Graphic memory & transferable drawers — Talking with Elena Veguillas

After a long break, we are returning with the interview series. I am well aware that life is busy and that you probably feel like there is much to do in all areas in life. It’s rare to see someone focusing only on one thing, and structuring the days with a single repeating activity. It is the combination of different activities that make our lives unique and interesting, and so very often, we clearly see how one action in our days affects the other in a big pile of, well, life.

Elena’s name pops up whenever someone mentions writing, research, design, and publishing. She is a woman of many traits that made me fascinated by how in reality this works for her.

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Cover design: Víctor Viano

When man resolved to imitate walking,
he invented the wheel, which does not look like a leg.
 Apollinaire

Victor Viano

A couple of years ago, I had the honor of presenting a lecture at Columbia University regarding my research on Venezuelan editorial design and a draft of research on its book history. It is no coincidence that I live in New York now since Venezuela’s editorial design began here, where Francisco de Miranda, one of Venezuela’s founding figures, managed to get a press assembled and took it to Venezuela in the early 1800s.

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24-hour Hangout for International Women’s Day 2019

Most of our Alphabettes-related schemes start like this: someone suggests something crazy, logistically nightmarish or technologically complex and instead of doing the sensible thing (taking time to think it through), we forge ahead.

So tomorrow, Friday, March 8, 2019, International Women’s Day we’re planning a 24-hour Google-Hangout-session and you’re all invited. (Well, roughly Friday, depending on where in the world you are). We’ll start earliest Friday morning 00:01 EST (that’s 6am central European time, get your converter tables out!) and we’ll continue until 23:59 EST.
Join in when it’s convenient, leave when you need to, and check back in later. What will we talk about? Who will be there? Where will we be BROADcasting from? We don’t know yet!

All done! Thanks for joining us!

Rather than provide you with another list of typefaces by women (there’s plenty of those lists already), or spout the historical and contemporary contributions of women in type and the lettering arts (we do that a lot and many others do, too), we thought it’d be fun to have real conversations about our daily life, work, location and whatnot, answer questions or show you what we are occupied with. (Video possible but just audio is fine.)

Keep an eye on this spot and Twitter for the link or any updates and help us spread the word! WOMEN = FUN
 

* Participants must follow our code of conduct.

WOMEN = FUN

Playing With the Glossier Play Logotype

I really like trying to reverse engineer the ways people have taken type into their own hands. Often it’s something simple, like adding an outline to make it heavier, or adding flourishes that don’t exist in the original typeface. Sometimes it’s several things. It soothes me, like taking a simple machine apart, seeing how it works, then knowing how to put it back together. I also sometimes like to redraw logotypes and typefaces to see if I can improve upon them, for similarly cathartic reasons. I mostly keep quiet with this, because being like, “HERE’S how I would’ve drawn this BETTER THAN YOU,” while knowing next to nothing about the client, their vision, or any number of constraints that inevitably exist behind the scenes, almost always makes you sound like the biggest tool.

THAT SAID. I’ve gotta talk to someone about the logotype for the new Glossier brand, and I don’t have a therapist rn.

Courtesy of Glossier

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A few thoughts on our first Greek header

This week’s header started with a conundrum: to transliterate, or not to transliterate? In this case there were two main reasons not to. First of all, the word Alphabet is Greek, literally a portmanteau of άλφα and βήτα (alpha and beta) – like saying the ABCs. Given this, it felt wrong to use Greek letters but spell it according to how it sounds in English. Secondly, the Greek writing system does not have a letter to represent the Latin b sound. In fact, the word βήτα (beta) is actually pronounced VEE-ta in Greek. The b sound is not native to the Greek language and is most commonly found in words of foreign origin. In those cases the sound is created by putting two letters together – μ (m) and π (p). Alphabettes transliterated would therefore become Άλφαμπετς. Instead, and read aloud with me – our Greek header is pronounced Alpha-VEE-tess.

