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Urtd / Odesta

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.’

2014 TDC Winner: OggMay 1, 2014

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Ogg, designed by Lucas Sharp and published through our Incubator foundry in 2013, 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.’

New Release: MarignyMarch 27, 2014

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Marigny, designed by Tal Leming of Type Supply, is a friendly typeface that takes its job seriously. It lives in the intersection of writing, lettering and typography. Technically, it’s a typeface, of course, but it looks like a very nicely lettered interpretation of a handwritten version of a traditional typeface. (Yeah, whoa.) Marigny has the same basic proportions as classic oldstyle typefaces like Garamond. These, combined with the hand-rendered forms, give blocks of a text a warm, inviting appearance. Plus, the soft forms look great in headlines and logotypes. It has small caps, swashes, ornaments and more. I had a lot of fun designing it and even more fun making graphic design with it. I hope you like it.

The family is named after a neighborhood in New Orleans. Wondering how it is pronounced? When I was growing up in Louisiana I always heard it pronounced as “mare-ah-knee” so that’s how I say it. It’s French. Or, at least it’s the South Louisiana version of French that I learned in school.

See Marigny here

Typographica’s Best of 2013: BaltoMarch 13, 2014

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Colin M. Ford writes: Balto is designer Tal Leming’s reinterpret­ation of an American Gothic, a style of sans serif made popular by Morris Fuller Benton and the American Type Foundry. Just as Benton set out, with his ‘Gothics’ (Alternate Gothic, Franklin Gothic, News Gothic, and others), to cull the herd of discontinuous sans serifs that filled ATF’s catalog, Leming set out to make an American Gothic that emphasizes ‘the base ideas of the style rather than particular visual attributes, quirks or artifacts of bygone type tech­nologies’ that were added to previous interpretations.

Leming carries his American Gothic references right through to Balto’s website; its whirligig arrows and clever in situ examples liven up an otherwise serious typeface, placing it in a context reminiscent of the typeface samples found in ‘Big Red’, the 1300-page 1912 ATF catalog.

Balto’s origins can be traced back to 1997, when Leming found himself stuck trying to make a classic Gothic work as a text typeface for an annual report. He couldn’t find a single font up to the task, but the seed was planted. Ten years later he finally put pen tool to bezier and began drawing Balto, and on-and-off over the next six years the face began to take shape … or many shapes. To accompany its release, Leming wrote a fantastic blog post in which he thoroughly recounts the transformations Balto went through over the six years it was in development. (Note to self: this will be very useful to link to the next time someone asks me: ‘So, why do typefaces take so long to make?!’)

Ultimately, I think Leming and Balto succeed in getting to the root of the American Gothic style and updating it for the 21st century. The benefit of an American Gothic with eight weights and matching italics becomes immediately apparent when one tries to use Benton’s ‘Gothic’ types in a modern context. Need an italic for Alternate Gothic or a light weight of Franklin Gothic? Well, that’s just too bad. Benton’s Gothic types were never designed as systems the way fonts are today — thankfully, Balto was.

Balto is a great, utilitarian family suited for the everyday uses other sans serifs would turn up their noses at. Next time I need a workhorse American Gothic that actually gets down to business, I will certainly reach for Balto.

(By the way, Balto, one can imagine, is short for Baltimore, where Leming lives and Type Supply is based. His previous typeface, Timonium, is a town just outside of Baltimore. I’m beginning to sense a theme and, as a former resident of Charm City, I like it.)

See the review on Typographica.org.

Typographica’s Best of 2013: OdestaMarch 13, 2014

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Dyana Weissman writes: I hate this typeface.

I hate it because I wish I had drawn it myself. But I didn’t. And even if I had, who is to say whose would be better? It doesn’t matter, because this is excellent, and there is no need to even try.

When in conversation with people who know nothing about fonts, once they find out about my job, they in­vari­ably ask what my favorite typeface is. I’ve always found that question to be awkward. It’s difficult to answer when one makes, but rarely uses, the thing under discussion. I feel like an asshole saying, “I like the one that I made for this well-known, high-end client” — it’s self-absorbed and pretentious. I appre­ciate a high-quality typeface, of course, but I’m not a graphic designer, so I have no reason to license one. In answer to this question, I usually just give the name of a typeface I admire to keep the conversation flowing.

