Ephemeral remains of Stephen Coles.
Writer, editor, typographer.
Oakland and Berlin.

Background image: BonBon Kakku
Title typeface: Times New Roman

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Posts tagged fonts

A lot of the ornamental typefaces from the Victorian era were pretty wild, but I’ve never seen anything quite like Vassar, found in the specimens of Farmer, Little & Co. back to about 1886. Nick Curtis digitized the face and released it as Foxcroft NF in 2005. It’s certainly not a complete revival, as its missing stuff like the alternate ‘S’ seen in “VASSAR” at 36pt in the first specimen above.

I’d like to see Rian Hughes take a crack at this — in his own devious way of course.

Titles and marketing for the Netflix series House of Cards are set in a Trajan-like typeface called Pacioli. The font is based on the work of Luca Pacioli in his 1509 mathematical treatise De divina proportione. You can see that source alphabet (and the rest of the book) at the Internet Archive.

Table of ATF Gothics in the late 1950s

“These are fragments from an as-yet-unidentified (to me, at least) ATF catalog. They were distributed by Perfection Type, Inc. of Minneapolis, an authorized ATF type dealer. Thanks are due to Sky Shipley of Skyline Type Foundry for preserving these fragments (as they came to him) and making them available.” — Dr. David M. MacMillan of Circuitous Root

It’s a good reference for the range of ATF gothics — members of extended, dysfunctional “families” that were never realized as large, cohesive typeface families until 40 or so years later with releases like Benton Sans and ITC Franklin.

Letters by designer Tânia Raposo

Specimens of chromatic wood type borders etc. manufactured by Wm. H. Page & Co., 1874 (via Columbia University Libraries)

Thanks,  Jesse Ragan

Spartan, produced in the late 1930s, was Mergenthaler Linotype and ATF’s knockoff of the extremely popular Futura (Bauer). If you see Futura in a magazine or newspaper published in mid-century America, there’s a good chance it’s actually Spartan (or the other followers: Twentieth Century, Tempo, or Vogue).

“Although it is claimed to have been derived from several similar European typefaces, the differences between it and Futura are so slight that for most practical purposes they are almost interchangeable.” — Mac McGrew in American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century

Still, like many imitations, Spartan offered some things the original did not: such as a double-story alternate ‘a’ (shown in the Linotype specimen), special “Advertising Figures”, and unique “Classified” cuts (released later) for very small type. The originality of the Classified fonts could explain why they are the only styles available in digital form. For a digitization of Spartan that emulates a rough printed impression, check out Mark Simonson’s Metallophile.

The images above are excerpts from the complete specimens found in The Silver Buckle Press Collection at the University of Wisconsin. Direct links: ATF specimen, Linotype specimen.

FHWA Series F, the widest (and most charming) style from the type family found alongside most of the highways (and many of the city streets) in the US. The alphabets were originally designed in 1966, updated in 1977, and then again in 2000, only to supplanted in many jurisdictions by the new Clearview font family in 2004. Still, a nationwide transformation to Clearview will take decades — individual states get to decide whether to use the new typeface, and once they do, most don’t replace existing signs until they are in physical disrepair.

Interstate, the typeface family initiated by Tobias Frere-Jones and published by Font Bureau, is a professional type designer’s take on the FHWA Series alphabets, and has become one of the most popular typefaces of the last 20 years.

Interstate offers many weights and widths, but not anything as wide as Series F. Those seeking fonts in this style might like Sweet Sans (web version).

Odesta, a typeface in progress by Ondrej Jób

Our annual review of typefaces is up. Thanks to my contributors for making this such a pleasure to compile and edit every year.

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