Following on from my work re-designing the Farfetch website and designing their Farfetch Discover iPhone and iPad apps, I was approached by their Art Direction team to collaborate on the design of a custom font for their printed ‘Farfetch Curates’ collection of books. Based on Avenir, but with added variety in weight across the vertical stokes, it maintains the original lightweight form, while adding contrast and structure to the characters.
Basing a font on an existing classic like Avenir may sound like a simple starting point, before you consider that you now need to improve the characters for it to be worth while. Some of the particular challenges came with the ampersand and number eight, purely as with so many curves it took a lot of tweaking to get them to feel the same weight as the simpler characters, like the ‘I’ or ‘T’. After a lot of back and forth between myself and Craig I think we got there though.
The next logical step would be working up the lower case characters, but as its only used as a display font for the time being I’ll wait and see if I get that call…
You can see examples of it in use in the Farfetch Curates series here
Tom Walsh / Craig McCarthy
A great new ‘type tester’ tool by Face37 owner Rick Banks which brings traditional design tools into play before asking for any commitment.
Designed with digital designer Francis Smith and built by developer Tom Duncalf this sets the bar at a new height. Taking the industry standard “somewhat clunky and restrictive” options of size, colour and alignment they’ve added in a toolkit giving you the flexibility of weight, leading, tracking and kerning, with Opentype features to boot. And that’s before you start dragging and dropping multiple text boxes. From having a quick play the only thing I can see that’s missing is adding a background image, but then we need to remember, this isn’t a design tool. We have Adobe and Sketch for that.
Have a play for yourself here (performs best in Chrome):
I’ve just uploaded two new sets with almost 100 characters each. One, the ‘UI Elements Light’ for the more subtly inclined, and a ‘UI Elements Heavy’ version when your interface needs a bit more weight to its icons.
UI Elements Light: thenounproject.com/tomwalshdesign/ui-elements-light/
UI Elements Heavy: thenounproject.com/tomwalshdesign/ui-elements-heavy/
Or, you can buy the full sets on Iconfinder.com here: iconfinder.com/tomwalshdesign
As the first font I’d ever designed from scratch ‘Memory’ came as a steep, but invaluable learning process. Not only in the design stage, but also in how you take all those Illustrator files you’ve lovingly drawn out and make them work as a fully functioning font (something I definitely wasn’t prepared for). Of course, now days there are a lot of tools both on and offline that make this process a lot easier, but back in the days where Fontographer seemed to be the only option it was pretty intimidating opening it for the first time.
So, the concept, and reason for wanting to design ‘Memory’, came out of a brief I’d set myself whilst studying at Camberwell Art College (now University of the Arts, but what was then The London Institute of Art). I wanted to explore the notion of memory, in particular ‘visual’ memory, and needed a typeface to use for a title sequence introducing and crediting a video I’d made as the main piece. A main theme of the video was how through repetition (i.e. recalling memories over the years) sections of detail are gradually lost until you’re left with something hardly recognisable, and usually not wholly accurate, but essentially the core information needed for one final recall before the memory is lost.
My process started out by looking through which characteristics of each character, upper, lower and numeric, were needed for people to identify them. I removed small sections of each, a little at a time and tested if people I knew could still tell what each character was (on their own, to avoid any influence from anyone surrounding them). Once I’d taken each to a point where they were no longer recognisable I went back a step and made more subtle amends until I’d reached their tipping points of recognisability.
After going through the long process of creating, generating, kerning, re-generating, re-kerning (you get the idea…), the font as a whole took on quite a hieroglyphic feel. I later learned that there was a similar font out there (Dear John), which may have saved me a lot of time, but I’m still happy I created my own version. I learned a lot about the physical process’ involved in creating a fully functioning font, as well as what it is people need to recognise one character from the next. Which by highlighting every characters essential elements, I’m hoping has helped inform my subsequent type design projects.
You can request a free copy here
Experiment #2 from my new series of explorations into light and sound. This time looking at the satisfying sound of analogue camera mechanisms from 1920’s–1970’s.