When I finally decided how to spell the word (half the battle!), I was ready to work on the design. This was my first attempt at digitizing Greek letters. Though I have an advantage as a native speaker, there was a challenge once I had to make basic decisions about proportions and spacing. The letters were digitized in Robofont but I first worked on paper, and the resulting design is based on brush pen strokes.

My first exploration of the forms through casual handwriting

Final sketches with the brush pen before digitizing

Since most typefaces out there that support Greek are large “workhorse” families, it is rare to see modern experimental Greek typefaces or lettering. A project like this gave me the freedom to try something that may never be used and experiment beyond function. Some of the movement in the forms mimics the way I would write these letters, but it is mostly just a weird design – and I enjoyed the exploration!

Alternatives to Gill Sans

Granby by Stephenson Blake (1930). From: Specimen of Printing Type, Stephenson Blake / The Caslon Letter Foundry Sheffield, 1953

If you are looking for a humanist sans-serif with a slight English flair, here are some less overused and ambivalent alternatives:

Agenda, Greg Thompson, Font Bureau
Apres, David Berlow, Font Bureau
Astoria, Alan Meeks, Alan Meeks Collection
Bliss, Jeremy Tankard, Jeremy Tankard Typography
Cronos, Robert Slimbach, Adobe Type
Documenta Sans, Frank Blokland, DTL
Dover Sans Text and Display, Robin Mientjes, Tiny Type Co
Edward, Hendrik Weber, formally Ourtype
Granby, Stephenson Blake, Elsner + Flake, Scangraphic
Halifax, Dieter Hofrichter, Hoftype
Johnston, Edward Johnston, David Farey, ITC
(Johnston) Underground, Edward Johnston, Richard Kegler, P22
London, Henrik Kubel, A2-Type
Mallory, Tobias Frere-Jones, Frere-Jones Type
Metro Office, Akira Kobayashi, Linotype
Mr. Eaves, Zuzana Licko, Emigre
New Atten, Miles Newlyn, Newlyn Type
Relay, Cyrus Highsmith, Occupant Fonts
Rowton Sans, Julien Priez, Hugo Dumont, Jérémie Hornus and Alisa Nowak, Font You
Seravek, Eric Olson, Process Type
Today Sans, Volker Küster, Elsner + Flake
Yoga Sans by Xavier Dupret, Monotype
Zeitung, Akiem Helmling, Bas Jacobs, Sami Kortemäki, Underware

Alternatives to Prokyon

Semplicità by Alessandro Butti (1930). From: Campionario caratteri Nebiolo, ca. 1962

Spurless humanist sans-serifs were all the rage in the early 2000s, but not anymore. If you still really have to use one, try one of these:

Aad, Aad van Dommelen, Font Font / Monotype
Aller Typo, Marc Weymann, Dalton Maag
Barmeno, Hans Reichel, Berthold
Branding, Alfonso García, Daniel Hernández, Luciano Vergara, Latinotype
Beau Sans, Panos Vassiliou, Parachute
Bega, Sabina Chipară, Diana Ovezea, Fontstore/ITF
Co, Bruno Maag, Ron Carpenter, Dalton Maag
Conto, Nils Thomsen, Type Mates
Dax, Hans Reichel, Font Font / Monotype
Daxline, Hans Reichel, Font Font / Monotype
Diodrum, Jérémie Hornus, Clara Jullien, Alisa Nowak, Indian Type Foundry
Etelka, František Štorm, Storm Type Foundry
Generis, Erik Faulhaber, Linotype
Karbon, Kris Sowersby, Klim
Kuro, Jonathan Hill, The Northern Block
Legal, Hellmut Bomm, Linotype
Netto, Daniel Utz, Font Font / Monotype
Phoenica, Ingo Preuss, Preuss Type
Ribera, Jörn Oelsner, URW
Ringo, Łukasz Dziedzic, Typoland
Sari, Hans Reichel, Font Font / Monotype
Signa, Ole Søndergaard, Font Font / Monotype

Oof, I think that’s more than you ever want to use in this century. Better try a less modisch humanist sans of which there are plenty of.