With the imminent return of snowstorms to New York, we can't help but mention a wintry website that uses typography to great effect: Purcell Heli-Skiing, who have spent forty years choppering more than 50,000 adventurous skiers and snowboarders to the Purcell Mountains of British Columbia. The website, designed by Ontario-based They, plays with the scale of its typography in a thoughtful and deliberate way. Text faces Gotham SSm and Sentinel SSm are used throughout, punctuated by the lighter weights of Tungsten Light in all caps, creating a monumental but hushed tone that evokes the striking terrain itself. —NW
There’s a wonderful materiality about rounded letters. Their lighter weights have an engineered quality: for me, they always bring to mind the controlled movements of a router, steadily cutting channels in brass or steel and leaving behind a spray of metal shavings. Their heavier weights are the stuff of the roadside, both the vacuform plastic letters that advertise gas stations and motels, and the painted signs that herald this week’s prices for groceries or liquor. Applying these tactile qualities to our suave Tungsten family gives us Tungsten Rounded, a new family of six fonts that’s at once earnest, energetic, and wry.
A common dilemma when working with rounded typefaces is what to do when two adjacent letters overlap. For the signpainter, the tiny divet created by two intersecting curves is quickly dispatched with a brush, but the letters in a typeface usually go unsupervised:
In Tungsten Rounded’s heaviest weights, we addressed this problem with a set of 151 alternate characters, designed to interact in more predictable ways. An OpenType feature automatically engages these characters when needed, to ensure that all of the 548 potential collisions are managed correctly, from common pairs like AX, to truly exotic ones such as KÆ.
A good type family balances cohesion and diversity. Its styles need to feel related, but each is entitled to its own personality. Nothing’s worse than paying for a collection of two dozen fonts, only to discover that each speaks in exactly the same voice.
Tungsten began as a focussed set of styles that aspired to being disarming instead of pushy. “Smart, tough, and sexy” was how we described the design, a brief that gave us enough latitude to create four distinct designs: a sporty Medium, an articulate Semibold, a stylish Bold, and a persuasive Black. We stopped at four, discovering that so many of the strategies that served the design in these proportions became impractical at lighter weights. Tungsten is all about the interplay between positive and negative space, a relationship that disappears when the strokes become thin, and the spaces cavernous. So while we could make the design perform mechanically at lighter weights, it no longer felt like Tungsten.
But then we discovered something interesting. We found different strategies to use at these proportions, which could make the design look familiar but feel different. We created new designs whose forthrightness came through in different ways: some were elegant, others earnest. And when we started exploring different widths, we found we could gradually turn up the volume, and watch Tungsten go from cool to vibrant to ecstatic.
So today, we’re delighted to introduce The New Tungstens, a set of four different widths, each in eight weights, starting at $199. The full collection includes Regular, Narrow, Condensed and Compressed, and right now you can save $300 when you buy the complete collection of 32 styles.
In a manner more typical of the corporate than the corporeal, designer Nicholas Felton marks the passage of each year with an annual report. Past editions of the Feltron Annual Report have ranged in sensibilities, from his editorial 2006 (smarter than the smartest magazine) to his diagrammatic 2009 (which out-Tuftes Tufte.) While the very concept is arch, making the Feltron Report a beloved fixture in the offices of so many graphic designers, I really have to hand it to Nicholas for never stooping to the obvious and allowing his yearly record to become a mere send-up of the annual report form. This year’s report, awash in our Tungsten typeface, is no exception: it uses the tools of data visualization and typography to tell a compelling story, and color a narrative that might so easily have been reduced to a mere family tree or a timeline.
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
Most graphic designers choose the fonts that best fit their projects. Brian Hennings does the opposite: he chooses the projects that best fit the fonts. A resident designer at Hoefler & Co., Brian shares with me the responsibility of creating all of the sample art you’ll find on this site. His is a strange universe of the fictitious: signage programs for mythical cities, book jackets for unwritten novels, product literature for items you cannot buy, broadcast graphics for live sporting events that you can’t quite identify. (They might have a ball, horses, cars, rifles, or all of the above.) His fake cookbook recipes have immaculate typography, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to cook from any of them.
Two weeks ago, we released our new Tungsten font family, accompanied by an unusually large collection of sample art: Brian and I just couldn’t put the new fonts down. The feedback we received was extraordinary in both its kindness and its volume, and I was especially happy to see so many designers specifically mention the art that we’d worked so hard to create. Since Brian’s job gives him a unique perspective on typography — plus enviable access to fonts that the rest of the world won’t see for years — I asked him to share some of his observations about the process: what it’s like to use a new font that no one’s ever used, what it tells you about itself, and what it reveals about typography in general. Without further ado, here’s Brian. —JH
A few years ago, we started wondering if there was a way to make a flat-sided sans serif that was disarming instead of brutish, one that employed confidence and subtlety instead of just raw testosterone. It was an unusual design brief for ourselves, completely without visual cues and trading in cultural associations instead: “more Steve McQueen than Steven Seagal,” reads one note; “whiskey highball, not a martini” suggests another.
The result is Tungsten®, a tight family of high-impact fonts in four weights: muscular and persuasive, without sacrificing wit, versatility, or style. Now starting at $99.