In addition to enamel signs, matchbook covers, cigar bands, vintage tins and more, fruit crate labels hold a lofty position among the inspirations for my work. Their deep, rich colors and decorative typography provide a splendid tableau to tell a story that delights as well as, informs. The perfect lockup is, of course, a story about farming or produce as was the case for a recent article in the storied Los Angeles Magazine.
I was pleased (and surprised) to be able to introduce some textures reminiscent of the originals which were printed in a multitude of colors from hand-rendered plates. The credit for the orange peel goes to Adobe's Illustrator's distort/glass filter and the shading on the leaves, to the Andromeda Screens plug-in in Photoshop.
As always, I'm only trying to define the composition in rough sketches. I get the details worked out in the finished art if I am lucky. So, I can do many sketches which lets the AD play the fun game of "what if we took this from this sketch and this from that sketch...etc.?" -which we did with this job.
Sometimes, you just have to get things wrong before you get them right. Such was the case with a cover of New Jersey Monthly for the very kind and understanding Laura Baer. I started out sketching a bunch of tired dentist clichés. We narrowed them down to one with an awards plaque. I went right to the computer, which is my usual process after one of my incomprehensible scribbles is chosen but, ended up with something I wasn't sure I could save in the finish.
Fortunately, a wise editor noted the "awards plaque" looked too much like a law enforcement badge. I was actually relieved to have another chance at solving this cover and when Laura pointed to one I did a few years' back for another magazine, the course was clear. Although I did have a concern about copying another piece of art, I rationalized, if you're going to rip someone off, make it someone you really admire.
I went immediately to the most obvious images I could think of that related to dentistry i.e. toothpaste lettering, a bottle of mouthwash etc. When the plaque idea was chosen, I struggled with it, going as far as to do a in-between sketch in pencil but still, ended up with a tight sketch I wasn't sure I could salvage.
The cover Laura suggested was done for a completely different subject but, the geometric design was adaptable to nearly any headline so, we went with the decorative rather than symbolic. Hey, whatever works.
There was really no need to go to rough sketches again so I just wrangled the copy into a similar composition with the kind assistance of Adobe Illustrator's 3D effect. The image on the left shows the outline mode and, although the 3D effect has already been applied, it doesn't show up until you view it in preview mode.
I recently played a game on Instagram where everyone posted a different letter of the alphabet each day. It's fascinating to see what your contemporaries, both professional and otherwise, come up with. Especially cool is that they were from all around the world.
I went back and, agonized through years of making words and found 26 letters and 10 numbers. My goal: find the ones I liked the best (or hated the least). Of course, when these letters were created, they each had a purpose and a story to relate so, I'm posting them here with some background for each.
Everything you always wanted to know about type: but were afraid to ask.
There was a time when type was created by a small number of artisans, trained by apprenticeship to the masters who preceded them. Creating fonts was a painstaking, tedious process and those ubiquitous symbols were shown respect and reverence. As befitting such vital resources, they were presented to printers and designers in elegant volumes.
Digital technology gave the resources for creating fonts to a much wider audience and a new generation of “typographers” came into being. Sadly, their passion to create was rarely matched by their skills or craftsmanship and so, the glorious legacy of great typography began to fade. With the availability to view, download and cluelessly mangle an infinite variety of fonts, the type book in physical form became nearly extinct.
Enter James Montalbano, a prolific modern day typographer with an uncompromising dedication to perfection, expertise with digital tools and a clear view of the history and continuing evolution of typography. Leveraging previously unavailable technology (and working ceaselessly), James has created a staggering collection of font families featuring numerous variations in weights, widths, alternate character sets and glyphs suitable for text in pretty much any language you’ll encounter.
His foundry, name, Terminal Design, comes from typographic nomenclature for the “terminal” or precise end of a stroke. Not satisfied to simply provide resources for nearly any conceivable designer’s task, James has assembled and published a definitive resource and a respectful nod to a lost tradition. Redeeming a classic format, the Terminal Design Type Catalog, eloquently executed by Charles Nix, of Monotype, presents character sets, one-line showings and particularly useful text settings in the tradition of great book design. As if this were not sufficient, the catalog concludes with appendixes of display and text parings and is indexed by x-height, stylistic set and type family.
Finally, for those of us who sometimes have a difficult time distinguishing one font from another, present company included, there is a fascinating section called earmarks. As explained by Mr. Montalbano: “The details of a serif font—the shape of the apex on an A, the serif structure, the size and placement of the jot on an i, the leg of an R, the tail of a Q—are the subtle but essential characteristics that help us discern and choose faces. In the pages that follow, these typographic moments are put under the microscope for your investigation and comparison.”
A rich and useful resource? The Zen of typography or both? You decide.
Understated opening and conclusion to a treasury of type.
The details of a serif font—the shape of the apex on an A, the serif structure, the size and placement of the jot on an i, the leg of an R, the tail of a Q—are the subtle but essential characteristics that help us discern and choose faces. In the pages that follow, these typographic moments are put under the microscope for your investigation and comparison.
Taking advantage of OpenType features to extend the range of a font to countless alternate and contextual characters.
In the haute cuisine of typography, subtle pairings allay monotony and elicit synergy.
The many options of character weight and width and comparisons of x-height.
Text samples in different, sizes, line widths and lins spacing, position and border dimensions.
Every line show a different member of this extensive type family.