New: Forma DJR Cyrillic by Jovana Jocić

Forma cyrillic socials

I am excited to announce Forma DJR Cyrillic, designed by Serbia-based designer Jovana Jocić.

Forma DJR is a revival of Aldo Novarese’s slick neo-grotesque. Working together with Roger Black and Indra Kupferschmid, I studied the original metal type and interpreted the design as a large family with optical sizes, rounded corners, and tapering stems.

Jovana picked up where we left off and took care in translating this design to the Cyrillic script. The design is thoroughly modern, but never severely so. It maintains the simplicity and warmth of Nebiolo’s original design with its single-story a, and echoes them in the softly-draping curves of Д and Л and the simplified form of K and Ж (it’s not the same as the Latin K!) .

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Jovana’s expansion adds several languages to Forma’s repertoire, going beyond the Russian alphabet and including localized forms for Bulgarian, Serbian, not to mention a ligature to handle Ukranian’s tricky ЇЇ pair.

And, perhaps most impressively of all, Jovana found a way to harmonize the design with Forma’s super-tight spacing. I found this to be tricky enough in the Latin, but Cyrillic has more straight-sided characters than Latin (which let in very little negative space) and more overhanging characters that (which let in a ton of whitespace). I think Jovana did a great job balancing these out!

Forma socials

Forma DJR now supports Cyrillic in its core weights between Extra Light and Bold (300–700) in all of its optical sizes. A variable font covering that range is included in the family pack as well!

Since the Italics and extreme weights are not done yet, I am keeping the Forma DJR Cyrillic family separate (for now) in order to avoid confusion. But if you’ve already purchased a license for Forma DJR’s Latin and would like to use the Cyrillic, you can contact me to upgrade to the Cyrillic at no additional charge.

To see more, feel free to check out Forma Cyrillic’s web page, grab the PDF specimen Jovana designed, and take the fonts for a spin. We are excited to see what you do with the fonts!

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August’s Font of the Month: Megazoid

Font of the Month, 2021/08 Try Buy $24 PDF
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On a conceptual level, geometric shapes endow letters with a timeless beauty, transforming them from handmade marks into emblems of mathematical ideals. But on a practical level, building up letters out of circles and squares is just really, really awkward.

In most geometric sans serifs, the job of the type designer is to smooth out that awkwardness, introducing optical compensations and refinements in order to achieve a unified result. And in the past decade, “geometric sans” has become a catch-all term for clean, general-purpose sans serifs with disparate influences (including humanist and grotesque) and varying degrees of connection to pure geometry.

I’ve never felt like I had much to add to this genre, and over the past fifty (!) months of the club I’ve mostly steered clear of it. But this month I’m psyched to send you Megazoid, a chunky geometric sans serif that feels equally at home on a guitar amp as it does on an interstellar satellite. And while I’ll concede that recent trends have made the geometric sans feel a bit safe and boring, Megazoid is here to remind you that geometry can be raw and weird and anything but.

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Megazoid pits square and circle against each other, contrasting blocky exteriors with counterforms that are mostly circular and cylindrical. This juxtaposition recalls the classic Radio Shack logo and its distinctive retro-futuristic vibe, but Megazoid leans towards corners over curves maybe 25% more often. This gives Megazoid a distinctive squarishness that sets it apart from the more figurative, stroke-based designs in this genre (I’m thinking Blippo and Pump, or recent entries like Bonkus, Marvin Visions, and Nichrome.)

At the same time, Megazoid avoids going into complete abstraction by not getting as heavy or extreme as designs such as Baby Teeth, Ginger Snap, Morro, Shotgun, and Strand. Instead, it bridges the gap between figurative strokes and abstract shapes, essentially functioning in the space between the super-literal Futura Extra Bold and the hyper-stylized Futura Black.

I really enjoyed playing with the tension between slick and clunky. It was a challenge to puzzle out how to make the more figurative shapes like s and o play nice with weirdos like a and e, even when their texture and color are totally dissimilar.

And you won’t find much in the way of triangles in Megazoid. Rather than introduce more symmetry, I took a page from Avant Garde and drew A, V, Y (and alternate M and W) as asymmetrical trapezoids that add a touch of off-kilter dynamism to the otherwise static design.

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I didn’t plan this, but I’m really happy that Megabase, Megavolt, and Megazoid have formed a family of sorts, each one exploring a different mode of sans serif with heavy science fiction connotations. They all have plenty of non-sci-fi potential as well, not to mention a link to the phototype and dry-transfer typefaces of the 1970s.

A glance at any Letraset or Photo-lettering catalog is enough to tell you that this style lends itself to outlines, shadows, and textures. So I totally encourage you to go all out! Outline it, inline it, and offset it to create groovy drop shades à la Papirtis Pink Mouse. I held off on making a tricked-out color font (for now) but I did include Fill and Shade styles to give you a little head start.

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You’ll also find that I was particularly indecisive this month and left in a slew of stylistic alternates for you to explore. And last but not least, I also explored a Cyrillic version of this design which I found to be particularly fun. Many thanks to Jovana Jocić for critiquing the Cyrillic, as well as to Eben Sorkin, Mathieu Triay, and Donny Truong for their comments on this design.

