The other week I wrote a font “coming of age” story. I have another, this time featuring Futura, and some of her decendents.
Released in 1927 by the Bauer Type Foundry, Futura was designed by the German typographer Paul Renner before he scuppered his career with an anti-Nazi pamphlet Kulturbolschewismus (which I’ll confess I’ve never read). It was a departure from the late 19th/early 20th century “print jobber” typefaces like Akzidenz-Grotesk or Franklin Gothic in that it completely abandoned so called humanist proportions for purer hard geometry. The “O” is basically a perfect circle with almost no variation in the stroke.(more…)
If you’ve been involved making the interwebs, then you’ve dealt with SEO. In yee olden days it was mostly about linking strategies and just making sure your keywords were present. As the
search engines Google got more sophisticated, so too did the strategies to elevate search position.
And I’m just going to say it. It’s gotten stupid. You can tell when people are writing for SEO, and it sucks.(more…)
I remember the first time I was moved nearly to tears by a typeface. It was at an art supply store in the East Village in the early ‘90s. In those days, the web didn’t really exist yet, so research was something you had to do on foot.
I was playing guitar in a hazy, nominally gothy, band and had taken on the graphic design duties (what ultimately started me on the path that became ‘advertising’). We were all obsessed with the graphic design being produced by Vaughan Oliver for the record label 4AD.
Etherial imagery with adventurous typography, his work thrilled me.
Trying to unlock his secrets, I would spend hours looking at type specimens. And then I found it. Gill Sans medium. The capital “G” hit me like a cudgel right to my heart. (Later, when I was working on W Hotels at RDAI, I had to work with Gill Sans all the time, and that experience cured me entirely of my affection for the font.)
But I didn’t have access to a Mac back then so typesetting was all via Letraset. I somehow got ahold of a typographer’s ruler, with picas and points and would carefully measure out each phrase, and then painstakingly rub the letters in. I could never get the kerning right, but I spent an absurd number of hours trying. I think in some ways I cared more about typography in those days than I did the music. Maybe if I spent more time practicing and less time trying to make Letraset look like proper typesetting, we would have made it… (Narrator: “They would not have.”)
The second typeface that got me in the gut was Garamond. Specifically the lower case ‘a’ from Garamond #3 from Linotype.
This was later. I was out of college and working for a small multimedia studio in Tribeca. I forget why, or what I was doing, but I needed get close in on the work and zoomed in (we were now on Macs) so the character filled the whole screen, and the majesty of it, the sheer beauty just kicked me right in the face.
The third typeface that emotionally struck me was Helvetica, but in a different way. Many designers successfully crank out wonderful work with it out all day long, but Helvetica and I have never quite gotten along. The capital R is, to my eye, as wretched and ugly a creature as can be wrought, at least by a serious person.
(Don’t @ me with Comic Sans or whatever.)
That awkward curve at the top of the leg… WTF? And the weird spur at the bottom, like some vestigial serif equivalent of a tailbone. But it’s not vestigial at all—Helvetica is the bastard child of the 19th Century “print jobber” family Akzidenz Grotesk, which has a perfectly sensible straight leg and no spur.
I really want to like it. I love a lot of things set in Helvetica. My beloved copy of Müller-Brockmann’s Raster Systeme Fur Die Visuele Gestaltung sits proudly on my desk. But I just can’t. In my hands, and in the work for which I am accountable, it just sits wrong.
Every now and again a project comes along that makes the whole commercial creative thing “worth it.” I mean, when a client is paying your rate, it’s almost always worth it on a transactional level, but as the great Paula Scher points it out, when you do it just for the money, it’s never enough money. So it’s nice to be involved with work that connects to something deeper on some level.
Sometimes that’s a social issue, and I’ve been fortunate to have been involved in a number of projects that are driven by creative that encourages positive behaviors rather than “just” selling stuff. Other times, it’s about creating work that has its own intrinsic aesthetic value that happens to be in the service of a business/initiative goal. That’s rarer (or has been for me).
This project for Google Arts & Culture and South African Tourism is definitely in the latter category. The brief was to create a video to add an emotional layer to the experience. We knew a generic ‘ad copywriter aspirational manifesto’ wouldn’t be interesting, it needed to be authentic which means it needed to be specific. Because she is a poet and not a copywriter, Siphokazi Jonas was able to bring a much needed point of view that we were able to bring to life.
Let’s make something beautiful? (Turn on the sound)
I think it’s sometimes hard to demonstrate practical creativity in a meaningful way. After all, the function of creative in a marketing context is to engage the audience enough to get the message, which is not always aligned with the business objective. A lot of “bad” advertising is the result of prioritizing the marketer’s priorities over the audience’s. A lot of “great” advertising is just about making a nugget of content worth experiencing and then tagging a logo at the end. (Geico notoriously does this well.)
Here I just wanted to make something pretty for a promotional piece where “beautiful’ was the message.