All Things Typographic: 4
ow many fonts do you think are now available in digital form? 25,000? 50,000? From what I can determine, designers are now in the luxurious position of being able to pick and choose from more than 100,000 fonts online. If that wasn't overwhelming enough, we seem to be in the thick of a typographic renaissance, with new fonts flooding onto the market, covering everything from carefully-crafted revivals and reinterpretations of classic faces to edgy new designs that are totally of this moment. That's the good news, but as is often the case it's also the bad news.
Keeping up with the new resources is a daunting prospect, since there's currently no single point of contact: new designs are often made available through one of the large font aggregation sites but some of the most interesting must be purchased on the sites of the designers. If you don't subscribe to the newsletters of these small shops you may never hear about them (note to self: create new site devoted to font release news). Given the sheer number of available fonts and their dispersed availability, finding the perfect font for a project is thus a process that can only take longer and longer.
To that end, you would think that vendors would do everything in their power to make this easier for their site visitors. For this to happen, at a bare minimum every font would have its entire character set clearly and cleanly displayed. The site would also provide a flexible way to render user-entered text strings. There would be an accompanying PDF which showed examples of the font at work, including the variations now possible with OpenType fonts. Icing on the cake would be text by the font creator, providing background and guidance on the type of documents and usages for which the font was designed.
Is this common? Or do you find yourself often looking in more than one place to really get a complete sense of a font, for example by combining the results of a search on one of the large vendor sites with more detailed information on the designer's site? Followed by plugging the name of the font or the designer into a search engine and hoping for the best. Font vendors and designers, please hear my plea: in the Age of Font Overload, you can't provide too much information to help customers make the right font purchase.
Julien Janiszewskis is a young French designer who makes his fonts available through such vendors as T26, Bitstream and ITC. Monotype Imaging recently announced the availability of his Loft font in its May newsletter, with the example above being intriguing enough that I visited Monotype's Fonts.com site to learn more. The description was solid enough, providing background on Janiszewski's inspiration and design objectives for Loft, as well as a brief quote. We learn that he was inspired by late 19th-century wooden type and influenced by the lettering of Parisian street signs.
This sounds at first like a somewhat retro project, but his objective couldn't be more modern: "I wanted to create a font suite that would enable graphic designers to create systematic solutions.” Janiszewski tackled this by creating a family of seven weights, with accompanying italics, built around some interesting design restrictions, such as fixed counter widths and the his handling of stroke terminations. Individual weights, as well as a Loft Family Pack, are available for purchase on the Fonts.com site. Speaking of which, it's hard to get a good idea of Loft from the small, jaggy font samples on Fonts.com. The example below is from a PDF available from the New Releases area and thank goodness for that. While Fonts.com makes available an admirable selection of fonts, hopefully they'll provide more and better-quality font samples in the future (as well as redesigning the site to kill the circa-1999 beveled buttons). Web 2.0, where are you when we need you?
Here's a case where I tried looking farther afield to track down more examples of Loft. It turns out that Janiszewski makes some of his fonts available directly through la laiterie, the typographic wing of his module graphic design agency. It's well worth a visit to check out such designs as Biot and Ambule, but Loft is alas not to be found.
dgv Lacrima and Halunken
I somehow missed the electric typewriter era, moving straight from a clunky old manual Remington to a CP/M-based Nelma Data Persona personal computer in 1983 (woot!). Nevertheless, it's hard to not admire the mechanical ingenuity that went into the creation of such classics as the IBM Correcting Selectric III, not a few of which are still to be found in daily use, 20 years after their introduction. Alexander Meyer, a freelance typographer and graphic designer based in Zurich, has drawn inspiration from the Selectric Light Italic font for the creation of Lacrima. Italian for teardrop, the name has as its origin the small "teardrops" found at the ends of some of the lowercase letters. Available in three weights, Lacrima can be purchased on the dgv site.
Martin Aleith, of the Berlin design bureau Pfadfinderei, has recently released Halunken (German for scoundrel) via dgv. The first thing that strikes the eye is the consistent x-height of the uppercase and lowercase letters, followed by a sense that some system is at work guiding the character shapes, and in fact the design is based on "the reflection of two unequal curves on a diagonal axis." If that sounds a bit dry, the result is a font with character that should find its place in the creation of headlines and logos, as dgv suggests. The font is available in regular and Slab versions (shown at the top, below), in both light and bold weights.