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Monthly Archives: September 2013

The House of Books Has no Windows - Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller (2008)

The House of Books Has No Windows – Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller (2008)

Sometimes new typefaces give me some anxiety because I don’t see them as perfect and reliable as other faces which have 100 or 200 years of service out there. However, there is a constant stream of new typefaces put on the market every day, and some of them are just beautifully crafted faces so I clearly understand there’s no reason to be over-conservative about it. But still, when I have to choose one for a project, 99% of the times I end up with the rusty but trusty old pals like Futura, Helvetica, Baskerville etc. I’m absolutely not saying this is the right way but I want to try to explain it.

I think designing stories is just like building an house, or a boat, or a chair.

Yeah! Designing is building.

But you don’t always use carbon fiber to build a chair right? Even if we are in 2013, sometimes wood is just right. And that new Hong Kong skyscraper may need the most advanced materials but for your  cabin on the beach a simpler solution could be fine.
I do the same with typefaces. Probably you’ll need a custom new face in order to properly redesign a big brand identity or a renowned newspaper, but for a lot of other works you can stick to your old arsenal of fonts and focus on the message, on the structure etc. New faces can be distracting, they are so beautiful and shining that they seem to fulfill every need. But exactly like a Frank Ghery building, our design is subject to a lot of stress. Everyday use by other people, for example. Consumption. And I think there is nothing more miserable than an abandoned, misused or fixed piece of design.

Using simple and trusted materials is often seen as a weak or ordinary (and boring!) choice, and probably in some circumstances it is. It really depends on what you make of it. But our work is not just cosmetics. By using reliable type we have more time and energy to pursue a brilliant and witty idea, which will be developed through the typeface and not by the typeface. This can make all the difference. Once the type has been taken care of, all our resources will be addressed to story-telling.  And after all, the good craft and explanation of ideas, stories and experiences is our ultimate goal. Isn’t it?

Roger Black is almost a legend in editorial design. He has designed Rolling Stone, New York Times magazine, Newsweek etc.
Here’s his take on color, a timeless topic which in the era of color-scheme mania should be discussed with calm and thoughtfulness.

The first color is white. The second color is black. The third color is red. Calligraphers and early printers grasped this over 500 years ago, and experience has proven them exactly right. White for background, black for text, red for accent and excitement. These three colors are the best. Be very careful with all other colors.

And yes Roger, I am colorphobic too!