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s April a more nostalgic month than most? Fact is: this month we reminisce. We revisit the classics with Aviano. We look back at 1930s advertising with Jaunty Gent. We relearn how to write beautifully with Maryam. And with Meloriac, we pay tribute to Futura’s punch and the modernists’ dream of a unicase alphabet. In the Know Your Type Designer section, Photo-Lettering veteran Bob Alonso gives us some inside information about type design and production practices at that legendary New York firm.
By the way: MyFonts is doing pretty well, thank you. During the Easter weekend we sold our 3,000,000th font. That's three millionth! Many thanks to you all.
Aviano by the prolific Jeremy Dooley has been at the top of our Starlets bestseller list for weeks. Named after a small alpine town in northern Italy, Aviano recalls the monumental stone-carved capitals of the Roman Empire. Being distinctly wider and less stern than its ancestors, Aviano emanates style and luxury. With its discreet formality and pronounced serifs, it is a fine display face for invitiations, brochures and chocolate packaging—whenever the occasion calls for a sense of classical chic.
Now there's a useful tool to improve your handwriting! Maryam, designed by Ricardo Esteves Gomes from Brazil, has everything to make a typeset page look like a piece of authentic, hand-written text. Each of the two fonts available has over 70 ligatures, giving you a rich array of possible letterform variations. When combining Maryam Regular and Alternate, the effect is even more lively and varied, enabling the user to create a perfect illusion of casual calligraphy.
Pre-1940 German script and display faces are an endless source of delight. Rheinhold Kräftig by Erich Mollowitz, published by the Hamburg foundry of J. D. Tennert & Sohn in 1936, was a beauty: a powerful script-like advertising typeface that might have adorned a food shop or streetcorner café. With Jaunty Gent, designer Nick Curtis gives us a robust revival of that forgotten treasure. The original letterforms have been extended and beefed up a bit, and the result is a rollicking retro font.
For Meloriac, Typodermic’s Ray Larabie drew a black geometric all-caps alphabet and added some spice by replacing the E with a chunky lowercase. Given the frequency of the ‘e’ in most languages, this small idiosyncracy makes Meloriac look like a unicase font —a typeface where upper and lower case have fused into one. Its shapes are reminiscent of Avant-Garde or Futura Black, its character spacing is tight and sometimes literally touching—in cases where that is too close for comfort, you may decide to add some extra tracking. For putting some J-pop flair into your designs, Meloriac comes with a set of Japanese Katakana characters. Ikou yo!
This month's interviewee has been active in the type trade for more than four decades. Before founding his current company BA Graphics, New Yorker Bob Alonso worked at Photo-Lettering Inc, one of the most productive publishers of new typefaces in pre-digital times. BA Graphics is extremely prolific as well: MyFonts currently offers no fewer than 113 fonts and type families by Mr. Alonso, including recent sellers such as Rust Bucket and Yakety Yak.
You worked at Photo-Lettering Inc in NY—also known as PLINC—for 33 years. Were you a full-time type designer there?
Around 1972 I was promoted to Production Manager. Designing new fonts now became pretty difficult while working in this position. It was not until the very late '80s and early '90s, with the emergence of new (computer) technologies that we were kind of forced to move into a whole new field. We now began digitizing fonts for the Mac computer, however we were not selling fonts but rather using them to set our own headlines and text. I began a new department devoted to creating and digitizing fonts for use on the Mac. So to answer your question: no, I was not a full time type designer but rather the person responsible for the production of the Photo-Lettering business.
Could you briefly describe the way typefaces were designed and produced at Photo-Lettering? Was it very different from the way you work today?
To create a typeface I would first make pencil sketches. When I was satisfied with the design I would then take a sheet of vellum and with my trusty #107 pen point and india ink would proceed to hand-letter it. Next, the artwork would be enlarged to about 3 inches on the cap height. We used an acetate-based film and with an X-Acto knife, #16 blade, a T-square and triangle and some french curves I would clean up the lettering. We could achieve an extremely clean edge on the font with this method. The finished font still needed to be plated so that it could be used on the Rutherford Photo-Lettering machines. This was an extremely precise and time-consuming project and you still needed to kern the type manually every time it was set and developed onto sheets of film.
