H&FJ Supports Hamilton

In support of their unique work to both safeguard and celebrate American wood type, we’re proud to announce the donation of a $10,000 Sustainability Grant to the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum of Two Rivers, Wisconsin.

Wood type is a vital part of our visual culture. Its riot of technological and typographic innovations remains as relevant as ever to modern typographic practice: whether your favorite font comes in multiple widths, or features chromatic layers, it owes a considerable debt to its wood type forebears. H&FJ has always believed that the preservation and study of historical typography serves even the most progressive experiments, so we’re proud to support Hamilton, not only in its curatorial mission, but for the relevant and exciting programming it provides to both the community in Two Rivers, and the design community at large.

This Sustainability Grant kicks off a new fundraising chapter for the museum, to help secure the future of its new home at 1816 10th Street. If you love typography, we hope you’ll join us in supporting their wonderful work. —JH

Introducing Landmark

Typeface: Landmark

In 1999, we received an irresistible commission from Michael Bierut at Pentagram: to design a typeface for Lever House, one of New York’s most significant architectural landmarks. In a neighborhood of skyscrapers designed simply to warehouse the maximum amount of rentable real estate, Lever House is a rare building with thoughtful urban values, featuring a grand public colonnade, a welcoming sculpture garden, and an enormous setback that showcases that rarest of midtown luxuries: the sky.

The typeface we created was an airy sans serif, patterned after the existing lettering on the building’s Park Avenue window, and related to the style of its cornerstone inscription. The project revealed some interesting discoveries about the way architects use capital letters, and how a typeface designed specifically for architecture could serve designers especially well. A decade after completing the project, we set about creating a collection of decorative variations inspired the material and environmental qualities of buildings: the interplay of structure and surface, the effects of shadow and light, and the transformative power of perspective. Bringing typographic qualities to mechanical forms turned out to be a formidable challenge, but a fascinating one, ultimately absorbing our designers for more than a year. The result is the family of four new typefaces that we’re delighted to introduce: Landmark Regular, Inline, Shadow, and Dimensional.

H&FJ Honored by the 2011 National Design Awards

Hoefler & Frere-Jones is very proud to be among the honorees of the 2011 National Design Awards, announced this morning by the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

An official White House project created to increase national awareness of the role of design, the National Design Awards are given annually in recognition of excellence, innovation, and lasting achievement in design. Now in its twelfth year, the award celebrates the achievements of designers in ten categories from architecture to fashion. In 2009, we became the first type foundry ever to be recognized by this prestigious award, celebrated at a special luncheon at the White House hosted by first lady Michelle Obama.

We are again honored to be in such distinguished company at the National Design Awards. In recognition of his extraordinary influence on both the study and practice of graphic design, Steve Heller will receive the 2011 Design Mind award. Ben Fry, co-architect of the Processing programming language, will be recognized for his groundbreaking work in data visualization with the award for Interactive Design. And of special significance to everyone at H&FJ is the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award, which this year will be presented to our longtime friend and colleague, type designer Matthew Carter. These are extraordinary times for typeface design.

Ideal Sans: A New Font Family from H&FJ

Typeface: Ideal Sans

Typefaces are born from the struggle between rules and results. Squeezing a square about 1% helps it look more like a square; to appear the same height as a square, a circle must be measurably taller. The two strokes in an X aren’t the same thickness, nor are their parallel edges actually parallel; the vertical stems of a lowercase alphabet are thinner than those of its capitals; the ascender on a d isn’t the same length as the descender on a p, and so on. For the rational mind, type design can be a maddening game of drawing things differently in order to make them appear the same.

Twenty-one years ago, we began tinkering with a sans serif alphabet to see just how far these optical illusions could be pushed. How asymmetrical could a letter O become, before the imbalance was noticeable? Could a serious sans serif, designed with high-minded intentions, be drawn without including a single straight line? This alphabet slowly marinated for a decade and a half, benefitting from periodic additions and improvements, until in 2006, Pentagram’s Abbott Miller proposed a project for the Art Institute of Chicago that resonated with these very ideas. As a part of Miller’s new identity for the museum, we revisited the design, and renovated it to help it better serve as the cornerstone of a larger family of fonts. Since then we’ve developed the project continuously, finding new opportunities to further refine its ideas, and extend its usefulness through new weights, new styles, and new features.

Today, we’re delighted to introduce Ideal Sans®, this new font family in 48 styles. Ideal Sans is a meditation on the handmade, combining different characteristics of many different writing tools and techniques, in order to achieve a warm, organic, and hand-crafted feeling. It’s distinctive at large sizes and richly textured in small ones, and available today in packages starting at $149.

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

Guggenheim Redux

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

H&FJ Honored by National Design Awards

Hoefler & Frere-Jones has received the great honor of being selected as an honoree in this year’s National Design Awards, and is especially proud to be the first typeface designers ever recognized by this prestigious award. An official White House project created to increase national awareness of the role of design, the National Design Awards are given annually by the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in recognition of excellence, innovation, and lasting achievement in design. A highlight of the award has traditionally been a reception for honorees at the White House, hosted by the first lady.

Now in its tenth year, the National Design Awards are given in ten categories from architecture to fashion, and past winners include iMac designer Jonathan Ive, fashion designer Isabel Toledo, and industrial designer Bill Stumpf, co-inventor of the Aeron chair. Congratulations to all of this year’s honorees, especially our colleagues in Communication Design: finalist Project Projects, and the category winner, the Graphics Department of The New York Times. —H&FJ

Typographic Gifts for Designers, Part 15

If you’re an editorial designer, chances are that you’re familiar with the Society for News Design through its workshops, its excellent international conferences, and of course its annual. What you might not know is that SND operates the non-profit SND Foundation, which provides college scholarships, research grants, and travel stipends to help students attend its events. Did I mention the college scholarships for designers?

For last year’s conference in Las Vegas, SND Foundation President Bill Gaspard orchestrated a terrific keepsake: a deck of Custom Illustrated Playing Cards, for which 54 illustrators volunteered their time and talent, contributing one card each. Guessing correctly that H&FJ has a thing for the typography of playing cards, I was invited to design the packaging, affording me a chance to use not only some typographic ornaments that Tobias and I have been quietly collecting over the years, but two of our best wedge-seriffed typefaces, Saracen and Mercury. And naturally Gaspard and fellow designer Tyson Evans used our Deuce font on the cards themselves.

For those who weren’t able to make it to Vegas, SND is now offering sets of these commemorative cards for sale, for a tax-deductible contribution of $20.00. All proceeds go to support the work of the SND Foundation; did I mention the college scholarships for designers? —JH

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

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