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typography

Seven Questions for Chester Jenkins, Designer of New Cooper Hewitt Typeface

(Kirstin McKee)
(Photo: Kirstin McKee)

Come December, the renovated and expanded Cooper Hewitt will welcome back visitors with a bold new look. The tricky task of reimagining the graphic identity of the Smithsonian Design Museum was taken on by Pentagram’s Eddie Opara, who tapped Chester Jenkins to work his typographical magic. Jenkins, co-founder of Brooklyn-based Village, created a custom typeface—Cooper Hewitt—that the museum has released into the digital wild: the bold sans serif can be downloaded free of charge as installable fonts, Web font files, and open-source code. Having taken the recent press preview of the museum as an excuse to follow Jenkins around and ask him his views on the various typefaces that were revealed by the painstaking restoration of the Andrew Carnegie Mansion, we agreed to relent if he would answer just seven more questions. He graciously agreed.

c h logotypeWhat three words best describe the Cooper Hewitt typeface?
Objective. Accessible. Spirited.

How does Cooper Hewitt differ from your Polaris Condensed?
The width of Cooper Hewitt is based on the Semicondensed version of Polaris, which only exists as beta fonts on the computers at Pentagram and UFOs on my hard drive. When I drew the Cooper Hewitt types, I didn’t recycle the outlines of Polaris, but instead drew everything from scratch, referring to Polaris Semicondensed, not simply tweaking it.

The range of weights is greater in Cooper Hewitt; while a couple of the master weights were based on Polaris, the family of fonts has a different internal structure. A significant stylistic difference is in the hewing to horizontal and vertical stroke endings, as opposed to the angled terminal strokes which are a touchstone of Polaris. Then there are the “plateaus”—or “plateaux” for the linguistic sticklers—within most of the curves in round glyphs. You can’t really see them at anything less than a million points, but they separate the two designs. And the numerals and currency glyphs depart significantly from Polaris.

Village is a type co-op—what is that exactly and who are the members?
Village is a group of a dozen small foundries from around the world. While not technically organized as a co-operative, our model was the first of its kind in the digital era, as far as we are aware. We contact our members to discuss important decisions, such as adding new members to the group. The members sometimes collaborate with each other, and often pass along custom projects where one member is more suited than another. We also avoid stepping on each others’ toes; one member will not publish a design if it’s stylistically close to another member’s design. We distribute the work of our members: A2-Type, Blackletra, Feliciano Type Foundry, Klim, LuxTypo., MCKL, Schwartzco, Type Supply, and Urtd. We publish work through two foundries: Constellation and Incubator.
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Cooper Hewitt Unveils New Name, Identity, Typeface in Advance of December Reopening

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The countdown to the revamped and revitalized version of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum begins now. At a press conference held this morning, director Caroline Baumann detailed plans for the reopening, set for December 12th, along with a wave of changes that debut today on the museum’s new website, a WordPress-powered affair created in collaboration with Pentagram and Matcha Labs.

The first thing to notice is the 117-year-old institution’s new name—Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum—which dispenses with the hyphen and the “national” of old. There’s a bold new Eddie Opara-designed identity to match, with an eminently scalable wordmark that forms a perfect rectangle. “Cooper Hewitt’s new identity is straightforward with no play on visual or theoretical complexity, no puzzling contradiction or ambiguity, no distracting authorship,” says Opara [cut to the Whitney's neurasthenic W, cowering in the corner of a billboard]. “Function is its primary goal.” As for that non-nonsense sans serif, it’s the work of Chester Jenkins of Brooklyn-based Village. It’s available as a free download here.
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Now Read This: Codex, Journal of Letterforms

gastro

Summer reading alert! Font fans will delight in Codex, a journal-magazine hybrid “for people seriously in love with type.” Founded by writer, designer, and publisher John Boardley, the visually entrancing periodical celebrates and analyzes “the people, tools, and type associated with this craft, from the man carving beautiful cherubim into wood blocks in the 1400s to brilliantly formed modern interpretations and departures.” The latest issue includes a foldout of Gastrotypographicalassemblage (pictured) designed by Lou Dorfsman and Herb Lubalin for CBS.

Like this post? Then you’ll love LiquidTreat, a weekly newsletter designed to quench your creative thirst. Sip generously from past issues and subscribe here.

