It’s bushfire season, and there was a particularly severe few days last week when the air was thick with smoke for hundred of kilometres from the fires to the north, south and west of Sydney. I was about 300 kilometres north, in Taree, when I saw this richly lit facade. The building is painted a kind of pale yellowy off-white — the rich honey colour has nothing to do with the name of the building, but comes from the late afternoon sun filtered through smoke haze. A couple of days later, on my return home, I noticed an unusual amount of bee activity under my studio window, and discovered hundreds of bees attempting to build a hive. Coincidence or not, they had to be moved!
The acid yellow of the crossing sign was luminous against the perfect vignette of the cloudless blue sky. As I paused to admire the contrast of colours I heard the unmistakable thrum of a plane preparing to land. Those of us who live in the inner west under the flight path are almost immune to the sound of aircraft, but I could tell that this one was close. I hardly think the crossing sign was intended for planes, but it was so low at this point it could have been.
Fonthead was founded in 1994 by Ethan and Lisa Dunham. I first came across their range of fonts when I was looking for something quirky and a bit different for a series of children’s joke books I was designing. Fonthead’s selection of free fonts were a cut above the rest, and I used a combination of Good Dog (perhaps their best known typeface) and Font Heads. Their catalogue has grown considerably since then and includes such typefaces as Corn Dog, Drawzing, Bad Dog, Circus Dog, and Click Bits and Info Bits — an impressive collection of 980 arrows and icons.
This typeface has such an air of familiarity about it that I was certain I could identify it quickly and accurately. This familiarity, I suppose, is because it looks like Clarendon, even though it isn’t quite: Clarendon has a distinctive upturn on the leg of the uppercase R which is not present here. I looked up Beton, Egyptian Bold, Superba, Cheltenham, New Century Schoolbook and anything else I could think of that might provide the answer to my quest. I compared Linotype to Bitstream. I looked through old type catalogues. I asked around. Then in the end I decided that the signwriter had drawn his own Clarendon-like letters, and that I could relax.
Central Park — in Sydney, not New York — is the urban redevelopment of the old Kent Brewery site in Chippendale. When the hoardings first went up along Broadway I was not impressed. The typography of the logo combines the lowercase l with the uppercase P, and, imho, it tries too hard to be clever and fails in the attempt. I was also unimpressed that, yet again, they couldn’t think up a name of their own. However, the site is proving to be quite interesting. There has been some outstanding public sculpture on show, and when I walked by this week I had a great underneath view of this partially constructed suspended platform.
My attention was drawn recently to an article in The Guardian, in which Domenic Lippa of Pentagram listed his ten favourite fonts: Akzidenz Grotesk, New Baskerville, DIN 1451, Franklin Gothic, HTF Didot, Gotham, Knockout, Gill Shadow, Rockwell and Sabon. What a task to choose only ten! It made me think about my favourites, and also how they change over time — there are fonts I once used on a regular basis but have barely looked at these last couple of years. I would have to agree with Lippa that Akzidenz Grotesk is ‘probably the best typeface ever designed’, and despite its current ubiquitousness I would also include Gotham on my list. And perhaps Archer, which is the type I am, according to Pentagram’s ‘what type are you?’ game.
This is one of the more surprising installations I have come across. Drive along Australia’s number one highway (no less!) through Cobargo and there it is, on the western side of the road: a patch of sandy, weed-ridden vacant land, made home to a collection of garden gnomes. Great care has obviously been taken with the sign that stakes their claim. You can still see traces of the pencil guide lines and it is constructed well enough to withstand the blustery wet weather of the day I first saw them.
I love this row of posters. They work on every level: they are colourful; they tell you everything you need to know in a logical order; they are free from superfluous embellishment; they are eye-catching and completely no-nonsense with their made-to-fit bold sans serif type; and they evoke memories of that pre-poker machine time when live music at the local pub was not the exception to the rule. Who wouldn’t want to check out the Shy Guys and the Lonely Boys, middy of whatever’s on tap in hand?
This number ten adorns an industrial building in Alexandria, although, given the widespread gentrification of the area, I’m not sure whether the building actually houses an industry or if the facade hides some fabulously chic domestic architectural wonder. Either way, someone has gone to the trouble of painting the brick wall white and placing the street number in an orange oval, giving it much more appeal and personality than if they had attached an off-the-shelf number from the hardware store.
Ink traps are a feature of certain typefaces, most notably Bell Centennial, where corners or details of the letterforms are removed, usually at a junction, to compensate for the spread of ink during printing on newsprint. Bell Centennial was designed by Matthew Carter for AT&T, who required a new phone directory typeface (for their 100th anniversary) that would fit more characters per line and increase legibility at a smaller point size. Carter improved on AT&T’s earlier typeface, Bell Gothic, by increasing x-height, slightly condensing character width, opening up counters and bowls, and drawing deep ink traps, which, at the smaller point size used in the phone book, become invisible.