It’s me, Robin Rendle, and this is Adventures in Typography. It’s been a while! I took a year-long break but now I figure it’s time to rant about fonts again. So from July to December I’ll be writing this newsletter once a week.
Prepare yourselves. You cannot escape.
Last week I wrapped up an essay called In Praise of Shadows—a series of rambling thoughts about cameras, phones, and photography. I’d recommend that you view this thing on your phone though. So go read it! I shall wait.
I knew immediately that Nick Sherman’s type family HEX Franklin was going to take center stage in this project. Each of the letters look like the sort you’d see slapped on the interface of a camera and it has a glorious range of widths and weights to play with.
After the essay shipped, Nick reached out though and said in the kindest way possible (I am paraphrasing and translating this into British English): “Oi! Do you realize that I made really nice quotation marks especially for big pullquotes?” And I did not know that!
Here’s the before/after:
Oof! This is sort of embarrassing and amazing at the same time. Embarrassing because the quotes on the left hand side are clearly wrong and shouldn’t be blown up at that size but amazing because I learned something from the chap who made the dang font. These “extra-large cap-height quotation marks” are quite beautiful and just the thing to make a block of text stick out from the crowd.
On a similar note: earlier in the week I read this great piece from Jim Nielsen about Apple’s San Francisco font family. He illustrates something really important about typography and graphic design that I haven’t seen described this eloquently before: how to make text have emphasis…
From Ultralight to Black and Compressed to Expanded, there are many ways to emphasize things with San Francisco. Jim describes it well when he says “the further you cross cells, the more juxtaposition your text will have.” So with a variable font—like HEX Franklin, too—you can decide to make a typographic skip, hop, jump, or enormous leap. And there’s a lot of power in that! But often I find it a little intimidating, having so many options and what not.
Continuing this thread of large typographic systems, I really like Interchange Display by Mota Italic that I spotted the other day and I can’t stop oogling it. Take a look at the ampersand which sort of wonkily leans off to the left…
…or the lowercase e with that tail that curls inwards…
Right now there’s two weights, Thin and Extra Bold, but soon it’s expanding into a more complex system which makes me excited. WAIT though, look at this lowercase x!
Perfect. It is the perfect x. We have finally done it everyone, we have found the perfect x. We can call off the search.
But anyway, this reminds me: typography is the art of emphasis. When to be quiet, when to be loud, when to make information pop when it needs to pop, scan when it needs to be scanned, and tucked away when you want to make other things pop. All these tools—San Francisco, HEX Franklin, and Interchange—teach us about this peculiar art of emphasis, and there’s just so much more for me to learn here.
Speak soon nerds,