Abbott Miller Designs Exhibition Celebrating Century of Type

Century_installation

Headed to New York City? Don’t miss “Century: 100 Years of Type in Design,” on view through June 18 at the AIGA National Design Center. Part of AIGA’s centennial celebration, the fontastic—and free—exhibition was created by Pentagram partner and AIGA medalist Abbott Miller (we are eagerly anticipating his new book, Design and Content, coming soon from Princeton Architectural Press) in partnership with Monotype. It runs the chronological and technological gamut from Akzidenz Grotesk to Zapf Dingbats with works drawn from the collections of the Type Directors Club, Condé Nast, Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum, the Herb Lubalin Study Center at Cooper Union, and many more. Here’s a preview:

Comic Sans Gets ‘Neue’ Look

comic neue

Three years ago, digital designer Craig Rozynski set out to save Comic Sans, the blacksheep of the font family. The self-described “font philanthropist” has emerged from his hobby project with Comic Neue, a makeover of the awkward glyphs of the font that everyone loves to his hate. Free to download, Comic Neue aspires to be “the casual script choice for everyone including the typographically savvy.” It’s the perfect choice for lemonade stand signage or passive-aggressive office memos. “Best of all, Vincent Connare, the creator of the original Comic Sans, told me it ‘should be more casual,’” says Rozynski. “The criticism has come full circle.”

Like this post? Then you’ll love LiquidTreat, a weekly newsletter designed to quench your creative thirst. Sip generously from past issues and subscribe here.

Font Men: A Filmic Flashback to Happier Days for Hoefler and Frere-Jones

Hoefler & Frere-Jones is no more, the namesake duo having been torn asunder by disagreements (over ownership stakes in the powerhouse type foundry) that in January escalated to a lawsuit that had the design world combing through court filings. What remains is one last glimpse into their 15-year partnership: Font Men (below). The short film was made by New York-based Dress Code for AIGA to celebarate H+FJ’s 2013 AIGA Medal, and earlier this month was selected for SXSW.

Notes on (Type) Camp: Around the World in 26 Letters

The first rule of Type Camp is, you do not talk about Type Camp. Oh wait, that’s Fight Club. What a relief, as we’re itching to tell you about what next year holds for the burgeoning series of immersive design workshops for those who like to debate kerning whilst scarfing gourmet s’mores. Type Camp kicks off later this month in Chennai, India, with a week of discussions, projects, handwritten Urdu newspapers, Tamil lettering, and coconut water. In April, it’s off to Toronto for a focus on script lettering and calligraphy (practice writing “Rob Ford” with a demonic flourish). A planned August installment will take the form of a “creative residential retreat” in California. And the band of nomadic type junkies heads to Ireland in September. Learn more and register here.

Now Read This: Lettering Large

lettering_largeWeary and wary of design clients’ constant calls to “make it bigger”? Immerse yourself in Lettering Large (Monacelli Press), in which Steven Heller and Mirko Ilic explore the outsized world of monumental typography. From a consideration of “extroverted type” and “typo-hypnotic messages” to letters that live large outdoors and those that balloon into objecthood, the book offers a giant dose of inspiration and a visually exhilarating reminder of why size matters.

Like this post? Then you’ll love LiquidTreat, a weekly newsletter designed to quench your creative thirst. Sip generously from past issues and subscribe here.

Scrabble Typography Returns for a Second Round

scrabble typography

Andrew Capener‘s fontastic version of Scrabble is back! The California designer set out to reinvent the beloved board game in a way that would excite people about typography. His concept was to replace the familiar bleached-wood, monofont letter tiles with rich walnut versions in a variety of typefaces. An additional design tweak: all of the game components would be magnetized, an innovation that anyone who has lost that lone “Z” or “K” can appreciate. A licensee of Hasbro is back on board with a second (limited) edition, which includes new fonts and Bauhaus-inspired game components.

Like this post? Then you’ll love LiquidTreat, a weekly newsletter designed to quench your creative thirst. Sip generously from past issues and subscribe here.

Creativity, Innovation Are Key at Communication Arts

CommunicationArtsCommunication Arts, a trade journal for visual communications, covers everything from graphic designers to photographers to advertising agencies. The subscription-only mag features in-depth profiles, tips on design trends, book reviews and more.

CA is approximately 80 percent freelance written, and it’s on the lookout for fresh new writers. So what are the editors looking for? Someone who will inspire:

“We want to improve the way our readers work and think, whether that means introducing a revolutionary technique with dozens of potential applications, challenging disparate disciplines to work together in new ways or refuting common wisdom about, say, what it means to be creative or successful,” said managing editor Robin Doyle. “If your article can do that, we want to see it.” CA editors are always on the lookout for stimulating content for “Columns,” “Profiles” and “Book Reviews.”

To hear more details about CA, including editors’ contact info, read: How To Pitch: Communication Arts.

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–Aneya Fernando

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