Posts tagged fonts
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.
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.
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.
Our annual review of typefaces is up. Thanks to my contributors for making this such a pleasure to compile and edit every year.
It’s been fun watching Martina Flor’s Supernova script develop over the last year. Today it exploded at Typotheque where it was given the foundry’s typically thorough documentation. This charming illustration from the article explains that scripts rarely have extended families like text typefaces do.
“Through its compact and square lines, Eurostile efficiently expresses modernity and synthesizes the tendency towards a functionalism that solves many aesthetic problems and gives a modern and typical appearance to a printed page.
Its outline is already familiar and unconsciously present whenever we look at a television set, which recalls the typical shape of an “O”, this same impression we get looking at a series of windows of fast moving vehicles. When we look at modern buildings we get the impression of countless letters “H” assembled together. The square shape with narrow curved angles is a typical architectural expression of our times, much as the round arc was of the Roman period, which produced the inscriptional characters of the ogive arch of the Gothic style, which produced the medieval faces.”