Discover.typography: an Innovation by Design

It’s lovely to see Discover.typography recognized by the Innovation by Design Awards. While the story of H&Co is usually the story of our fonts, less visible is the project of working with the fonts, and creating the kinds of experiences in which we can share what we find so exciting about type in the first place.

Thank you to Fast Company for highlighting an innovative piece of technology that’s been one of our most satisfying creative outlets. And thank you to the development team at H&Co, the eleven designers, developers, engineers, and project managers who work so hard to ensure that Discover.typography continues to fully capture, and fully express, everything that we love about type on the web. —JH

The AIGA Video

As part of the presentation of the 2013 AIGA Medal, the American Institute of Graphic Arts commissioned this short video about type designers Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones. In addition to offering an intimate glimpse at some recent works-in-progress, the video features an inside look at the company offices in a moment of rare repose.

Thanks once again to the AIGA for recognizing our work, and to Dan and Andre at Dress Code for presenting typeface design with such thought, care, and wit. —JH

The AIGA Medal

The American Institute of Graphic Arts has announced that Jonathan Hoefler will receive the 2013 AIGA Medal, the profession’s highest honor.

“In recognition of their contributions to the typographic landscape through impeccable craftsmanship, skilled historical reference and insightful vernacular considerations,” the award celebrates the body of work created by the company over the past twenty-four years.

Since 1920, the AIGA Medal has been presented annually to innovators who set standards of excellence for design. Past recipients have included Charles and Ray Eames, architect Philip Johnson, publisher Alfred A. Knopf, photographer Richard Avedon, and artist Saul Steinberg. Typeface designers to have received the award include W. A. Dwiggins, Frederic Goudy, Stanley Morison, and Jan Tschichold, as well as contemporary designers Matthew Carter, Zuzana Licko, and Rudy Vanderlans.

Eight designers will receive the 2013 Medal: John Bielenberg, William Drenttel and Jessica Helfand, Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones, Stefan Sagmeister, Lucille Tenazas and Wolfgang Weingart. The awards will be presented at a celebration in New York City on April 19.

The 2011 National Design Awards

We’re very proud to be among the honorees of the 2011 National Design Awards, announced this morning by the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

An official White House project created to increase national awareness of the role of design, the National Design Awards are given annually in recognition of excellence, innovation, and lasting achievement in design. Now in its twelfth year, the award celebrates the achievements of designers in ten categories from architecture to fashion. In 2009, we became the first type foundry ever to be recognized by this prestigious award, celebrated at a special luncheon at the White House hosted by first lady Michelle Obama. It is a great privilege to return to the White House once again, to accept this award on behalf of our entire team.

We are once again honored to be in such distinguished company at the National Design Awards. In recognition of his extraordinary influence on both the study and practice of graphic design, Steve Heller will receive the 2011 Design Mind award. Ben Fry, co-architect of the Processing programming language, will be recognized for his groundbreaking work in data visualization with the award for Interactive Design. And of special significance to everyone in our industry is the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award, which this year will be presented to our longtime friend and colleague, type designer Matthew Carter. These are extraordinary times for typeface design.

The National Design Awards

We have received the great honor of being selected as an honoree in this year’s National Design Awards, and are especially proud to be the first type foundry ever to be recognized by this prestigious award.

An official White House project created to increase national awareness of the role of design, the National Design Awards are given annually by the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in recognition of excellence, innovation, and lasting achievement in design. A highlight of the award has traditionally been a reception for honorees at the White House, hosted by the first lady.

Now in its tenth year, the National Design Awards are given in ten categories from architecture to fashion, and past winners include iMac designer Jonathan Ive, fashion designer Isabel Toledo, and industrial designer Bill Stumpf, co-inventor of the Aeron chair. Congratulations to all of this year’s honorees, especially our colleagues in Communication Design: finalist Project Projects, and the category winner, the Graphics Department of The New York Times. —H&Co

The Gerrit Noordzij Prize, Part 2: Incoming

Typeface: Gotham

Type designers are accustomed to approaching the line between homage and parody with great care. It’s especially daunting when its subject is a living colleague, as was the case last Friday when our own Tobias Frere-Jones presented an award of his own design to Wim Crouwel, winner of the 2009 Gerrit Noordzij Prize. (In keeping with the tradition, the current holder of the prize designs the award given to its next recipient.) To design an award for Crouwel, a Dutch icon who is indelibly associated with a strong and recognizable personal style, takes great sensitivity: imagine having to design a business card for Piet Mondrian, or select a ringtone for Igor Stravinsky.

