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

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.

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

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