But this… this is a typeface I want. And that is an incredibly rare thing. This captures what I would want for myself so perfectly (without me even knowing that until I saw it), that I have been thinking about it. In fact, I don’t want anyone else to have it. I want perpet­ual exclusivity. I know that’s silly (and expensive), and that Ondrej can’t agree to that now that Odesta is out there. I take solace in knowing that now everyone else can license it and put it on everything BECAUSE THEY SHOULD PUT IT ON EVERYTHING.

More specifically, I love Odesta’s perfectly round ball terminals. (I often make them in my own sketches.) They lend themselves well to the pochoir/stencil effect, but this is also a script, which is lovely. It has some beautiful curves. The ‘M’. The ‘k’. The ‘r’Especially the ‘r’. I make an ‘r like that in my hand­writing just because I love the shape so much. And, oh yes, that high contrast. So elegant! All of these ele­ments together should be a total mess, but here, they come together quite nicely. There is a bit of stiffness to it, but I know where it comes from, and I forgive it. What Ondrej pulled off here is pretty amazing.

Odesta is a little bit bonkers, and that’s why I love it. I could never truly hate it.

See the review on Typographica.org.

Typographica’s Best of 2013: Founders Grotesk TextMarch 13, 2014

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Christian Palino writes: Aria di rivoluzione — those were the words that first made me swoon. Those shoulders! That ‘a’! Tight apertures! As I turned the pages of Il Magazine (filled with the skillful typography of Francesco Franchi), I fell in love.

Founders Grotesk is one of those faces that simul­taneously seems like it has always existed and has never been seen before. It has become hard to expect anything less from Kris Sowersby, who turns out to be The Blues Brothers of revivals — resurrecting entire movements to create something new and unique. Sowersby’s approach to Founders Grotesk, initially inspired by a 1912 Miller & Richard specimen, involved careful curation of various century-old grots. Originally designed for display usage with tight letter spacing, when the typeface was first put to work at text sizes in The Weekend Herald, and ultimately in Il Magazine, Sowersby found that it did not hold up well. Fortunately for us, this led him to design Founders Grotesk Text.

What is exceptional and evident in the Text faces is that they are not simply redrawn and re-spaced letters for improved readability at smaller sizes, but often quirkier letterforms that help to translate the chari­sma of the big, beautiful display weights into text — all without feeling overly precious or distracting. Bellissima!

See the review on Typographica.org.

Typographica’s Best of 2013: BrooklynMarch 13, 2014

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Robb Ogle writes: Brooklyn (the typeface) is a noteworthy story of compromise, bulldozers, and the custom type it was dressed in. Tension exists between its commissioned appropriateness and retail legacy.

Imagine the shifting creative briefs concerning aesthetic and civic “right” sent during this 42-billion-dollar project. Type designer Chester Jenkins worked with Pentagram to give graphic voice to three consecutive architect firms’ visions of a contested plan: to build Atlantic Yards’ stadium along with residential and office towers on 22 acres of land and transform a transit hub at the intersection of three neighborhoods. With so many interpretations defining one opinionated population’s sense of “live, work, and play”, odds for a striking type design to emerge were low. Jenkins and Constellation (and Village) are to be commended.

2007: Jenkins’s initial design was inspired by Frank Gehry Architects’ preliminary model, hyped in 2003 by former New York Times critic Herbert Muschamp as “the urban equivalent of the fanciest flower arrange­ment a city could give to itself.” Octagonal type pulled jagged beauty and function from gargantuan steel petals, using (as Village puts it) “horizontal, vertical, and 45-degree diagonal lines, with just a few other ‘support’ angles woven throughout.” The latter details make the design superior to another prominent civic/athletic faceted display type drawn around the same time. Alias’s design for Wolff Olins’s [2012 Olympics] identity(http://typographica.org/on-typography/a-fruitful-discomfort-the-face-of-the-2012-olympics/) looks crude, breakable, ephemeral by comparison. Brooklyn (the typeface) has thought­ful engineering. Typically curved terminals stay horizontal in a mechanistic touch that opens up interior shapes and avoids overwhelming octagonal repetition. Paired with slight obliques, it is built for loadbearing and fits the identity of an urban develop­ment commission and legibility demands for signage use.

