The lovely people at Monotype launched a new tool which presents fonts in a totally new way. Part of this is personally curated type lists by curators such as Abott Miller (Pentagram), Andy Payne (Interbrand), Monotype designers like Dan Rhatigan, ADC Young Guns... and little old me.
Of course always one to make a mountain out of a molehill (a good mountain, of course), my list was on places and their connections to typefaces. Along with writing and research I made a series of wallpapers for type lovers. Hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoyed working on it.
Hardly any surprises here, Helvetica is rolling in as the type-face of New York. Proving–like the aforementioned Gill Sans–that transport makes a big impact on the face of a city. Four letters of American Typewriter are also very familiar as being quite New York to the world, due to Milton Glaser’s I heart NYC mark. However it’s Massimo Vignelli’s choice of Helvetica that New Yorkers know the ins and outs of.
The word Helvetica originates from a derivative of the Swiss goddess, Helvetia. Helvetia is the national personification of the Swiss Confederacy, whose American counterpoint is the Statue of Liberty.
I think I can confidently say that if you ask a designer Family Fortune style what imagery represents London and the UK to them, our survey says top answer would be the iconic London Underground Map, perhaps somewhere in the list would be Penguin Books, and maybe even the BBC would get a few votes. What these three have in common goes back to their type.
The widely used Gill Sans was designed by the English type designer Eric Gill and issued by Monotype in 1928 to 1930. Believe it or not, Eric Gill’s lettering teacher was Edward Johnston, the fella who designed the lettering for the London Transport and Underground Signage. Hence my reasoning for picking Gill Sans, a typeface that no matter how much I squint my eyes at it, it speaks to me in a London accent, and core blimey, it’s scrumptious.
Having lived in Amsterdam and working as a designer, I possibly could be a teeny tiny bit biased on selecting Avenir as the typeface for this one. However even the average tourist and my Mom comes away from a visit to Amsterdam with a distinct image in their mind of what font looks like in the city, despite not knowing about type.
Avenir–designed by the prolific Adrian Frutiger–is the typeface for the city’s identity, developed by EDEN (now Edenspiekermann). OK I’ll admit, I did make some Amsterdam posters in my time there. But through it’s bold use from everything down to signage, amsterdam.nl and the giant I amsterdam sign, it’s hard to ignore. Avenir is more stylish than your average sans-serif, and not completely round, or sensible.
If you believe, they put a man on the moon, then you should believe that the first typeface to make it to the moon was Futura. Futura has been so often used it’s hard to say one place owns it, so hard in fact that I felt it needed to go to space. In 1969 the Apollo 11 astronauts left a commemorative plaque on the moon set in Futura (Futura Medium, to be exact).
32 years later Futura would again be associated with space as famously used for the 2001: A Space Odyssey film titles and credits. Futura was not the first geometric sans-serif typeface ever created, but it came in close as the second. Derived completely from geometric near perfect forms, Futura sits legibly, cleanly and stylishly. That’s one small step for Paul Renner, one giant leap for type design.
The charming Apartamento magazine was started in Barcelona in a tiny room in one of the founder’s homes. An interiors magazine like no other, the spaces featured in Apartamento are lived in, small, full of thoughtful possessions and mostly by creative types. ITC Clearface is used as the bold headline typeface throughout the magazine.
I’ll admit, it’s not a Spanish typeface or one that used throughout the city of Barcelona. But since the first publishing of Apartamento in April of 2008 the typeface is gradually becoming representative of a certain Spanish special-something.
Gap in the market perhaps, but If there were to ever be a period TV show about typography, the story of the Didot dynasty sounds like it has a lotta weight to it (apologies for the pun). Firmin Didot was born into a French typefounding family that had a huge presence in the industry for two whole centuries. His family even owned their own printing firm, the House of Didot.
If having that lineage wasn’t a big enough story in itself, Firmin Didot would go on to create the first modern Roman typeface in 1784, and he has left his Parisian mark in the world today as the namesake of the infamous typeface Didot, which truly captures Modern style.
If you’re looking for a utilitarian, legible and precise typeface that communicates the feeling of Germany, then DIN 1451 could be exactly what you’re looking for. There was no willy-nilly-ing around, in Din 1451 was developed by DIN (Deutsches Institut fur Normung or The German Institute for Standardisation in English) as a sans-serif typeface used for railways, administration and traffic purposes.
Nowadays you might recognise Din in the New York City Ballet identity, or the opening titles of Dexter, or even on a plane in the JetBlue logo. Aber das ist gut, ja?