
This is not that type. It turns out that Pouchée never made a shamrock type: what I was remembering was this, the Eight Lines Pica Egyptian Ornamented No. 2 of Bower & Bacon (1826), illustrated in Nicolete Gray’s Nineteenth Century Ornamented Typefaces. It is surely not the work of any Master, though perhaps it lends credence to the widely-circulated tale which holds that Mrs. Gray illustrated parts of her book by hand, rather than reproducing the work photographically. I’ve never heard an explanation for why this should be so, but there’s no denying that the bluntness of these forms suggests the pen more than the graver.
Our workshop, now elf-free due to labor regulations, has been hard at work on a couple of goodies that we’re looking forwarding to bringing you in January; watch this space. Until then, best wishes for the holidays and a happy new year — see you in 2009! —H&FJ
Typographically, the Republic of Korea has much to celebrate. The world’s first typefaces cast in metal were made in Korea: a fourteenth century book in the collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris establishes Korean printing from movable type at least as far back as 1377, though Korean typefounding may date to 1234, some 221 years before Gutenberg. An impediment to early printing was the complexity of Chinese characters, then used to render the Korean language, which further stifled national literacy. But in 1446, an undertaking by King Sejong the Great addressed both problems, through what is surely one of the greatest inventions in the history of typography: the Hangul alphabet. On October 9, Korea celebrates this incredible innovation as Korean Alphabet Day, better known as Hangul Day.
The invention and reform of alphabets has a long tradition, though its efforts are rarely successful. Generally speaking, script systems with highly scientific foundations go completely unrecognized, the typographic equivalent of Esperanto. And among the world’s most successful script systems are some of its most arbitrary: nothing in the design of the Latin A suggests its sound or meaning, and even scripts with pictographic origins such as Chinese are usually abstracted to the point of unrecognizability. But Hangul, Korea’s “Great Script,” is perhaps history’s only effort at alphabet reform that is both scientifically rigorous and universally successful. As a result of careful planning, Hangul is easily learned, comfortably written, and infinitely flexible.
Hangul is comprised of 51 jamo, or phomenic units, whose shapes are highly organized. Simple consonants are linear (ㄱ, ㄴ, ㄷ, ㄹ, ㅁ, ㅂ, ㅅ, ㅇ, ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅋ, ㅌ, ㅍ, ㅎ), vowels are horizontal or vertical lines (ㅏ, ㅓ, ㅗ, ㅜ, ㅡ, ㅣ), glottalized letters are doubled (ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅆ, ㅉ), and so on. But more interestingly, Hangul’s characters are featural: their shapes are related to the sounds they symbolize, each representing a different position of the mouth and tongue. Pay attention to the curvature of your lower lip when you form the sounds buh and puh, and you’ll begin to see the logic of Hangul’s B (ㅂ) and P (ㅍ). Notice how your tongue interacts with the roof of your mouth when you say sss and juh, and you’ll understand the design of its S (ㅅ) and J (ㅈ). Hangul’s ability to represent an especially wide range of sounds makes it easy to render loan words from other languages, a challenge in many Asian scripts (but an entertaining hazard to reckless Westerners.) Typographically, I envy my Korean counterparts who get to work with Hangul, with its letterforms that always fit into a square, and can be read in any direction (horizontally or vertically.) And best of all: no kerning! —JH
This weekend, many of us celebrated a beloved national holiday. Perhaps you enjoyed a porterhouse steak off the grill, or played touch football with the kids; perhaps the local marching band led your town in a rousing patriotic medley. But amidst the fanfare and the bunting, did you take a moment to reflect on what this holiday was really about? Did you really pause to remember that May 24 was Cyrillic and Glagolitic Alphabet Day?
On Saturday, readers throughout the Slavic world celebrated Saints Cyril and Methodius Day, a bonafide public holiday in Russia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. The holiday honors Cyril and Methodius, the Byzantine brothers whose missions to the Slavs, beginning in AD 862, culminated in the invention of the Glagolitic Alphabet, which was used to render Christian texts in the Old Church Slavonic language. Glagolitic’s sister script, Cyrillic, prevailed during the 13th century, and Peter the Great canonized Cyrillic in essentially its modern form in 1708. Cyrillic has survived largely intact, despite the orthographic reforms and political purges of the last century: among the reforms of 1918 were the deprecation of the yer (ъ), and removal of the yat (ѣ) and izhitsa (ѵ), this last letter rumored to have been used for only two words in the entire Russian language at the time of its expulsion (мѵро, сѵнодъ.) But the issues are deep, and with the dissolusion of the USSR, the story is by no means over: Wikipedia devotes an entire section to the burning issue of Yat-reform.
The celebration of the alphabet is by no means limited to the Slavic world: another nation with great typographic traditions celebrates its own Alphabet Day this fall, and I’m working on the blog post already. I promise to give you a little more notice next time — I know how hard it can be to get those Alphabet Day cards out on time. —JH
Three of my favorite things are big type, chromatic type, and type specimen books, and St. Patrick’s Day offers the perfect occasion to bring all three interests to the table, literally. Parked here at our conference table is the 1904 type specimen of the Roman Scherer company, a wood type manufacturer in Luzern who specialized in two-color type. This page shows the shamrocked “Serie 5401” in the gargantuan size of 40 ciceros — that’s a cap height of almost seven inches (173 mm) — which cleverly gives the illusion of a third color by overprinting red and green to produce a perfect black.
The font was manufactured in at least six sizes, none of which have we ever seen in the wild: like the rest of Roman Scherer’s other chromatic faces, which I’ll post later, these seem to have vanished into obscurity. —JH