Today I still make pencil sketches but now I can just scan them, import them into a font program and start the process of digitizing and kerning the letterforms. Now we have a font that just about anyone with a computer can use to set type.
Did you receive a formal education in type design or typography? If not, how did you learn the trade?
No, my main course of study was package design. However, a lot of time was spent on type and hand-lettering. I actually wanted to become an illustrator but my teachers convinced me that package design was the up-and-coming field. When I graduated from the School of Art & Design my first job was with Photo-Lettering. The rest is history .
You've worked, among others, with the great Ed Benguiat. What was the most important thing you learned from him?
Ed was and still is a great teacher, and I still work with him on many projects. The most important thing I learned was that letterforms must be pretty, and proportions must be correct .
Do you have any other heroes in type design?
You were born in the Bronx. Could you imagine working anywhere else but in New York?
Bob most enjoys creating traditional fonts like Chardonnay.
I would say that working in New York City with all the top advertising agencies forced you to become pretty savvy when it came to their type needs. There were just so many talented Art Directors and Type Directors you always had to stay ahead of the game and be the trendsetter.
Your work covers an amazing range of atmospheres and styles. What are your main sources of inspiration? Is there a particular kind of typefaces you like doing most?
I just look at what kinds of fonts are currently being used and try to gauge the current market trend. Right now it is grunge and script fonts that are hot! I make sure that my font library will have a nice array of those styles. As for the kind of typefaces I like doing most, they tend to be the more traditional looking styles like my Bodoni Roma, Chardonnay, CEO Roman, California Sans and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Some of those faces, like CEO Roman and Bodoni Roman, are one-weight fonts whereas they could also give birth to an entire family of text faces. Have you made any plans for text type families?
Yes, I will be creating some entire text families in the future. I have some ideas that I have been thinking about for some time now .
You started BA Graphics in 1994. Was it intended to be a typefoundry rightaway? What made you decide to start your own foundry?
As I was approaching retirement age, I wanted to devote more time to designing fonts. I still had so many pencil sketches and ideas in various forms from my days at Photo-Lettering that I felt could be completed and marketed as commercial fonts. So I started BA Graphics in the hope that I could find ways to sell my fonts.
How long did it take you to create all those typefaces that are available from BA Graphics?
I have been designing typefaces since 1964, but I would say I've spent approximately ten years on actually digitizing designs for my own foundry.
MyFonts has been the best catapult for BA Graphics. It has allowed me and many other aspiring type designers to have a place to show their type designs and receive a monetary value for them. There is no other font purchasing site that even comes close to MyFonts! I have the greatest admiration for the entire staff and I give full credit to them for the success of BA Graphics.
What is your greatest dream, design-wise?
I'd love to design a font that would eventually become as popular as Helvetica.
Thank you Bob! Keep up the good work; we look forward to seeing more from BA Graphics in the future!
Daisy Lau strikes an interesting balance between a traditional script and slightly roughened details.
Like this month’s Maryam, Daisy Lau from the Japanese Flat-it foundry is a well-crafted script font that can make your design look deceptively natural. It has the lush shapes of a formal script, combined with nonchalant details that bring some roughness and spontaneity to the page. Having been featured as one of last month’s Rising Stars, it has consistently remained one of our most wanted recent fonts. As we say over here: the hand that rocks MyFonts rules the world!
If you like this handy script from Flat-it, check out some of these other fonts from Nagoya, Japan:
Elpiedra. An alphabet of rounded caps with built-in grayness—almost too elegant to be called ‘grunge’.
Boycott. Two all-caps alphabets in one font. Mix them for extra liveiness.
Machia. A casual handwriting script with no lack of ink.
— Joy S. from Melbourne, Australia
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