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Urtd / Odesta

New release: Fort Condensed & X-CondensedJuly 19, 2014

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One day in the fall of 2009, my new friend Arley-Rose Torsone came by my studio in Providence. She was interested in learning to make fonts and I had promised to show her the basics of FontLab. In that initial session, I showed her how to draw beziers and set sidebearings. I drew a few glyphs, and we talked about the qualities of the control characters: what should the shoulders of the n look like? How round should the O be? It didn’t occur to me at that moment that I would eventually expand this font into 48 styles — I was just having fun with a friend.

Slight changes to the weight, overshoot, terminals, and curves between first draft (grey) and the final release of Fort (gold)

Time passed, and as I started transitioning to full-time type design, I forced myself to only use my own fonts in my remaining graphic design projects. That meant that I needed a workhorse sans for day-to-day use, and so I started thinking about what that might look like. Like most graphic designers, I had used a lot of Gotham and Neutraface, as well as fonts from Village like National and Galaxie Polaris. I admired the utilitarian qualities of these fonts — hardworking and versatile with just the right amount of personality.

Read more on Fort Condensed & X-Condensed’s pages…

Seven Questions for Chester JenkinsJune 26, 2014

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Come December, the renovated and expanded Cooper Hewitt will welcome back visitors with a bold new look. The tricky task of reimagining the graphic identity of the Smithsonian Design Museum was taken on by Pentagram’s Eddie Opara, who tapped Chester Jenkins to work his typographical magic. Jenkins, co-founder of Brooklyn-based Village, created a custom typeface—Cooper Hewitt—that the museum has released into the digital wild: the bold sans serif can be downloaded free of charge as installable fonts, Web font files, and open-source code. Having taken the recent press preview of the museum as an excuse to follow Jenkins around and ask him his views on the various typefaces that were revealed by the painstaking restoration of the Andrew Carnegie Mansion, we agreed to relent if he would answer just seven more questions. He graciously agreed.

What three words best describe the Cooper Hewitt typeface?
Objective. Accessible. Spirited.

How does Cooper Hewitt differ from your Polaris Condensed?
The width of Cooper Hewitt is based on the Semicondensed version of Polaris, which only exists as beta fonts on the computers at Pentagram and UFOs on my hard drive. When I drew the Cooper Hewitt types, I didn’t recycle the outlines of Polaris, but instead drew everything from scratch, referring to Polaris Semicondensed, not simply tweaking it.

The range of weights is greater in Cooper Hewitt; while a couple of the master weights were based on Polaris, the family of fonts has a different internal structure. A significant stylistic difference is in the hewing to horizontal and vertical stroke endings, as opposed to the angled terminal strokes which are a touchstone of Polaris. Then there are the ‘plateaus’—or ‘plateaux’ for the linguistic sticklers—within most of the curves in round glyphs. You can’t really see them at anything less than a million points, but they separate the two designs. And the numerals and currency glyphs depart significantly from Polaris.

Village is a type co-op—what is that exactly and who are the members?
Village is a group of a dozen small foundries from around the world. While not technically organized as a co-operative, our model was the first of its kind in the digital era, as far as we are aware. We contact our members to discuss important decisions, such as adding new members to the group. The members sometimes collaborate with each other, and often pass along custom projects where one member is more suited than another. We also avoid stepping on each others’ toes; one member will not publish a design if it’s stylistically close to another member’s design. We distribute the work of our members: A2-Type, Blackletra, Feliciano Type Foundry, Klim, LuxTypo., MCKL, Schwartzco, Type Supply, and Urtd. We publish work through two foundries: Constellation and Incubator.

What is your typographical pet peeve?
I had to think really hard about this. Because there are so many approaches to type design, there are pretty much endless solutions to any design challenge. One thing that I’m not wild about is one particular form of the ampersand, the ‘flopped-3-plus-t’. I blame Rotis, which was ubiquitous in the early ’90s. Another peeve is badly-made lowercase eths: ð. And primes used instead of apostrophes, but that goes without saying.

What is the most unusual or meaningful object currently on your desk? A book printed in 1607 in Lyon by Paul Frellon. It’s in pretty great shape for being four centuries old, although it’s not by a ‘great’ printer—Garamond, Grandjon, Plantin, etc—it is printed with representative type, and features a terrific italic ampersand. I recently purchased this book, and three sets of French and Belgian law reference books printed between 1781 and 1841, and ‘my new old book’ from 1607. It’s inspirational to see how much care was taken in cutting the type and laying out the pages. While I studied typographic history more than twenty years ago, I’ve never really been interested in straightforward revival of old typefaces; there are plenty of very talented designers who do this extremely well. But looking through these books has given me clues I can use in making my work.

What is on your summer reading list?
Design-wise, I’ve started Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks by Keith Houston, and I’m enjoying it. I’m finally going to read John Maeda‘s The Laws of Simplicity. And I bought the e-book version of Fiona MacCarthy‘s biography of Eric Gill, having read it as a design student.

Otherwise, I’m intrigued by Karl Ove Knausgaard‘s My Struggle. I have a couple of books by Ben Greenman on my phone; I have always enjoyed his New Yorker pieces and Twitterings. But before any of those, I have to read my friend Tom Standage‘s latest, Writing on the Wall: Social Media—The First 2,000 Years.

What do you consider your proudest design moment?
The Cooper Hewitt typeface may well be it! I don’t dwell too much on my own work and where it ends up. I make it, release it, and move on to the next one. But it is gratifying to see the Cooper Hewitt typeface live, and I’m excited to see what other designers do with the typeface via the Open Font license.

I am incredibly fortunate to be able to make my living as a type designer; this is what I enjoy doing, and I have collaborated with some wonderful designers. I am very proud that Village has introduced and promoted so many talented type designers to the world. I’m always proud when I see a typeface from our library being used.

