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Ideal Sans | Hoefler & Frere-Jones

Ideal Sans | Hoefler & Frere-Jones

Life - The Type

As a closet typography nerd, it's always fun to learn about a new typeface. Or, in this case, a new-to-me typeface. I'm enjoying the trend that's shown up in book publishing the last few years where the reader is informed what type the book is set in. Yesterday I finished Lee Child's latest Jack Reacher novel, Worth Dying For, and at the end we're introduced to the type of Life:

"The text of this book was set in Life, a typeface designed by W. Bilz, and jointly developed by Ludwig & Mayer and Francesco Simoncini 1965. This contemporary design is in the transitional style of the eighteenth century. Life is a versatile text face and is a registered trademark of Simoncini S.A." Here is how it looks in the book:

Life, the typeface

A version of Life can be can be purchased from Veer.

Another for my typophile homies

(And for those of you who, like me, may still have a celebrity crush on Vanna White left over from the `80s.)

I have to agree with Scott Simpson: there's just something about the way Vanna says "Helvetica"... [Wave of the phin to the same Mr. Simpson for the link.]

For my typophile homies

[Via Lee on IM.]

A Talledega night and a real type-cast film

Last evening, my bride and I had a date night, which included a viewing of Will Ferrell's Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Two enthusiastic thumbs-up, a Retrophisch™ Recommends. I laughed so hard at certain points, I cried. The out takes/"alternative scenes" at the end were worth the price of admission alone. My wife was right; the movie is so ridiculous, it's funny. Too often, comedy films are just outright ridiculous, and you're lucky to let loose with a few chuckles. Pure ridiculousness will only get you so far with the movie-viewing public. Pure ridiculousness in the hands of a master like Ferrell, however, will garner you big laughs. Such is the case with Talledega Nights, which even includes an exceptionally brief homage to the late Dale Earnhardt. (If you blink, you'll miss it; it's that fast. Fittingly appropriate, given the subject matter.) There's a lot to worry about in our world: Israel under attack in the Middle East; Iran and North Korea with nuclear power; Islamofascist terrorism; oil prices still way too high; our jobs; our families. Sometimes, we just need a good laugh, to forget about all the troubles for a couple of hours, and Talledega Nights fills the bill. Go see it.

* * *

In what may be the ultimate example of type-casting, there is a documentary under way about Helvetica. (It's a font, for those of you who don't know. Microsoft's Arial is a blatant rip-off wanna-be of it.) I am very tempted to nab a shirt. Director Gary Hustwit:

Why make a film about a typeface, let alone a feature documentary film about Helvetica? Because it's all around us. You've probably already seen Helvetica several times today. It might have told you which subway platform you needed, or tried to sell you investment services or vacation getaways in the ads in your morning paper. Maybe it gave you the latest headlines on television, or let you know whether to 'push' or 'pull' to open your office door.

Since millions of people see and use Helvetica every day, I guess I just wondered, "Why?" How did a typeface drawn by a little-known Swiss designer in 1957 become one of the most popular ways for us to communicate our words fifty years later? And what are the repercussions of that popularity, has it resulted in the globalization of our visual culture? Does a storefront today look the same in Minneapolis, Melbourne and Munich? How do we interact with type on a daily basis? And what about the effects of technology on type and graphic design, and the ways we consume it? Look for the film in 2007. [Via the Iconfactory.]

Weblogs, Pamphlets and Public Citizens: Changing Modern Media

Speaking of Tom, he's authored a great paper as part of the Master's program he's enrolled in. Titled "Weblogs, Pamphlets and Public Citizens: Changing Modern Media", in which he compares the citizen journalists of today's blogosphere to the pamphleteers of pre-Revolutionary War America. I got a sneak peek during the drafting and editing phase, and I think it's really good. Some choice quotes:

The effects of blogs in a new media environment are twofold: Weblogs cover stories that their mainstream media counterparts, for editorial reasons or other gatekeeping practices common in modern professional media, omit or miss entirely; and weblogs also bring to bear an ever-vigilant group of diverse problem solvers that fact-check the work of many reporters and journalists in the mass-media arena. This makes the blogosphere an excellent addendum to mass media, operating as both appendix and errata to the main compendium of stories that the mass media puts into the public sphere using trained reporters and journalists. and As technology had advanced further, producing Really Simple Syndication (RSS), a distribution method that allows for easy and automatic syndication of new additions to weblogs, it has become possible for a consumer of media to add weblogs to their daily news diet. This allows for readers to mix and match their media, creating a new media outlet that is personally tailored to their interests and to their pursuits. Using an RSS-reader application on a personal computer, a sports fan can have a forty-page sports section and a one page local section, or a political junkie can have page after page of differing commentary from a variety of sources. The reader becomes their own editor and gatekeeper, combining multiple weblogs and conventional media sources, which have also adopted RSS, into their own personal fountain of news and commentary. If you've read Dan Gillmor's We The Media and/or Hugh Hewitt's Blog, some of Tom's piece will sound familiar, especially in that he cites the former as a source, but I say the familiarity makes Tom's arguments stronger. Good work, my friend!

That smart FontExplorer

So like a lot of the Macintosh-using world, I've been dinking around with Linotype's FontExplorer X, and I like it. I used Suitcase when I worked in the graphic design support world, and it was a good app, but always felt cumbersome. Not so with FontExplorer X. Jon Armstrong notes the use of the app's Smart Set feature, and I can see myself taking advantage of this quickly. Being able to sort fonts in to their own foundry sets is at the top of my list. I'm curious to see how many Fontosaurus types I still have kicking around. (Go, buy from Dan, support a one-man font shop.)

Microsoft fonts still in Tiger

John Gruber notes that the Microsoft fonts typically associated with and installed with Internet Explorer are still present in Mac OS X Tiger. Good news for web designers, and all those who appreciate a good font; Verdana and Georgia are among my favorites in their respective categories. Verdana is my default web and e-mail reading font, and I generally use Georgia for all of my styled text editing. As a matter of fact, it's the font my resume is set in.

Times vs Times

Jason Kottke points to an interesting backgrounder on Times Roman and Times New Roman.

Font lust

Hoefler & Frere-Jones have two great fonts out, Gotham and Whitney. Gotham is especially notable, as it is the font being used for the inscription on the cornerstone of the Freedom Tower in Manhattan.

The typeface, Gotham, deliberately evokes the blocky, no-nonsense, unselfconscious architectural lettering that dominated the streetscape from the 1930's through the 1960's in building names, neon signs, hand-lettered advertisements and lithographed posters.

Its chief inspiration, in fact, were the letters spelling out PORT AUTHORITY BUS TERMINAL over the terminal's Eighth Avenue doors. So the circle comes to a close, since the trade center site is owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The choice of Gotham is more than a matter of typographical arcana (though as typographical arcana go, it's not bad). As the first tangible element of the Freedom Tower - and, by extension, the trade center redevelopment - and as an image seen nationwide on Independence Day, the cornerstone sent an aesthetic signal of intent. As a fontaholic, I would love to own both. However, at 500 bucks a pop, I have no monetary justification for doing so. At least we get a good portion of the Hoefler Text family included free in Mac OS X.