If there is anyone able to see past the obvious, it is Wim Crouwel. In the 1960s, Crouwel’s fresh yet doctrinaire approach to graphic design earned him the pejorative nickname “gridnik,” which Crouwel, with typical flare, adopted as a moniker, and later chose as the name for his best-known typeface. In his acceptance speech on Friday, Crouwel described his decades-long disagreements with his friend Gerrit Noordzij — in whose name the award is given — and both men reflected gleefully on their continuing philosophical differences. This fruitful synthesis has colored both the study and the practice of graphic design, and it’s satisfying to see it recognized. This is what awards should be for.

In keeping with the custom, Tobias designed an award that uses one of our typefaces, but includes a nod to Crouwel’s own work. In celebration of the pre-history of the Gotham typeface, Tobias arranged for the fabrication of a traditional enamel sign, featuring an abundant grid of Gotham’s many styles (64 out of 66, to be precise.) Hearing Crouwel speak with such good humor at the presentation ceremony, I was almost tempted to reveal Tobias’s original idea, which was to find a way to bridge the Dutch tradition of chocolate letter-making with Crouwel’s arresting new alphabet of 1967. (“I probably could have done it with Kit-Kat bars,” Tobias mused.) I am certain Crouwel would approve. —JH

The Gerrit Noordzij Prize, Part 1: Outgoing

One charming aspect of the Gerrit Noordzij Prize is the design of the award itself. By tradition, it’s something created by the current prize holder, and presented to the incoming awardee. Past winners have used the occasion to create something that not only encapsulates their own work in some personal way, but postulates some connection to the interests of the next designer in succession. Erik Spiekermann, winner of the 2003 award, presented the above to our own Tobias Frere-Jones in 2006: it’s a witty rendering of his twentieth-century Meta typeface, produced in the distinctly nineteenth-century technology of wood type. As a gift to a type designer whose work regularly engages with historical form, I thought it was especially poignant.

The set was made by Scott Polzen, who began exploring the resurrection of wood typemaking while still a student. His latter-day wood types are lovely artifacts, cut from cherry and finished with sandpaper and file, as Polzen explained in an essay in Letterspace, a journal of The Type Directors’ Club. As intriguing as the how of this project is the why: “I’ve come to understand,” Polzen writes, “that my real motivation for this project was to gain a greater sense of participation in the culture of reading and writing: making wood type forced me to think quite literally about how the written word works.” I thought this sentiment nicely echoed Noordzij’s own philosophy about the primacy of written, not printed, words; it makes Polzen’s connection to the award even more apt.

Wim Crouwel will receive the 2009 Gerrit Noordzij Prize on Friday, when we’ll have the first photographs of the award that Tobias designed for him. I will miss seeing it around our office. —JH

Tobias Frere-Jones: An Exhibit at the Royal Academy of Art

Tobias is the fourth and current holder of the Gerrit Noordzij Prize, which was presented to him in 2006. Every few years, the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague celebrates an individual for his “unique contributions to type design, typography, and type education,” qualities which honor both the recipient and the prize’s namesake: Gerrit Noordzij, as an instructor, a designer, and a type designer, has influenced generations of typographers, and has been singularly instrumental in establishing typography as a realm for disciplined, critical thinking.

This Friday, the prize passes to the next recipient, an occasion marked by two festivities: Wim Crouwel will receive the 2009 prize, and the Royal Academy will open an exhibit of Tobias’s work. If it’s any indication of the scope of the show’s contents, let me just say that even I was surprised by some of the things Tobias pulled from the files; it is an exhibit not to be missed.

The exhibit opens this Friday, March 6, and runs through Saturday, March 28, in the KABK Galerie. —JH

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