It’s surprising how much writing that isn’t about design turns out to be about design. For years, I’ve been squirreling away sentiments that resonate with me, scribbling them into sketchbooks or thumbing them into many generations of smartphone. Their sources vary: a hard-boiled mystery that I read on vacation, an in-flight magazine interview with a restaurateur, a book about viniculture, Twitter. One is attributable to a cartoon character. CEO Marissa Mayer adroitly captured what connects geeks and designers, and Jay-Z perfectly articulated something I’ve always felt about typeface design. Taken together, they’re ultimately about the same things: the role of design, the creative process, entrepreneurship, and the significance of tradition and style. These are all things central to life at H&Co, both to us and our clients, and to lovers of typography everywhere. I thought you might enjoy them. —JH
Dutch Old Styles are marvelous and versatile typefaces, and one of typography’s dominant species. The style, which dates to the late sixteenth century, features a large lowercase, compact descenders, and a dense texture, together making them an excellent choice for setting headlines. We had the opportunity to explore the style when we were commissioned to create an original typeface for Portfolio magazine, a business title launched by Condé Nast, and designed by Robert Priest and Grace Lee. From out of this work comes Quarto®, a new family of display faces for print and web.
In reviewing the historical artifacts that served as a foundation for the project, we decided that Quarto should not record this period style, but rather interpret some of its more intriguing and open-ended ideas. In one typeface, created by a Flemish punchcutter 444 years ago, we found a compelling tension between opposing qualities: dark, gothic strokes were offset by bright, crisp serifs; a forest of vertical stems was punctuated by moments of lavish roundness. This controlled tension became a theme for the project, and would serve us when Quarto left history behind — which would be sooner than usual.
The typeface that inspired Quarto included only a roman alphabet, so beyond the usual effort of designing plausible numbers, punctuation, and symbols, H&Co Senior Designer Sara Soskolne was faced with inventing a sympathetic and historically appropriate italic. (Our Flemish punchcutter, Hendrik van den Keere, worked in a range of styles throughout his career, but apparently never created a single italic.) Also unsupplied by the historical record were any suggestions about how to design additional weights: “boldface” is a nineteenth century concept, unknown to sixteenth century typefounders, and one of the reasons that contemporary Old Style faces often have either a small range of weights, or none at all. Quarto pushes beyond bold into black, offering a spectrum of styles that preserves the design’s fire and intensity throughout.
Wired gets it. Today they’re going public with the prototype they shared with us a few weeks ago, and if you’re like me, your reaction will be an instantaneous “neat!” followed immediately by “well, isn’t it obvious it was supposed to work this way?” When something creates and fulfills expectations at the same time, you know you’ve got it right. —JH
In the year and change since we released the Gotham Rounded family, I’ve noticed an unusual paradox at play. Some designers choose the fonts because of their high-tech associations, and can coax out of them an “engineered” quality that evokes the engraved markings on keyboards and camera lenses (both prime ingredients in Gotham Rounded’s design.) Others choose the fonts because they’re friendly, and use them to achieve a playful tone that’s somewhere between a kids’ science book and a Japanese synthpop single. But every once in a while, someone chooses the fonts for both reasons, finding a way to reconcile these seemingly contrary intentions in a single piece of design. Scott Dadich, the Creative Director of Wired, has a knack for making type do two things at once, but only when he’s not making it do twelve things at once. (He’s one of those publication designers who makes me glad I stuck with type design.) Together with his dream team, designers Wyatt Mitchell, Margaret Swart, and Christy Sheppard, Scott introduces in the September issue of Wired a redesign that features Gotham Rounded, in what I think is an incredibly smart application.
The magazine’s Play section, once home to gadgets and new technology, now exhibits more of the broadly philosophical thinking that distinguishes the very intriguing Wired of the 21st century. The addition of Gotham Rounded is just part of a design strategy designed to give the section a more distinct voice and a clearer point of view: another smart device is the yellow “progress bar” that tracks the movement of the section, and makes for some marvelous visual serendipity when it intersects both type and image. But positively brilliant are the dominating initials that form a sort of periodic table of themes: a general topic is abstracted from each article, which is represented by a two-letter abbreviation, which signals the nature of the writing to follow. It’s a very clever way of reinforcing the magazine’s editorial range — and reminding readers that Wired is not about things but about ideas — and it excitingly builds anticipation for next month’s issue: will it cover these same topics? New ones? It’s one of the most striking and original solutions I’ve ever seen for building a genuine section-within-a-section, a daunting challenge for any magazine. Wired achieves it with spectacular success. —JH
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&Co. 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
ASME has announced its winners for Best Cover of 2007, and we’re thrilled to see that of the six covers that feature typography, five are clients of H&Co. You’ll see Chronicle on the cover of O, and our forthcoming Sentinel font on the cover of Texas Monthly. But especially gratifying is the 2007 award for Best Fashion Cover, which went to Harper’s Bazaar: it was Bazaar who commissioned our HTF Didot typeface in 1992, and fifteen years later, they’re still winning awards with it.
The flagging magazine that Liz Tilberis and Fabien Baron reinvented in 1992 has earned a place as one of the most significant redesigns in modern history. It debuted with an iconic cover that ASME ranks as one of the top ten covers in history, memorable not only for its striking portrait of Linda Evangelista, but for its arrestingly simple typography: in a font commissioned to be as crisp as possible, there appeared the single headline “Enter the Era of Elegance.” In an age when it’s not uncommon to run the entire table of contents on the cover, this was a brave and startling move. It’s telling that this same strategy is still serving Bazaar after all these years, and it speaks to the strength of the magazine’s editorial vision and the thought that went into its typography. So thanks to Stephen Gan and Glenda Bailey for including us in your continuing tradition, and to Fabien Baron and the unforgettable Liz Tilberis for making us a part of this extraordinary institution. —JH