Jon Contino

The super productive Jon Contino has just relaunched his portfolio stuffed with great typographical works and since I have been planning to post something about him, it is as good a time as ever to do so.

The super productive Jon Contino has just relaunched his portfolio stuffed with great typographical works and since I have been planning to post something about him, it is as good a time as ever to do so.

He calls himself an Alphastructaesthetitologist, but in my mind Contino is simply the king of NYC hand lettering. The raw old-world feel of his work certainly strikes a chord with me, and his impressive client list suggests I am not alone in my sentiments.

I have been trying my best at creating a time machine through lettering. – Jon Contino

If you were wondering where his talent stems from, Jon claims that his mom’s hand is consistently better than his own lettering and she always shows him up when it comes to holiday cards!

It’s hard to select a fair representation from his diverse portfolio, but below are a few examples of Jon Contino’s work. For plenty more check out his website, blog and his brand CXXVI.

The works of Jon Contino

The works of Jon Contino

The works of Jon Contino

The works of Jon Contino

The works of Jon Contino

The works of Jon Contino
I was lucky enough to snag one of these puppies from CXXVI before they sold out.

The works of Jon Contino

The works of Jon Contino

Fonts in use

This post is about three different, yet related things that caught my attention in recently…

This post is about three different, yet related things that caught my attention recently…

1. Live the language commercials

EF (Education First) released “four short films that will make you want to pack your bags” and travel to Paris, Barcelona, Beijing and London. They got Stockholm based Art director & designer Albin Holmqvist to take care of the beautiful typographic treatment in each video.

EF Typography by Albin Holmqvist

EF Typography by Albin Holmqvist

EF Typography by Albin Holmqvist

EF Typography by Albin Holmqvist

I am super excited to be visiting Spain soon, so I decided to post the Barcelona video below, but be sure to take a look at the other three commercials too.

EF – Live The Language – Barcelona

2. Fonts in use

The Fonts in Use project is a great idea and is best explained by editor Stephen Coles:

At Fonts In Use we’ll catalog and examine real-world typography wherever it appears — branding, advertising, signage, packaging, publications, in print and online — with an emphasis on the typefaces used.

Parisian fontMr Dafoe fontNeutraface fontBrothers font

Curious about the fonts used by Holmqvist in the Paris commercial? Look no further, Fonts in Use offers a fantastic analysis.

3. Logotypes for EF destinations

Following the success of his work on Live the Language, Holmqvist was commissioned by EF to create logotypes for each of their 40 destinations worldwide including my home city, Cape Town. Below are a couple of examples, see more in his portfolio at albinholmqvist.com.

Cape Town logotype by Albin Holmqvist

Toronto logotype by Albin Holmqvist

San Francisco logotype by Albin Holmqvist

Asperger East Anglia identity

The Click is a design consultancy based in Norwich, England. They recently developed a striking, crisp typographic visual identity for Asperger East Anglia.

The Click is a design consultancy based in Norwich, England. They recently developed a new visual identity for Asperger East Anglia, a charity dedicated to offering information and assistance to those who suffer from Asperger syndrome.

The result is a striking, crisp typographic solution.

Central to this is the letter ‘A’, initial of Asperger, from which the frank, literal title of each product extends – A Note, A Letter, A Message.

Asperger East Anglia visual identity

Asperger East Anglia visual identity

Asperger East Anglia visual identity

Asperger East Anglia visual identity

Asperger East Anglia visual identity

Asperger East Anglia visual identity

Via: Identity Designed

Using a baseline grid

There hase been a notable resurgence of the International Typographic Style (aka Swiss Style) in graphic design lately and along with this trend, grids are big right now. Baseline grids in particular have been enjoying a lot of fresh attention, so this post is simply to consolidate some of the learning and resources I have come across.

First things first, what is the baseline?

Diagram explaining typographic baseline

Baseline refers to the line upon which most letters “sit” and below which descenders extend. It is important to note that glyphs with rounded lower extents usually dip very slightly below the baseline to create the optical illusion that they sit on the baseline.

Leading is the distance between baselines. The term originated in the era of manual typesetting, when thin strips of lead were used to space lines of type. The term is still used in print layout software like Adobe InDesign. In CSS the “line-height” property controls the leading.

Right, moving along…

Much has been written about the merits of using a grid in design. The first exposure I had to the principle was probably Khoi Vinh’s 2004 article on his Subtraction.com redesign. Column grids are pretty simple; divide your page into an equal amount of columns, decide on a gutter width (if any) and align the elements on your page to these columns.

