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In 2014 we were approached by Michael Bierut and his team to Pentagram to use our typeface, Sharp Sans Display No.1, for their newest identity project: the Hillary 2016 presidential campaign. After some discussion, we would come to develop and donate a multifaceted superfamily that would function for the campaign’s every need.
When we first learned that the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign was interested in using Sharp Sans Display No.1, we hoped that this would be the opportunity to finally complete Sharp Sans, a project we had been thinking about for some time. The original had achieved a noteworthy level of prominence, but seeing it out in the world for a few years led us to regard the design as improvable. We had drawn a tightly spaced, Lubalinesque geometric sans that looked really good big. Now we wanted to draw a version with utility and versatility, that could work in any situation.
As a display typeface, Sharp Sans Display’s limitations cannot be separated from its strengths. It’s highly geometric and tightly packed forms give it striking visual appeal but also limit its utility as an all-purpose font. It functions best when set sufficiently big, and although you could manually track it out for smaller type settings, it was designed to be hyper-tight.
Sharp Sans Evolution
Optical sizing is not something that every user of type understands, nor should we assume that they do, as a sans-serif typeface is often considered by many to work for every size or context. This is exactly what we considered when digesting the implications of using Sharp Sans Display No.1 Extrabold as the main typeface for a major presidential campaign.
It’s safe to assume that Michael Bierut & his team at Pentagram understand how to use Sharp Sans Display in order to achieve a perfect type setting, but we can’t make that assumption with the average professional or volunteer in the Hillary campaign designing email templates or distribution leaflets is going know that the font needs to be tracked out at smaller text settings, or remember they have to replace it with a text font at anything below 18pt. It occurred to us that a serious presidential campaign needed a typeface that could work in any situation.
The first and most obvious step was raising the x-height and opening up the metrics (tracking it out). Thorough adjustment to the lowercase forms ensued. We opened up apertures, experimented with new constructions, and made subtle adjustments to weight and emphasis. Some things we loved about the display style ended up finding new ways to rhyme and groove with the new lowercase.
The lowercase a was given a new double story construction in this new version due to legibility issues with the classic Futura a at small sizes. The newer a is the default form in the recently available retail version of Sharp Sans, but regarding the official Hillary Clinton edition, titled Sharp Unity, both Bierut and Jennifer Kinon, the co-founder of OCD who later took over as design director of the campaign, insisted on the importance of the original Futura style a. Although we had reservations at first, we came to really like the Futura a for their campaign branding. Its Futura underpinnings were in style, and it conjured a friendly and chic quality that spoke well to her brand.
Kinon and her team took the identity to the next level with the consistently flawless execution of campaign materials. The Democratic National Convention was a particularly momentous occasion and an amazing example of their tireless efforts.
In our work, we seek perfect optimal letter width relationships in uppercase settings. The word-shape of the new Sharp Sans uppercase has a much evener interval of rhythm than its display counterpart.
Our methodology behind this was to find the sweet spot in between the two extremes of monospacing and a hypothetical extreme of proportional/varied letter widths. The features unique to monolinear capital letters that make the scrutiny of this system of letter width so important, we are convinced, is the lack of ascenders and descenders, and the monolinearity of its forms. The above diagram is meant to show each letters relationship in width to the uppercase H. The degree to which each letterform inhabits or exceeds this space is unique to the construction of that particular letter. We did not want to make them all optically appear the same width, and find that our eye tends to enjoy an exaggerated overshoot of the bowls, and a reduction of width in forms that take up less optical weight than those of the flat stems. This reduction is evident in the forms like the E, F, I, L, and Z. Other letters like the A and V compensate by taking up more ground with less form. In letters made up of higher amounts of separate strokes like the “M” and “W”, the density of form gets too dark and they must exceed the confines of the H-width substantially. The I and J are outliers of the median weight range on the opposite extreme, as they comprise of only a single stroke and therefore take up far less space.
The italic lowercase was completely redrawn as well. We consider the lowercase of Sharp Sans Display’s italics as our “window pieces” as they make for visually appealing type specimens, but are too distinct to ever be as versatile as their roman counterparts. As a result, we opted for a more standard and versatile italic design for the new Sharp Sans.
We’ve also implemented other useful updates to the new Sharp Sans. The quotations, apostrophe, ampersand, and the numerals were all drawn from scratch and give the typeface a friendly and approachable voice.
Although Hillary lost in November, we are truly grateful to have worked with such an incredible team.
Hillary for America, 2016 campaign for President Sharp Sans
The new Sharp Sans is completely redrawn and shaped by the rigorous typographic demands of modern visual communications. What sets the new Sharp Sans apart is a raised x-height, and newly opened counters that give it utility for both text and display layouts; a new, more versatile approach, of which the two Display versions were not previously designed for.
Jennifer Kinon, a founding partner of New York City design firm, OCD, took an extended leave from her studio to serve as the Design Director for Hillary of America. Kinon art directed the revisions to the new Sharp Sans while expanding the campaign’s identity and teaching each campaign office how to use it.
Pentagram writes: ‘There’s nothing quite like experiencing New York City on a bike, especially on a beautiful spring day surrounded by thousands of fellow riders. On Sunday, May 4, over 32,000 cyclists will bike 40 miles of traffic-free streets in the annual TD Five Boro Bike Tour, presented by the non-profit organization Bike New York. Pentagram’s Emily Oberman and team have designed the graphics for this year’s Tour, as well as the promotional campaign for Bike Expo New York, a two-day event that leads up to the big ride.’
Frauen, designed by Lucas Sharp, in use in YODO (#YouOnlyDesignOnce), a new column devoted to graphic design, published every month in IL magazine. IL is designed & art directed by Francesco Franchi. Frauen appeared in issue no.75 of IL magazine, November 2015.
Magculture writes: ‘It’s is a new 40-page Sunday cultural supplement called Robinson—the name refers to Robinson Crusoe, the idea being that culture has become an island that needs an expert to help navigate it.’
New Directions, the publisher of this reissued set of Muriel Spark’s fiction writes: ‘Muriel Spark (1918–2006) began a prolific forty year career as a poet, essayist and novelist some time after marrying and living in Rhodesia, divorcing, moving to London, working for UK intelligence during World War II, and editing The Poetry Review. Of Scottish origin, Spark is remembered for the rare artistry of her audacious and often self-reflective fictions (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Memento Mori, The Comforters, etc).’
The series was designed by Paul Sahre and Erik Carter for The Office of Paul Sahre. The series is tied together with beautiful collages of the author, overlaid with bright colors and a light weight of Sharp Sans Display No.2 set in All Caps with the Herb Lublin-inspired ligatures and leaning alternates in use.
“How do images of the future shape the city in the present? What competing futures are emerging in the urban fabric? Dwell in Other Futures is a two-day festival of art and ideas exploring the collisions of race, urbanism, and futurism, providing a platform for alternate visions of the St. Louis to come.”
The identity programme for this exchbition was designed by Noah Baker
Two A4-sized printed pages + a 420 x 594mm fold-out poster featuring Lucas Sharp’s Sharp Grotesk. Printed on Mohawk Superfine in fluorescent red, black and silver. Hole punched to fit in an A4 binder.
Swiss styling collides with the wonky imperfectionism of Industrial Era American wood type in Lucas Sharp’s monument to Adrian Frutiger, Sharp Grotesk. With its exuberant personality, ink traps, and incredible range of styles, Sharp Grotesk is a brand new and uniquely American perspective on the genre of the multi-width grotesk. Beginning as hand drawn poster lettering in 2011, the full family of 259 fonts was completed in 2017.