There’s something quite beautiful about getting real mechanical feedback when using a camera, something I miss a little bit more every time I take a picture these days. Ironically though, I shot the footage on my phone…
All of the snippets can be seen on my Instagram here: instagram.com/tomwalshdesign
An edited down version of a 2004 personal project into light and memory that I’m thinking of revisiting. Watch this space…
Lovely work from Imaginary Forces for Netflix’s latest cult show ‘Stranger Things’. By pairing 70’s type classics Benguiat (Ed Benguiat) and Avant Garde (Herb Lubalin) they’ve managed to use two of my possible all-time favourite typefaces by two of my type design heroes, and more importantly, made them work.
Inspired by Stephen King novel covers, which the show’s creators Matt and Ross Duffer sent to Imaginary Forces as reference, the sequence fills you with intrigue and unease. Perfectly setting the tone for the show to follow.
I think what I like about it most is the abstract details from Benguiat fading and pulsing throughout the background, showing the beauty of the typeface is in all of its fine details, before effortlessly blending together at the end. This, with the contrast of Avant Garde in the foreground, makes for what can only be described as type porn. Something rarely seen in such a commercial project, but I’m glad it made it through!
You can see more of Imaginary Forces work on their site here
Snell Roundhand-hand came out of a project quite early in my career while working with a design studio called Container on spreads for Super magazine. With a very hand drawn, pencil style to their designs we spent a fair bit of time tracing and scanning suitable fonts for layouts title by title. And so the ‘hand-drawn’ project began. A long term challenge to convert a selection of fonts into a ‘pencil drawn’ equivalent that I could share with studios who were fond of that aesthetic.
First on the list (due to demand) was a hand drawn version of Snell Roundhand. Originally developed in 1965 by Matthew Carter, and based on the roundhand script of Charles Snell (hence the name), it’s an expressive but structured font. A good one to start with too, due to the amount of detail in its flourishes and its variety in weight it was a nice example of all the things that might raise issues in whichever approach I decided to take.
The first thing I had to test out when I started was which type of pencil and tracing paper combination would work best for this. So I went about buying a selection of weights and transparencies and trying them out. The second part to test was the correct size to print out the original characters for tracing, so that in the completed font the texture would be visible enough at smaller sizes, but not so grainy as to distort the font too drastically. After a fair bit of scribbling and scanning I opted for printing out the characters at 48pt, and tracing onto 60gsm for the right balance of transparency and texture.
When it came to converting the pencil-traced characters into vectors it was a little simpler. Thankfully Illustrator had a (more accurate in 2004 than it is now, in my opinion) Live Trace tool built in which meant that after a little amending to ensure the contrast was right in Photoshop it was fairly quick to get the starting vectors. Tweaks to these took a little longer, especially ensuring a consistent feel from character to character with a few test-words (handgloves etc). Once I had all the vectors ready it was time to jump back into Fontographer, but luckily this time as I was basing the font on an existing one a lot of the information for kerning, leading and hinting already existed, so as long as I ensured I didn’t stray too far from that I didn’t have as many rounds of tweaking as I’d anticipated.
All in all I’m pretty pleased with the ‘hand-drawn’ set of fonts that came out of the project. As well as Snell I produced versions of Baskerville (both filled and an outlined version), Foundry Gridnik and Helvetica using the same process’. I would say that the two sans fonts benefitted less from the effect, but it certainly was an interesting experiment, and I’ve used all of them in projects since.
Snell Roundhand Hand
You can request a free copy here
A nice new project from Barcelona based 36 Days of Type using their curated character sets to allow people to experiment and create their own playful typographic masterpiece.
For those not familiar with 36 Days of Type it’s a project by Nina Sans and Rafa Goicoechea which challenges designers, illustrators or anyone with a love of type and creativity, to design a different character every day for 36 days (thereby creating a full alphabet). The best of these are chosen and posted across their Instagram and Twitter accounts. With 99,999 submissions, filtered down to 5,380 ‘curated images’, they’re now sitting on a huge bank of lovingly created content, and what better way to say thank you than with typetodesign.com?
So, for those of you who aren’t quite ready to commit to 36 Days of Type, you can head over to typetodesign.com instead. Where you type in your chosen text, then click through each character until you’ve created your own masterpiece. As they say “Type it, design it, enjoy it.”