See the piece in full on Unbeige

Cooper Hewitt typefaceJune 13, 2014

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‘The new typeface, Cooper Hewitt, is a contemporary sans serif, with characters composed of modified-geometric curves and arches. Initially commissioned by Pentagram to evolve his Polaris Condensed typeface, Chester Jenkins created a new digital form to support the newly transformed museum. 
‘Developing this typeface specifically for Cooper Hewitt has been enormously gratifying,’ said Jenkins. ‘Instead of building on the Polaris structures, I drew everything from scratch, using the existing forms as a rough guide for letter widths and master-stroke thicknesses.’

The new font can be downloaded free of charge for unrestricted public use under the SIL Open Font License.

Cooper Hewitt / PentagramJune 12, 2014

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Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum today announces a new name and graphic identity, custom typeface and website to accompany the expansion of the museum, which will open to the public on December 12. Designed by Pentagram’s Eddie Opara and team, the bold identity establishes a flexible branding system for the museum. Opara’s customized characters for the wordmark have been fully developed into a new typeface, Cooper Hewitt, created by Chester Jenkins of Village in collaboration with Pentagram.

Opara and his team worked closely with Cooper Hewitt and Jenkins to develop the identity. Located in the historic Andrew Carnegie Mansion in New York, Cooper Hewitt is part of the Smithsonian Institution, the group of 19 museums and galleries administered by the U.S. government. In a first, the new Cooper Hewitt identity has been conceived as a design that truly belongs to the people: The identity also exists as a new typeface that will be made available free to the public, who are encouraged to utilize it in their own designs. The font has also been acquired for the museum’s permanent collection.

‘We are spreading good design by making our elegant new typeface, Cooper Hewitt, available as a free download on cooperhewitt.org, as well as collecting it as an important example of the design process,’ says Cooper Hewitt director Caroline Baumann. ‘We look forward to seeing how the public uses this new design tool in their lives.’

Comparison of the final wordmark in the Cooper Hewitt typeface with the existing fonts Galaxie Polaris Condensed Heavy, top, and Galaxie Polaris Semi-Condensed Heavy, center. Comparison of the final logotype with the Cooper Hewitt Heavy typeface, above

Iconic, engaging and highly functional, the new Cooper Hewitt wordmark forms a perfect rectangle that can easily be scaled, positioned and colorized without losing its strong visual presence. There is an intriguing relationship between the words COOPER and HEWITT in the new identity: Set normally, the words are different widths. Here, each character has been tailored to help define the overall typographic frame. The wordmark has been expressly designed to serve as the basis for a wide variety of uses.

The identity establishes a flexible branding system for the museum

‘Cooper Hewitt’s new identity plays it straight, with no play on visual or theoretical complexity, no puzzling contradiction or ambiguity, no distracting authorship,’ says Opara. ‘Function is its primary goal, and ultimately the logo is important, but not as important as what the museum does.’

Award: D&AD Yellow Pencil AwardMay 22, 2014

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Village member foundry A2-Type won a 2014 Yellow Pencil award from D&AD for their lovely and comprehensive typographic programme for British newspaper The Independent.

A2 writes: ‘We designed a compact suite of inter-connected fonts that share the same underlying structure. In addition to the three master sets — serif, sans and condensed — we also crafted a complimentary hairline display font designed specifically for headlines that formed the inspiration for the paper’s masthead. The typefaces were crafted separately from the masthead however, and feature wide flared serifs and ‘ND’ ligatures.’

See more on D&AD’s site

New Release: KommissarMay 15, 2014

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Kommissar is Schwartzco’s latest — a streamlined sans in 3 widths, each with 7 weights: Kommissar, Kommissar Condensed, and Kommissar X-Condensed.

As part of his redesign of Fast Company, Florian Bachleda needed a condensed sans to complement the new general-purpose sans and slab families. Together, Florian and Christian Schwartz found a stripped down, flat-sided condensed sans in a German specimen book, with a distinctive ‘crotchless’ treatment for where the stems met the bowls in the lowercase. This family, called Vertikal and likely cut in the late 1920s, seemed to have some potential, but a quick digitization of a handful of characters showed that it was a little too dry and boring in layouts.

Florian and his design staff had come across the condensed styles of Paul Renner’s Plak, and asked if Christian and his design staff at Commercial Type might be able to synthesize a new condensed sans that had the distinctive traits of Vertikal, with no contrast and flat connections on the arches and bowls in characters like h m n r and a b d p q g; synthesized with the roundness and wandering uppercase crossbar heights of Plak. The Commercial Type designers figured out how to make this marriage of styles work, then expanded the family out to a full range of weights in three progressively narrower widths. In the heaviest weights, the family ended up with a taste of the future as predicted in the 1970s.

Typecache’s 20 Best of 2013 picksMay 14, 2014

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Typecache has names six Village releases — Balto, the Domaine Superset, the Brooklyn Superset, Odesta, Ogg and Superior Title to their 20 Favorites fonts of 2013 (out of 550 new releases they featured in 2013.)

Typecache writes: ‘There were more than 550 new releases announced last year on TYPECACHE! So, it took us some time to review all of the great work from last year. We created another roundup of what we regard as the great typefaces from 2013.’

See all 20 Typecache picks here

2014 TDC Winner: OdestaMay 1, 2014

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Odesta, designed by Ondrej Jób of Urtd, was one of the winners in the 2014 TDC competition.

The TDC writes: ‘There was a total of only 24 entries selected by the jury from nearly 200 submitted from 29 countries. These winners will will be included in the Annual of the Type Directors Club, Typography 35 and also included in 7 exhibitions touring cities in the United States, Canada, England, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Russia, Spain, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam.’