THE AUTHOR EXPRESSES WILD OPINIONS.
IMeed to Know
for the DESIGNER
LOGO: A specific design with unique characteristics made as a corpo¬
rate "signature." A logo is pretty much the same as a trademark (TM),
although TM refers to a business device that has been legally registered.
A logo can be a nameplate or a monogram, emblem, symbol or signet. The
wealthier the corporation, it seems, the simpler the logo. A logo should
be: (1 ) Intelligible: Never confuse a potential customer. (2) Unique: Make
it different from other logos, avoid trendiness. (3) Compelling: The design
should provoke further investigation. It should "say the commonplace in
an uncommon way" (Paul Rand).
FONT: Before computers, a font was called a typeface or face. Font or
fount originally referred to the product of a foundry where hot metal is
poured into molds, and type font referred to the complete character set
in one specific point size and style of type within a type family. Now font
has become revived as the term for any computer typeface sold, traded,
pirated or offered for free.
LETTERING: Also called hand-lettering to differentiate it from
machine-made type. All lettering emerges from the hand, even when it's
a hand on a mouse. Lettering is any sequence of letters forming words
that come from the pencil, pen, brush, marker, spray can, computer and
so on, as opposed to having come from a preexisting type font. Of course,
all type started as lettering. At some point, someone drew it before it was
cast or digitized.
TYPE: Around 1982, a client called me up and said, "I need some
type." I almost said, "So call a typesetter, I'm a hand-letterer," but I'm
always polite to anyone who might potentially pay me. It turned out that
one fine day, Type became the hip term for hand-lettering. Type, as we
know, comes as the result of setting words in a font. Type is not synony¬
mous with hand-lettering.
CALLIGRAPHY: Literally means "beautiful writing." In calligraphy
we find many of the foundations of modern type, yet it has always held
the Rodney Dangerfield position in the world of lettering. Calligraphy
mainly suggests a style of flourishy, chisel-point-pen lettering, rather than
letters that are first drawn and measured, then slowly inked according to
the drawing. It really annoys hand-letterers to have their work referred to
as calligraphy. Good calligraphy has finally gained respect, though. It's
become a legitimate means by which certain ideas and emotions may be
vividly expressed in commercial lettering.
like ugly background patterns, crazy gradients, and
weird distortion tools that are mostly shunned and
ignored by professional designers. As for Fontog¬
rapher, the latest version is still six years old. At
this writing Macromedia has no plans to upgrade
for compatibility with Mac OS X. Meanwhile,
Pyrus FontLab, a new font creation program, has
come on the scene. We compare the three programs
on page 224.
VECTOR vs. BITMAP
Creating pixel lettering in Adobe Photoshop is
not covered in this book. It can be done, but the
limited and incomplete vector-drawing tools found
in Photoshop would make it unnecessarily diffi¬
cult, so why bother? Also, absolute edges are not
clearly defined in Photoshop files. Enlarged, you
always see those light/dark double pixel edges—so
accuracy in rendering lettering would always be a
problem. Everything we create in Illustrator can
be imported into Photoshop, but because
Photoshop is bound by our choice of resolution, our
logo work becomes trapped at 72 or 300 dpi and
cannot be enlarged indefinitely as vector art can,
and it cannot easily be tweaked after it is raster-
ized (made into a bitmap). I've seen company logos,
done for the web at 72 dpi, that were thereby com¬
pletely lost and unusable for print, or for the poster
or billboard that the company later envisioned.
A TANGLED WEB OF TYPE
Ten years from now, we'll realize that the Internet
of 2004 was as much a dinosaur as our early com¬
puters now seem. In ten years the resolution of our
monitors will presumably have increased substan¬
tially, and issues of creating special fonts for the web
that are more easily read will have become moot.
At the present time, however, many font designers
endeavor to design attractive, yet legible text fonts
for screen and Internet use. They try to improve the
hinting of their fonts, making minute decisions as to
whether a pixel should be turned on or off here or
there, and they strive for letterforms with optimal
legibility in a low-resolution environment.
