The process of Theo Superfamily
By Iris Sprague
Concept and Ideation:
The Why:My college design professor introduced me to lettering and typography. It was a transformative year for me. I became sensitive to design, and I was especially enamored with beautiful typefaces that complemented editorial design. I realized that typefaces could have a huge impact on the aesthetics of the page and on the experience of the viewer. In graduate school, we learned that a typeface designer often responded to a particular problem when designing a new typeface. I knew from experience that designers often struggled to pair typefaces in layouts. Theo’s great purpose, then, would be to help designers pair typefaces for editorial use. I wanted Theo to be a typographic system that consisted of four different typefaces based off the evolution of the classification of type. There would be a friendly sans, a more serious grotesk, an elegant serif, and an experimental Italian. The variation in type classifications would give the designer an array of different uses and perspectives. The superfamily could even be a one-stop shop for a designer.
About Theo SuperfamilyTheo Superfamily, a typographic system that consists of four different typefaces, is based off the evolution of the classification of type. I created a system based on an underlying skeleton in order to bridge these four different styles together within the superfamily.
Theo SansTheo Humanist Sans is the skeleton and leader of the whole family. In the developmental stages of Theo, Theo sans was the foundation for the family in terms of the shared x-height, descender, ascender, and cap height. It has sweet and elegant letterforms with fun, sheared terminals. The Theo Family was built for comfortable, smooth reading; Theo Sans exemplifies this effortlessly from small text sizes to large display use.
Theo TextTheo Text is the gem of the family; it has a personality ideal for setting magazines, books, and/or other large bodies of text. Theo Text is edgy with its sharp ink traps and blunt edges; Its semi-rounded terminals give it a balanced texture for easy reading and a modern twist to a classic typeface. The ink traps become more apparent and give Theo more texture in the italics. These attributes make Theo Text good for text at small sizes and an interesting headline text. Its old style characters have classic charm, while modern structure give it contemporary feel. Ideal point sizes range from 7 points and higher Theo Text Bold is best for headlines.
Theo GroteskTheo Grotesk is a reliable, humble powerhouse for the superfamily and is a symbol of neutrality. Unlike most grotesks, Theo Grotesk has distinguishably sharp junctions to separate it from other Grotesks and give the typeface its own personality. The numbers are distinctive at large sizes due to their W. A. Dwiggin’s Metro Office inspiration. Theo Grotesk is based off of the European grotesque model, Theo gets wider as it gets bolder so it has more presence. Theo Grotesk can be used in a wide variety of text. It is best for contemporary magazines, books, posters, and larger bodies of text.
Theo ItalianTheo Italian is the fun, experimental headliner of the family. After creating Theo Humanist Sans, Theo Grotesk, and Theo Text, I knew I needed a display face to add more life to the family. Ever since seeing Karloff Negative, the reverse street typeface from Typotheque, I wanted to make a revere stress for myself. In doing research on what types of reverse contrast that are already out there I read “Backasswords” a PDF compilation of Italian typefaces by David Jonathon Ross and noticed that not many were sans serif. Henry Caslon’s original Caslon Italian typeface is one of the first models for the reveres stress typeface and I can see that many beautiful digital interpretations have evolved from there. So to differentiate Theo Italian, I made it a sans serif that had humanist influences. I still kept some notable attributes of an Italian typeface such as the thinning of the ends but I also made them flare out a bit in a similar fashion to Theo Humanist Sans.
CreditThe typefaces are made through a software called Robofont, the weights are generated with another software called Superpolater, and then they are kerned in a software called Metrics Machine. For the exhibition, I shared the space with Shiva Nallaperumal. We produced print and digital specimens and a variety of fonts in use. Theo Superfamily will continue to grow even after thesis is over. I will create Headline versions and more display versions for Theo to make it the ultimate editorial font. I want to create a sense of relief for my audience. Pairing typefaces can be very difficult, and I want Theo to be a one-stop shop for designers so that they can focus on making beautiful layouts. After graduation, I will finish the typeface, italics, and kerning, and I will sell the Theo Superfamily to a foundry. I look forward to seeing Theo in use in the world.
Rope Type Foundry
By Shiva Nallaperumal
1. Typotheque:Typotheque is my favorite foundry. Headed by Peter Bilak, it has been in the forefront of design innovation. It has bridged the conceptual side of design and the craft side of type. Typotheque has earned a reputation for being Avant Garde for work that is innovative but not polarizing. With every release, they have managed to push the boundaries of how people interact with type. They have designed a variety of groundbreaking typefaces, from ___ fonts that _____ to text fonts that defy all convention. Each release is accompanied by an in-depth essay of the backstory explaining the thinking and process behind the new typeface. The typefaces are not promoted purely on the basis of their visual quirks; they are also promoted for the stories behind them and the problems they solve. Typotheque has been extremely selective over the years. The typefaces they have released all fall under their quality and conceptual banner, even though they cover all sorts of visual styles. Typotheque is distinguished by their starkly simple visual language, very stripped-down marketing, and focus on the work itself. Their typefaces have often been challenging tools for designers, and only the most astute graphic designers have fully used their fonts to their real potential. Much of their work has paved the way for many future interpretations.
2. Commercial Type:CT present themselves as the problem solvers. Almost all their typefaces began life as custom typefaces, tailored to solve specific problems but also have the appeal for mass use. CT was formed by Christian Schwartz and Paul Barnes at the height of their distinguished careers as already hugely successful independent designers. Their partnership began with the massive type family designed for the Gaurdian and other publications. They have consistently produced high quality text fonts with high precision and attention to detail. Their work is less avant grade and experimental like Typotheque but at the forefront of usable, beautiful and contemporary aesthetic. Their identity is more carefully designed than the former, with a specific color palette, strict stylesheets for specimens and tone of voice that is both technical and interesting.
3. Hoefler and Co. (formerly Hoefler & Frere Jones) H&Co.:Hoefler and Co. have an interesting model. They are seen as the commercial juggernauts of the field having contributed to the typographic landscape extensively and there are no fonts on their catalogue that have seen mediocre use. They have a quintessentially american aesthetic often designing the landmark typefaces in different historical contexts. Their typefaces have a technical God like quality and present themselves that way. They often design two versions of every type style: Geometric (Gotham, the more humanist one and Verlag the more art deco one), Ionic (Sentinal, the clarendon and Ziggeraut, the display one), Humanist sans (Whitney, the frutiger-like one and Ideal Sans, which is in the handcrafted style of Hermann Zapf) and so on. This model has helped them cover almost every possible typographic tool a designer may need. They have refrained from producing very experimental or futuristic typefaces, sticking to traditional models but produce the most well designed fonts in any of those models. Their typefaces are at once familiar and new at the same time, solidifying their commercial success.
4. Font Bureau:FB could be understood as a combination of both H&Co. and CT (Tobias Frere Jones and Christian Schwartz started their careers here) and has seen wide commercial use with timeless typefaces but have also produced many now forgotten typefaces for a specific time period. As a foundry their identity is quite confusing because of their extremely large catalogue having covered the silly to the sophisticated. They’ve innovated in many early and contemporary design models from newspaper printing in the ’90s to web fonts of today. As a world view, they have refrained from being constrained to one style or outlook.
Rope Type FoundryWith all my work I have always been obsessed with the idea of the NEW. My favorite typefaces, like I mentioned before appear to have come out of nowhere though history and tradition were strong influences on their conception. I wanted to bring this originality and personal conviction to the identity, image and collateral of the foundry. I chose the name Rope as the I wanted the foundry to ‘tie’ individuality, history and the future to form an entity that produces products of value. I refrained from using one of our typefaces for the identity and created the logotype anew. I was inspired by the idea of typefaces being quint and silent when seen small but show off their elegance and little details when seen large. This idea led to the design of the logotype which does just that: It appears to be any other pixelated font when seen in small sizes but when zoomed it it shows the complex rope like quality that make up the letters. With the logo done, the larger identity system was allowed to grow. I stripped the colors down to three basic ones: Black, a signature off Red and off white. As we are representing monochromatic typefaces, i kept the identity predominantly monochromatic, except for the red that defines the foundry as a whole. The visual language for the publication and website follows this but in a less stripped down manner. I have been very influenced in my work by my favorite graphic designer Abbott Miller all my life. He started his practice with Ellen during the pivotal time in graphic design when modernism was fading away and a new breed of postmodern designers were beginning to make their mark. The Cranbrook school empowered design students with the works of Michael Focault and Jacques Derrida which they used to question existing models of design as a field and practice and began to experiment boldly with the way information is communicated. Not being influenced by the surface level postmodernity, Abbott Miller approached his work with a very original and personal outlook. He brought a sense of visual eclecticism to the pages of the books and publications he designed where text and image interacted in a surprising yet accessible manner. While designers like David Carson and Stephan Sagmeister approached work from a very subjective point of view that bordered on self indulgence, Miller’s work was always joyful, understandable and at the same time new and challenging. This visual eclecticism inspired me to follow the model for Rope. I looked at visual elements as one, trying not to be visually constrained by a grid or formal “This is how it should be done” ethic. The specimen follows a dynamic approach to type and image, with certain standardized visual elements anchoring each spread to the other and all the spreads to one idea. Every page was designed to be a surprise yet be able to relate to every other page. We followed the same approach for the website. The manicule or the “Printer’s Hand” a now unused glyph in the typographic palette as a strong visual element to connect the various spreads and webpages together. We followed a strict stylesheet for every aspect of the brand image, like tone of voice, our designer bios, photographs, in use examples, colors and layout to solidify the brand.