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

All The News That’s Fit To Write

Photo: Scott Carney

The distance between handwriting and typography is at its greatest in the West. It’s been more than five centuries since the Latin alphabet, as we experience it in type, looked anything like letters made with a pen; the very anatomy of our alphabet, with its stonemason’s “serifs” and printer’s “cases,” has come a very long way from writing indeed. It can hardly be surprising that as type has come to represent the official, the sanctioned, and the eternal, handwriting has become an almost trivial appendix to our notion of what letters look like.

It’s especially easy for Westerners to forget what a minority opinion this is. Most of the world attaches special significance to the hand-written, and lives with an intimate knowledge of its forms and an appreciation of its cultural and social dimensions. A Chinese businessperson of stature can be expected not only to admire the calligraphy in a colleague’s office, but to correctly identify it as the work of Song Huizong, and to discuss its virtues with erudition. Contrast this with his American counterpart, who can go an entire career without needing to learn the name of his corporate typeface.

Both senses of the word “writing” remain united in the Arab world, where calligraphy and literacy are at times inseparable. Nowhere is this more evident than in the offices of The Musalman, a Chennai newspaper published since 1927, which has the extraordinary virtue of being the world’s last surviving newspaper written entirely by hand. “We somehow manage to make ends meet,” says one of the newspaper’s four calligraphers (or katibs) who every day devotes three hours to a single page. “There’s no monetary benefit for us, we are just here to learn Urdu.”

The handwritten newspaper gained wider attention last summer when Wired dispatched photojournalist Scott Carney to document The Musalman’s inner workings. Later this year, we may learn more about the paper’s inevitable entanglement with digital typography, when Premjit Ramachandran releases his documentary film The Last Calligraphers. —JH

Indy Boys Fly The Biggest Heds

Now that’s what I call a banner headline. Yesterday’s Indy Star had a nice enough 180pt Gotham Condensed on page one, but it took a win for the Colts in Superbowl XLI to produce this whopper: a 9,800pt headline emblazoned on the outside of the newspaper’s offices. Biggest Gotham ever?

Eli Manning’s got to be wondering why, after quarterbacking the Giants to a victory in Superbowl XLII, he hasn’t gotten the same reception as his brother Peyton here. Every single one of the New York dailies uses an H&FJ font, and our office buildings are considerably taller: couldn’t 620 Eighth Avenue or 220 West 42nd Street manage a Gotham Condensed headline in 50,000pt? (Where’s that Christo guy when you need him?) —JH

A Banner Day

Typeface: Gotham Condensed Bold and Black

Primary season means banner headlines, and banner headlines mean condensed fonts. Above, some of our favorite Gothamophiles working hard to cement Gotham’s connection to politics; here’s Gotham Condensed being put through its paces at a range of sizes. Scott Goldman wins the size prize at The Indianapolis Star — and his state wasn’t even voting yesterday!

We’ll post some political front pages from the New York papers, provided they ever stop talking about the Superbowl. —JH

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