Baseline grids are another story altogether. I have been experimenting with baseline grids in my own web and print design work for over a year now and they are a lot more tricky. The idea of a baseline grid is that the bottom of every line of text (the baseline) corresponds with a vertical baseline grid, set in even increments. CSS makes it difficult to apply all elements to a baseline grid since properties like margin, border, padding and line-height can disturb your vertical layout.

There are several good reasons for using a baseline grid, but the two that I find most logical are, vertical rythm and the baseline being a compositional aid – baseline grids add a sense of visual balance to your design and help you decide where to position elements. Leaving the positioning of elements to chance is something of the past for me! Of course grids should be treated only as guidelines in design and not as restrictive rules.

Ok, enough theory, on to the resources

Now go forth and experiment with baseline grids. If you have any tips and tricks of your own, please drop a comment below!

Figural Cameos

Cameo refers to type design in which the characters are reversed out of a black background. In figural cameos, the background typically depicts the product or service being advertised.

Cameo refers to type design in which the characters are reversed out of a dark background. In figural cameos, the background typically depicts the product or service being advertised. Judging by the dates on some of these vintage mail items, this form of branding reached it’s height in the 1800s, although I have seen quite a few contemporary designs referencing this unique artform.

Figural Cameo

Figural Cameo

Figural Cameo

Figural Cameo

Figural Cameo

Figural Cameo

Figural Cameo

Figural Cameo

I originally came across these images on Miss Moss and traced some more info on The Trade Card Place.

The future of screen fonts

Last month Dutch type foundry Typotheque released what they call “a parametric bitmap font system” called Elementar. Is this the future of screen fonts?

Last month Dutch type foundry Typotheque released what they call “a parametric bitmap font system” called Elementar. Designed by Gustavo Ferreira, the development of this project started back in 2002. The intention of Elementar is to address the issue of contemporary fonts rendering poorly on screen, especially at smaller sizes.

You see, the whole process of conventional font design is not geared towards optimal display on electronic screens. Fonts consist of curves forming the outlines of each individual glyph.

Font design outlines

The result from high resolution output devices like printers is smooth and crisp, but fonts do not translate well to the rasterised grid display of computer screens – they end up looking blurry, jagged and illegible. A process known as font hinting can be applied to align the outlines with the pixel grid for better display. The problem with hinting is that it is a time consuming and labour intensive job which does not make it financially viable for many type foundries. This has lead to lots of unhinted, poorly legible fonts found on the internet today. You can read more about this issue on Typographica.

Rather than adapting an outline font for electronic display, Elementar is produced within the parameters of the screen display grid. The resulting fonts are non-scaleable and size-specific, which makes it quite inflexible, but this issue is addressed by producing “thousands” of possible sizes, widths and weights. You can explore these combinations online or with a free iPad app, also released by Typotheque.

Elementar font system

I agree that screen type is in dire need of a better solution, but is Elementar it? To be honest it looks pretty damn old school. And with the advent of Apple’s Retina Display and the likes, do we even need to worry about the distinction between print and screen anymore? Maybe Elementar is nine years too late. What are your thoughts?

Wood Type Revival

An ambitious project to convert ten of the world’s rarest and most unique historic wood typefaces into digital fonts.

Matt Griffin and Matt Braun of Bearded have started the ambitious project of converting ten of the world’s rarest and most unique historic wood typefaces into digital Opentype fonts. The project has successfully been funded through the Kickstarter platform. They have released a sample of their intended result as a free font called Fatboy, available in the “Husky” weight.

Fatboy Husky font

Follow their progress on woodtyperevival.com or Twitter.

The fantastic work of Richard Arthur Stewart

Richard Arthur Stewart is one of those guys whose work I have admired time and time again, without ever knowing who the designer was… until now.

Richard Arthur Stewart is one of those guys whose work I have admired time and time again, without ever knowing who the designer was… until now. I finally happened upon his online portfolio where you can see plenty more of his work.

Design work of Richard Arthur Stewart

Design work of Richard Arthur Stewart

Design work of Richard Arthur Stewart

Design work of Richard Arthur Stewart

Design work of Richard Arthur Stewart

Better web typography with Javascript

Lettering.js is an innovative jQuery plugin that allows designers to take tweaking of web type to the next level. Combine Lettering.js with the Kern.js bookmarklet and some really interesting things become possible…

Lettering.js is an innovative jQuery plugin that allows designers to take tweaking of web type to the next level. Combine Lettering.js with the Kern.js bookmarklet and some really interesting things become possible!

Here are two articles from Typekit, complete with examples to show you how it’s done: