When I was 13, I was selected by my teacher, Mr. Coates, to be one of two “school printers.” We were presented with a wooden chest full of lead type and an Arab treadle printing press. (These days they wouldn’t allow school kids within a hundred yards of that thing). We learned to set type (backwards, of course) and discovered quads and leading (yes, the real thing not the virtual version). We printed tickets and posters for all of the school events and ate lunch with lead black fingers by the press.
I had a wonderful two years gaining printing experience before I was head-hunted by Mr. Lax to be one of his librarians. So now I was sorting books and handling the printed page en masse for the first time. I soon discovered that some book spines couldn’t be read because of some “clever” choice of font. My emotional reactions (small angry ones, in that case) made me take notice.
Several years later after I finished school, I joined the family printing business (proudly operating under the name “Graphic Reproductions”). The original logo artwork (which I wish I still had) was set by my dad a few of years before in Letraset “Brush Script.” I remember that choice of typeface being quite a big thing at the time. When I joined in 1974, I already thought it looked old fashioned, but what was the new kid in the business to do?
I took over the design of letterheads, business cards, and event cards. As long as the customer and I were happy, all was well. So now I got to experiment… sort of. Of course, customers had their own ideas. Builders liked the blocky fonts, plumbers the bendy ones, and far too many people wanted “Old English.” But it was freedom of sorts. The best times were driving in to Sheffield several times a week to “Andrews Stationery” to select some new sheet of Letraset dry transfer lettering. Everything was hand set in Letraset then, which was a wonderful way to learn about the individual fonts as each curve and edge was burnished down with a spent ballpoint pen. Claremount, Garamond, Univers SF, Arnold Bocklin. I remember Arnold Bocklin seemed to be used all over Sheffield in the late 70’s early 80’s, mostly by plumbers.
Then the reign of the “Athena” print and poster stores gave way to the clairity of “Habitat” and “Ikea” furnishings and the style magazines of the day were suddenly crisp and clean and beautiful. Large round typefaces covered pages with tiny fine-line sans serif text tucked tightly below. Wow. This was the future. I saw that the most amazing thing on the page was white space. And the way the type corralled that space could be beautiful. I realised that there was a case to be made for changing a word in a headline purely based on how its shape affected the space around it. Aggressive design; a dangerous path, but impressive if trodden carefully.
With the coming of computer-based typesetting, the number of font choices available to us has exploded. Hand scripts in particular are becoming heavily used (and to good effect when chosen carefully). They can be fun, even joyous; yet the best ones are still attractive and well-balanced.
Designing a font is no easy matter. Imagine you have 26 characters (besides the numbers and special characters), and these 26 characters must look like they belong beside each other in any order. Tricky.
When choosing our font for “odd guy art,” we spent several weeks sampling hundreds of possibilities before settling on “Hasty Pudding,” which we felt not only captured the quirky personality of our designs, but also worked well with our logo’s three closely-set words. The natural inclination of this font visually separates the three words even when we delete the spacing (as in the web address). This made it the perfect choice for us.
Inspired by an article at the BBC magazine web site ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-10689931 ).