028 – Friday, 4th December 2020
Hello again! I’m Mark, and this is the Specimen Digest, a weekly typography newsletter.
We’re having our kitchen renovated this week. Months of lockdown here in Wales has made us notice every nook and cranny. Every thing out of place. Every little drawer or light switch not working exactly how we’d like it. Living in an old property, you get used to having to compromise. Straight lines? No chance. Insulation? If you’re lucky. And don’t you dare start opening up walls. Last time we did that we nearly had to replace an entire ceiling.
At some point in this story I’ll attempt to make an analogy to typefaces, right? I’ll end up saying: ‘You know, living in an old house is a lot like choosing a typeface…’. Truth is, I do this all the time. It drives my family nuts, I think. Especially my daughters who continually roll their eyes whenever I start a sentence with ‘You know…’. BUT…
It is like choosing a typeface! Especially one which you have to live with for a while. A lot of designers are lucky. We get to choose type for other people and not have to live with those decisions. We don’t get to experience what it’s like to work with them for a year, or two, or ten. When we’re choosing type for clients we don’t even have to pay for them! Not the big money, anyway! So, today, my kitchen has reminded me of the importance of living with something for a good while. Not judging it. Just sitting with it. Letting it stew. I think, only then, after a while, can you start to make good decisions about change.
This purposeful contemplation is a core principle of the Slow Movement. Borrowing a philosophy from the Slow Food movement in the 80’s, slow design aims to more aligned with the natural pace of things. Sounds a bit hippy, right? Especially when clients are paying for time. But there’s the thing: clients are not paying for time. That’s a myth that’s been sold for the past 60 years. Clients are paying for outcomes. And, sometimes, those outcomes don’t come from moving fast and breaking things, but from adjusting processes to more naturally align with human behaviour, sustainability, and environmental awareness.
Good decisions – even little ones, like my new light switch – come from emphasising thoughtful, methodical, and sustainable creation. Because we have to live with these decisions. And, I, for one, can’t live with a wonky light switch for another moment.
Speak to you next week!
Monument Mono Dinamo’s specimens continue to surprise and delight and this one for Monument Mono is no exception. Playful, oversized user interface elements coupled with some introductory photography. Don’t be fooled, though, this is a seriously usable specimen with stacked type testers and lots of detailed information.
Monotalic A quirky typeface with a conventional specimen layout. That said, I was drawn to the scale of the type on show here. Just huge glyphs in the waterfall show off the design to its full potential.
Queens Stacked type testers are the order of the day for this specimen for Queens. Shown full width, with minimal controls, the type testers give way to a few features at the bottom of the specimen page. All that aside, the notable design feature of this specimen is the UI for adding different weights to the cart. Clever.
VIRAL Excellent copywriting for this fabulous display font. ‘A collaboration between four designers/illustrators, this typeface is a recipe for quarantining in 2020: a dash of paranoia, a scoop of cabin fever, and 1,000+ glasses of wine.’ The result has an Ed Fella flavour to it.
F37 Caslon This specimen for F37 Caslon from foundry f37 strikes the right balance between form and function. Opening with extremely large type designed to show off the design features of the glyphs, the specimen is one of only a handful available that demonstrate the type working in comparative paragraph settings.
The Gujarati Type Foundry specimen book from 1940 is online at the Letterform archive. Such beautiful work.
Want a whole website about control panel interfaces? Plenty of typographic inspiration here.
Do you write code? This is a useful little website from CSS Tricks to preview coding fonts.
I’m still surprised of the amount of education that has to happen around new font technology. Variable fonts aside, even OpenType continues to need ongoing education for designers. An ode to OpenType: Fall in love with the secret world of fonts is a great article over on Figma on the basics.