Archive for March, 2010

Combining Italian and English Typefaces

March 19, 2010


Caslon and the English Font Scene

March 18, 2010

William Caslon was an English typeface designer practicing in the 1700’s he generated many serifed faces which where praised for their remarkable practicality. This makes the typeface Caslon, which was designed in recognition of William Caslon’s work an ideal starting point to look at for generating the English side of my typeface as I want the English aspect to be more prominent within the book or text face for my typeface family.

Ideally suited for text in sizes ranging from 6- to 14-point, Adobe Caslon Pro is the right choice for magazines, journals, book publishing, and corporate communications.

Another typeface which exhibits typical English qualities is Sally by Fontsmith which speaks for itself literally with the description used as the specimen sheet.

Both Caslon and Sally, as serifed faces work well at small point sizes with soft serifs allowing the eye to be drawn across the page at ease. The strokes are much more consistent in size contrary to the Italian faces that I have looked at, and exhibit a lot less rigidity in form.

Bodoni and the Italian Font Scene

March 18, 2010

Now that I have a concept to work from I now need some contextual research to go on. I know that I want to combine both Italian and English styles and create a typeface which merges the two looks. Traditionally the first famous typeface to spring top mind is Bodoni:

Working with this font requires care, as the strong emphasis of the vertical strokes and the marked contrast between the fine and thick lines lessens Bodoni’s legibility, and the font is therefore better in larger print with generous spacing.

Bodoni was designed between 1909 and 1939 by Giambattista Bodoni and is characterised by it’s contrasting thick and thin strokes, as the description on myfonts states this stark contrast in strokes makes Bodoni more suitable as a display face. This is something that could be useful in emphasising particularly with my design making my display face more italian looking with subtle English influence and vice versa for my text face.

The Characteristics of Bodoni resonate in much of Italy’s contemporary typeface design, here are some examples;

FC United of Manchester, Newton Heath & Louis Rocca

March 18, 2010

Having established that my ‘lack of englishness’ concept was heading down a legibility dead end I decided to go back to the world of football and see if there is concept to be found which can actually produce a practical typeface. I chose to look at Manchester United, having already selected the team as inspiration for the foreign player concept I thought I may as well stick with just one team for now.

After some initial investigating from news reports and my own personal knowledge of the club, I developed some possible ideas for me to investigate. The first one came about from archived news stories that went back to the take over of the club by an American family named the Glazers. Many fans objected to the take over and turned their backs on the club resulting in the formation of a new club, FC United of Manchester.

So I probed a bit deeper into this line of enquiry and found out a little bit more about the club and found that despite being a fairly new club and residing in the lower tiers of the English Football League system, the club not only had national support but overseas as well. This seemed like an ideal opportunity for me to develop a conceptual typeface that was practical. My line of thinking was that maybe I could contact the club and work with them to produce a branding brief that would include a bespoke typeface that could work for the club on an international level. My reasoning for this is that much of my research has pointed to the fact that today, conceptual typography is generally used as part of a branding brief (for example, font smith’s champions league typeface).

So I went about contacting the club to see whether I could work with them to create a brief from which I could work from but unfortunately after sending them an email explaining what it was I was trying to do, their response was that they were in fact working with numerous design companies already on a similar brief.

This wouldn’t have been too much of an issue as I could have simply generated the brief myself, but there was plenty of other alternatives I could have looked at so I chose to keep my options open.

Going back to the Glazer take over, there was more news reports to go on, most of which where more recent and involved United fans reverting back to the traditional club colours of yellow and green when the club was still named Newton Heath. I found this aspect of changing name and club colours quite insightful and potential for a new concept so I looked a bit more into the clubs past and found out some information on a man named Louis Rocca.

Louis Rocca was an Italian Immigrant who began working for Newton Heath FC as a tea boy, he worked for the club for almost 50 years covering various roles such as groundsman, kitman, talent scout and general fixer. he was responsible for acquiring the services of Sir Matt Busby as manager who went on to become the clubs most successful manager at the time. Rocca was also responsible for the name change when he first suggested the club should be named Manchester United. In general Rocca was known as bit of a utility man within the club and is regarded as the unsung hero in the clubs success all the way through the 20th century.

The fact that Rocca was an Italian immigrant who came to the UK in the Early 20th century resonates similarities to my own family history as I am a descendent from Angelo Guiseppe Decio, an Italian immigrant who arrived in Portsmouth just before world war 2 broke out.

These 2 aspects have given me a concept which I am now happy about and one that I believe can be both conceptual and legible. I want to take this aspect of 2 nations coming together as many Italians came to England during the early 20th century, this can be represented by combining two typical typographic styles, English and Italian. The concept will be to create a utility font in recognition of Louis Rocca, therefore I want to create two weights which will allow the font to be used as a headline font as well as for body text. This will therefore satisfy my brief criteria of creating a conceptual typeface which maintains practicality and legibility.

Lack of Engishness in English Football

March 18, 2010

As I have already stated, I began to create this typeface Grass Roots as a visual response to the fact that there is a lack of English talent coming up through football youth systems and too many English clubs buying players from abroad. The style of the typeface was deliberately meant to be slightly rudimentary and juvenile in appearance as it was representing unrefined players who are still quite young.

This has resulted in the letter forms being quite playful, and very soft in appearance, the x-height is quite big which has increased legibility and the serifs are in many places inconsistent which gives each letter an individual quirk to it; however, they still have enough consistent style to to become recognisable as part of the same font.

Now that I have a basic style for my typeface I have began to look at how I can refine it and improve my typeface design skills, particular letters deem to be slightly narrower or shorter than others, which is down to optical illusions generated by the shapes within certain letters.

This is demonstrated in this illustration from the book Lettering Design, By Michael Harvey, The Bodley Head Ltd, 1975, which states on page 31,

In a normal line of lettering the lack of horizontal strength in pointed and curved letters makes them appear too short.

This is clearly visible within my design, where I have gathered feedback that states that the ‘o’ actually appears thinner due to this phenomenon. To remedy this I returned to my initial Illustrator drawing and increased the weight of the letter so that it protruded beyond the x-height and baseline.

Small changes and details like this are essential to generating a well balanced typeface, and are remedies to many optical illusions which can occur when letter forms are poorly designed.

These are some detailed changes that my tutor and I have made to the typeface in order to improve it visually.

From this tutorial we also discussed how I could incorporate this idea of a lack of Englishness / Britishness in English football, so It was suggested that I look at different styles of typeface from around the world and see how I could perhaps incorporate other national styles into an otherwise English looking typeface.

To find some examples of international typeface designs, I took the current Manchester United football squad as an example. The club is represented by players from Brazil, France, Ireland, Portugal, Ecuador, Africa, Bulgaria, Italy, Serbia, Germany, Holland, South Korea, Poland and Norway. This drew up some major issues to consider when creating a typeface that is quintessentially English but has foreign influences upon it. For example, not only is there the issue of accents with european written language, there are also cyrillic letterforms to contend with and also far eastern letterforms which all need to be incorporated. If I was to create a typeface with all of these elements within then it would be a complete amalgamation of completely different shapes and styles which would make the typeface unrecognisable as English at all, which is in a way the issue I am trying to highlight, but the results would produce a typeface that is inconsistent in style, impractical and illegible which goes against everything I set out to do in this project in the first place.

Despite this, I took the typeface Caslon, which is recognised a traditionally English typeface, and edited aspects of the letterforms, with styles that I have found from other nations.

This is the result of the experiment, I chose to use an Italic version of Caslon as I thought that this would perhaps be the most suitable way of attempting to maintain a consistent style throughout the typeface, which in fact only exhibits characteristics of a select few styles that I have found. Represented are Serbia with the dissected a, d and o. Germany with mono stroke e and Ireland by the flamboyant flicks on the h, d and l.

Already though, the typeface looks unorganised and inconsistent which granted, could work as a potential concept and highlights the issue I am trying to portray, but doesn’t unleash any recognised attempt to achieve legibility and practicality.

Serbian Typeface Design

March 8, 2010

Sinisa Komlenic

Clutchee is an artsy display face by serbian designer Sinisa Komlenic, much of what I have seen from modern Serbian typeface design tends to be these very bold and contemporary  looking styles with the white space of each letter being made up of interesting disections into the letter forms.

Dimitar Vuksanov

This typeface by Dimitar Vuksanov, named Branko Kockica is another example of a heavy counterless display face. This tyepeface however does include cyrillic letterforms which is not always the case with some Serbian designs which tend to just stick to latin.

Branko Bobic

Branko Bobic has a very consistent style of typefaces to his name, all of which again display fat, counterless artsy characteristics. This is one example by the name of Aero Frog; again the letters are heavy, bold and utilise cutaway sections to create whitespace within the letterforms.