2012: Gehry’s out. SHoP Architects are in. Brooklyn (the typeface) changes voice when set on different buildings. It’s disinterested in the rusty-amoeba-curved Barclay’s Center wayfinding. It’s brash when overriding fashion retail and neutral transit branding with Brooklyn attitude. The type becomes exclamation when attached to the quieter 32-story prefab resi­dent­ial B2 tower currently under construction.

2013: Retail release. The style fits the site and the time, but will it fit Brooklyn (the borough) moving forward? Let’s hope that Brooklyn (the typeface) does not turn into ITC Manhattan, which forever locked the island to its brief Deco heyday.

See the review on Typographica.org.

Typographica’s Best of 2013: Post GroteskMarch 13, 2014

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David Sudweeks writes: Confusion, pleasure, disbelief. That was my initial reaction to Post Grotesk, Josh Finklea’s design which, to my mind at least, seemed at once to have always existed, and yet still come with something new.

The guiding principle behind the Neo-Grotesk genre — so far as I’ve been able to follow it — is a careful study of the virtues of the Grotesk letter itself, not including further developments that span additional genres, but rather focusing in on those features peculiar to the Grotesk and incorporating them into one’s own con­tem­p­orary design.

I can only imagine that work on Post Grotesk began with a long, serious look at Berthold’s Akzidenz-Grotesk. The face seems to also benefit from much of the airiness and eccentricities of say, Monotype Grotesque, with all its inherent playfulness, while also outwardly displaying a serious bite. In the final design, almost all overt signs of danger have been polished away, the jagged teeth of the cap ‘C’ filed down, leav­ing only furtive looks here and there, and the occas­ional oddly-cut terminal angle such as on the bar of the ‘4’ or ampersand out stroke, declaring, as it were, “I am what I am.”

The face’s relaxed fit, generous x-height, and linear forms go a long way toward establishing an inviting texture. Added interplay between curves of varying tension keeps the page from going too cold. Note, for example, the squareness of the lowercase ‘o’ versus the roundness of the ‘b’. Other details, such as the relatively intricate set of commas, quote marks, and apostrophes, thoughtful use of ligature features to substitute efficient, non-ligating forms, a set of stylistic alternates offering a substantially different feel and function, and its range of weights add to the face’s versatility. So ultimately, yes, I’m very pleased with it; I’m glad to see this kind of careful work within a genre and happy to add it to my favorites.

See the review on Typographica.org.

Typographica’s Best of 2013: DomaineMarch 13, 2014

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John Boardley writes: Kris Sowersby’s Domaine family has its origins in a logotype for the Australian wine company, Hardys. I am an unabashed fan of Sowersby’s work. He is an exceptional type designer, one who has a particularly acute sense of what good type should look like.

In Domaine Text and Domaine Display, he has again extruded the very best elements from a number of cross-genre exemplars. Never aping, but mindfully deconstructing, then distilling only the best elements, the choicest ingredients into something purer, something new; and above all, and most crucially, something eminently usable. With Domaine, the gradation of weights from Light through Black is pitch perfect; the contrast, especially in the heavier weights, spot on. Yet, despite the evident technical prowess, there is still flourish and flare, though it never descends into affected flamboyance.

The so-called Latin types are an unusual genre. It’s quite a challenge to take this style as a starting point and proceed to make something unified and useful out of it — something that has a use beyond a quirky, multi-word headline. The Latin letterforms have their charm, but sometimes they verge on ugliness at worst, and ungainliness at best.

Sowersby was able to reign in or pacify the genre by taking cues from the Scotch Romans, but without surrendering some of the charm, including the sump­tuous curlicue fish-hook terminals. Perhaps it’s just me, but in the narrow and condensed Romans the flavor of the Latin exemplars shines through a little more.

Domaine is Sowersby’s largest family to date, compris­ing 46 fonts. But it is so much more than an impressive range of styles; it’s what good type should look like.

See the review on Typographica.org.