What’s Cooking

Menu typography at discover.typography

If you’ve ever dated a graphic designer, this has likely happened to you. You’re seated comfortably at a charming restaurant, presented with menus, and you watch as your companion scans up and down the entrées. Menus are flipped over, brows furrow; eyeglasses are lifted as eyes squint at the details. You catch an occasional “huh” that suggests the discerning judgment of the true connoisseur, and think you’re in for a treat. “See anything you like?” you ask innocently. “I like the italic small caps on the wine list,” comes the response, “but they used Arial for the bottom two lines.” It’s amazing we get invited anywhere.

Lunchtime at H&Co tends to provoke these conversations, and with no civilians in attendance, we’re free to nerd out. We’ve been thinking a lot recently about the different typographic idioms that restaurants use to telegraph what’s in store — how the folksy barbecue joint distinguishes itself from the faux French bistro, or the more-Brooklyn-than-Brooklyn sandwich shop — and have been looking for ways to help designers communicate a restaurant’s culture without resorting to shopworn clichés. No wood type with the pulled pork, or belle epoque frippery with the poached eggs: you can definitely use modern, relevant, and satisfying typography, and still set the right tone.

You’ll find a few of our suggestions at What’s Cooking, a collection of thirteen typographic menus (plus a few amuse-bouches), today at discover.typography. These autumnal settings are a follow-up to Save the Date, our summertime celebration of the invitations that turn into cherished keepsakes once the first chill of fall enters the air. We hope you’ll enjoy them both. —JH

Ask H&FJ: Fonts for Financials

Typefaces: Sentinel and Gotham

Annual reports offer designers a marvelous opportunity to strut their stuff. In the hands of a thoughtful typographer, a dense volume of technical text can become warm and welcoming, its changing rhythm of introductions, statements, analyses, and disclosures calling for a beautiful typographic system to help organize the text. Financial data can be uniquely satisfying to design, offering an irresistible opportunity to work with large type families in intricate ways. There are tables both long and short, as well as charts, graphs, and diagrams, all studded with headings, footnotes, and legends that defy even the most ingenious grid.

Each of these details places a special burden on the fonts, making it especially important to choose the right palette up front. We’ve gathered some thoughts about choosing fonts for annual reports for our Techniques library, here you’ll find four things to think about when considering a typeface — and a collection of font families specifically designed to meet these unique challenges.

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.

ARCHER: a New Font from H&FJ.

Typeface: Archer

We’re delighted to introduce Archer®, a new slab serif in forty styles. Sweet but not saccharine, earnest but not grave, Archer is designed to hit just the right notes of forthrightness, credibility, and charm. Romans and italics in eight weights each, including a delicate hairline for display work, and featuring small caps, fractions, tabular figures, and our Latin-X® character set for extended language support. Now shipping in OpenType, with prices starting at $149, plus special savings when you order two or more Archer packages.

High Scores for Service and Style

Typeface: Whitney Medium

With the arrival of a new year comes a new Zagat Survey, and with this year’s edition comes a special typographic surprise: a complete redesign using our Whitney family. The indomitable Zagat team has given the fonts one of their most rigorous workouts ever, using Whitney’s many special features to excellent advantage — here’s some of what’s inside.

Typeface: Whitney Book (including Numerics)

Pocket guides have an especially compelling need to keep page count low and legibility high, making Whitney’s compact forms a good match for the project. In its pro edition, Whitney contains a set of even-width tabular figures, which the Zagat team used for this very clear and sensible wine vintage chart, above.

Typeface: Whitney Index Black Round Medium

Since guidebooks feature both maps and numbered lists, a set of numbered indices is often useful. Here, Zagat’s heavily-automated pagination system is able to call upon the pre-built Whitney Index font, rather than demanding the intervention of a designer for every single table. (If you’ve ever tried to make numbers in circles yourself, you know how treacherous they can be — especially when lists spill over into double digits!)

Typeface: Whitney Light and Bold

Newsprint is an appropriate choice for a pocket guide, since it helps reduce both weight and cost, but it’s an especially hostile environment for typography. To survive newsprint, letterforms need to have clear gestures and open apertures, to prevent their forms from clogging up at small sizes. And because type on newsprint can gain weight unpredictably, sans serifs with a broad range of weights are especially useful. Whitney has six weights, each of which makes an appearance somewhere in the 2008 guide. —JH

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