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July’s Font of the Month: Pomfret Lowercase

Font of the Month, 2021/07 Try Buy $24 PDF
Pomfret lines 2000

Exactly one year ago, I sent you Pomfret, a set of titling capitals I made in response to Bertram Goodhue’s striking cover for an 1892 edition of The Knight Errant. Ever since I took Roger Black’s suggestion to draw something based on Goodhue’s work, I’ve been looking for an excuse to get back to it. So what better way to celebrate Pomfret’s first birthday than with an accompanying lowercase!

Typically I like to mix things up for the club, and I try to avoid sending you back-to-back family updates—especially two “classical” serif updates. But I do think Pomfret is an illuminating counterpoint to last month’s Fern Text. Fern is firmly rooted in the pen-informed, diagonal-axis tradition of Venetian text faces dating back to Nicolaus Jenson. Pomfret has hints of the Venetian style (the internal serifs atop M and N, the gently draping tails of K and R), but structurally-speaking it’s an entirely different beast. It is delicate and high-contrast, with an entirely vertical stroke axis and shapes that feel more constructed than written (I guess that makes sense for something based on the work of an architect).

Pomfret alpha mc 2000

As far as Pomfret’s lowercase goes, I’ll admit I kinda winged it. There was no lowercase precedent to be found on the Knight Errant cover, and even though Goodhue drew a similar design for the Merrymount Press, its lowercase just didn’t fit the sharp, delicate, restrained direction in which I’ve taken Pomfret (I did borrow a couple features from Merrymount though, including the serifed crossbar of t.) 

In my first pass of the lowercase, I looked for opportunities to echo the signature moves of the capitals letters. Certain features—the underbite of C, the “shy” tail of K, and the complexity of W—translated easily to their lowercase counterparts (I never get away with this, but Pomfret’s w is literally two v’s, just like the caps!).

Pomfret lines small 2000

The lowercase has so many more round shapes than the uppercase, and I quickly realized that I would have to heighten some of Pomfret’s other design elements to give it enough of the rigid refinement of the caps. The caps have a pretty high waist already (see E and P), but I pushed that even further in the top/bottom differentiation of a and e (the swooping curve of a also has a lot in common with a backwards s.) The difference in width between straight and round letters is also more extreme in the lowercase. 

Pomfret’s lowercase also needed to span the stylistic divide between the Venetian-esque detailing and its unwaveringly upright axis and constructed appearance. The double-sided “head” serifs atop n and u are an unusual contrivance (typically head serifs only stick out to the left), but they echo the distinctive double-sided serifs on the capital M and N. They also serve to connect the design (at least superficially) to the angle of a broadnib pen, and are similar to shapes you might find in the Speedball textbook or University Roman.

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Stunt Roman, from the Speedball Textbook. See also Ross F. George at Letterform Archive.

I’m usually a stickler for keeping the overall openness/closedness of arches and terminals consistent in my typefaces. For example, the arches of Fern’s n and p are flat and the “mouth” of the e stays open in order to echo that flatness. In contrast, Gimlet’s arches bend until they smoothly join the stem, and its terminals follow suit and close in. But in Pomfret, I forced myself to let go of this habit and the arches close in while the terminals remain wide open, another effort to bridge that stylistic gap.

Pomfret compare 2000

All in all, the lowercase I ended up with for Pomfret was certainly not the lowercase I expected. It probably has more in common with ’60s quasi-inscriptional designs like Americana and Friz Quadrata than it does anything created by Goodhue. But I *think* it coexists happily with the uppercase, and I hope you do too!

What’s next for Pomfret? Now that I’ve done this lowercase, I’m curious to see how it translates to an italic. And I know that Pomfret’s utility is extremely limited by its super-high contrast, so I’ve been sketching a low contrast version for small sizes as well...

My Typographics 2021 ad spot

View on Vimeo

I’m a big fan of the Typographics Festival and its associated TypeLab, and have been excited to play a small part in the conference them since its start in 2015 (most years, I generate the badges).

This year, with the conference entirely online, I had the opportunity to contribute a short ad for Font of the Month Club. But alas, I waited until the last minute before realizing that I have no A/V skills, I am horrible with software like After Effects. As the deadline approached, I had no idea what to make.

As I was stressing out, Typographics organizer and Type@Cooper director Cara di Edwardo encouraged me to just have fun with it. She planted the idea of doing something that recalled the pages of a tear-off calendar, which seemed perfect for a monthly subscription like mine. But what to do about the music?

A couple days before the deadline, I sent a message to type designer, dancer, and musician Jeff Kellem asking him if he had any interest in recording a last-minute jingle for the ad. Amazingly, he was available, and asked me if I had anything in mind. I quickly sang something silly into my phone and sent it to him.

In less than 48 hours, Jeff transformed the idea into a real piece of music, with a charming opening fanfare, a catchy melody, big band instrumentation, and vocals! I couldn’t be happier with it.