I pretty much agree with Anil Dash on the topic of wacky April Fools’ jokes for websites, so instead I thought that today might be a good day to share a piece of genuine idiocy from the archives.
By the time Tobias and I began working together in 1999, we'd been friends for a decade, and had spent most of the previous years in close contact by phone. Our biographers will report this as a period of august correspondence in which we developed the philosophical framework that would inform our later collaboration, but the truth is that much of this time was spent goofing off, and naturally the arrival of the internet helped this project immensely.
Since we’d always been the types to tackle exhaustive projects, we both spent most of the nineties utterly exhausted. Many of our late night conversations were wits-end grievances about the impossibility of doing something or other, and these commonly degenerated into a discussion of Dumb Ideas for Typefaces. One of these, which I suggested in 1995, was that the OCR-A font — used on bank statements and designed for optical character recognition — really needed to be outfitted with a set of swashes. Using Adobe Illustrator, I ginned up the image above in about ten minutes, and sent it to Tobias. His response, which arrived within the hour, was a file named ¡¡¡Estupido-Espezial!!!.sit, which contained the following:
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.
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