LOGO, FONT a LETTERING BIBLE
I believe that, given the current limits of screen
resolution, only negligible improvements to text
type are possible. We're mostly going to be stuck
with crappy, bitmappy type no matter what we do.
I am one who sees all media roads leading eventu¬
ally to the Internet, but those designers who want
to see nice typography should instead look to print
media and not split pixels trying to fine-tune
HTMLtext type. This book, therefore, doesn't cover
web-specific fonts. However, on page 212, we do
have David Berlow's insights on how he created a
family of fonts designed for e-mail communication.
ALL STYLES WELCOME
J like every style of type and lettering—from the
most ancient letterforms chiseled in stone to the
latest graffiti sprayed on stucco—as long as it's
well done. I also like funky fonts, rave fonts, and
grunge fonts, although for me, the novelty wore off
This book, however, was not written for grunge
font designers—you're doing great at it already!
Just be sure, if you're making quickie grunge and
careless free web fonts, that these are really your
goal and that you're not just settling for less
because you don't know how to draw letters.
Grunge fonts certainly have their place in our
vast design spectrum. They carry a distinct mes¬
sage and communicate as effectively in an appro¬
priate context as any other font. It's just that there
is much less "craft" to making distressed fonts than
in creating by hand a beautiful, matching suite of
abstract letterforms that are unlike any others
ever seen before in the history of the world, yet still
manage to remain comprehensible.
This is the exhilaration and challenge of letter¬
ing, whether of the logo or font, that goes beyond
just impressing a few friends when they pass by it
in their cars or see it on the Internet. It's some¬
thing more like a magnificent obsession, that per¬
haps—if you don't already have it—this book will
help to instill in you. ^_^ S* 7~^
ICON: Traditionally, a sacred picture or an important and enduring
symbol. Today's ¡cons are those tiny, hard-to-see pictograms on our desk¬
tops and programs that require computer manuals to decipher. Well-
done, intuitive icons serve important navigational functions, like the
male/female icons on lavatory doors. At best they are everything a logo
should be, but even more compact.
RETRO: Short for retrospective, this became the hip term for any evo¬
cation of a period style prior to ours. I dislike this word, which entered
the parlance in 1974, my editor says, but I use it because we all agree on
what it means and it's less off-putting than the word nostalgic. And, the
user of the term isn't required to know the difference between Nouveau or
Deco—which many people don't know—it can all be just "retro."
GLYPH: This is the latest cool term for a drawing of a letter, especial¬
ly in the character slot of a font creation program. God only knows what
the cool people will be calling letters next season.
COOL: As in "cool fonts," cool is the highest possible accolade; the best
a thing can be. But cool, as in "cool on a subject," also means disinter¬
ested, aloof. Cool, actually, is a protective mask worn by the fearful. Cool
is disenfranchised, dispassionate, alienated and frightened. Cool is non¬
committal for fear that to commit to an unpopular idea might make one
uncool. Cool defined is cool dissipated. Like Dracula, cool can't know the
light lest it wither. Cool is uncreative. It follows, but does not lead. True
cool— if that term can still be used—is being true to thine own self. As
Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become
silent about things that matter." Snobbery is so often a characteristic of
young graphic designers—I was a snot at twenty-five, too—it helps to
remember that no matter how fine, elegant or cool our design may be, it is
usually being used to con people into buying mundane commodities, most
of which lack quality and integrity, are unhealthful and bad for the envi¬
ronment, and in many cases, nobody really needs them, anyway.
EDGY: When clients say they want "edgy" they really mean for us to
make our work slightly obscure and a tad grungy in that safe, nonthreat-
ening edgy style that everybody else does, but not so edgy as to actually
make a statement that might upset Mr. Murdoch, Mr. Turner, Mr. Eisner
or Mr. Ashcroft. Edgy comes from cutting edge, like a design that initiates
a trend, or on the edge which refers to coffee nerves, or the state between
sanity and insanity. It indicates anger and defiance, not compliance. Edgy,
as it is used, really means to pander to the youth demographic.
Amusingly, the youth "market" never recognizes the ploy; instead it
embraces the commodity as a symbol of its own culture and generation,
even coming to define itself through mere ownership of the product.