The FedEx logo is the best logo ever. I still remember the first time I saw that white arrow, the one that’s hidden in plain sight. I was working in-house for a book publisher when a parcel arrived from the US containing a piece of artwork I had commissioned for the project I was working on, an illustrated book about Ancient Rome. Midway through opening the parcel I stopped dead in my tracks: I saw the logo as I had never seen it before! The remarkable thing is that, in an office full of designers, no one else had ever seen it either. I’m not the only one who think the FedEx logo is brilliant. Designed by Lindon Leader in 1994, it has won a swag of design awards, and is used in design schools to demonstrate the effectiveness of negative space. Leader’s design philosophy centres around simplicity, clarity and understatement, where less is more. To create the FedEx logo he used a combination of Univers 67 and Futura Bold, morphed until the arrow was just so.
In the Hawaiian language, aloha means more than just hello and goodbye: one interpretation describes it as the joyful (oha) sharing (alo) of life energy (ha) in the present (alo). The Aloha Spirit refers to the attitude of friendly acceptance for which the Hawaiian Islands are renowned. Typographically, the word Aloha is usually written in colourful, ‘friendly’ handwritten or script typefaces, often embellished with illustrations of hibiscus flowers, ukulele-playing hula girls and sunsets—imagery which has as much to do with the Hawaiian climate and landscape as a state of mind. Shown here is Hawaiian Aloha BTN, by Breaking the Norm, a font library created by Brian Bonislawsky of Astigmatic One Eye and Stuart Sandler of Font Diner.
The numbers on telegraph poles mean something. It’s like a secret coded language, a shorthand of information for those in the know. Some markers are fairly obvious: a red-on-white HP indicates the location of a hydrant, a vertical black-on-yellow bus stop speaks for itself. Some numbers indicate the pole number and the distance from the source—which might be what these are—but it doesn’t really matter because I am biased more towards the aesthetic appeal of wonky silver numbers hammered into dry, splitting, splintery timber, and the rich array of textures and tonality. The much newer smart poles, with their banners, cctv and feature lighting, are not nearly so abundantly accessorised.
I like the hand-drawn, and to observe the decisions that have been made in order to render writing x onto surface y. This chemist window is part of an old building, although I don’t know how long the signage has been there. Great care has been taken to curve the gold, tooled and drop-shadowed letters, yet the crossbar of the H doesn’t quite follow the arc. I particularly like the fullstop, more diamond than square, and that the size of the letters proved more important than fitting the whole word within one pane. The ABC of the printed poster in the window is Lithos Bold, an Adobe typface designed by Carol Twombly in 1989.
February 14, Valentine’s Day, was first associated with romantic love in Geoffrey Chaucer’s time, when, in 1382, he wrote (translated): For this was on St Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate. So the custom of giving flowers, chocolates and greeting cards—known as valentines—evolved in England, and goes back centuries, although in modern times handwritten valentines are less common than mass-produced greeting cards. In the UK an estimated 25 million cards are sent each year, and in the US the figure is a staggering 190 million. When you take into account the valentines that are made in school activities, that number increases to 1 billion. And that’s not counting e-valentines. In the area of book arts there are bookbinding structures that lend themselves extremely well to expressing matters of the heart—something as simple as folding two leaves of a book into the spine creates a heart shape. In typography, Zapf Dingbats contains three widely recognisable heart shapes, although I can’t recall every having the need to use the sideways one.
In English, the letter D is the fourth letter and third consonant of the alphabet. D represents a voiced alveolar stop, which means it is sounded when the tongue is placed at the alveolar ridge (the roof of your mouth behind your teeth) and the tongue is pushed off with sound from the vocal cords. D’s origins can be traced to the Phoenician dalet, meaning door. The letter D is a musical note, has a value of 500 in roman numerals, and in typography, can be as heavy and imposing as Blackoak or as delicate and elegant as Gotham Thin, plus everything else in between.
The Beatles logo is one of the most universally recognised pieces of lettering, and first appeared on Ringo Starr’s drum kit in 1963. It was designed by Ivor Arbiter, who ran Drum City, London’s first drums-only store, as part of the payment negotiation for Ringo’s new Ludwig drum kit. Arbiter made a rough sketch on a scrap of paper, and was paid £5 for arranging the artwork, which was painted onto the drum head by local signwriter Eddie Stokes. The capital B and dropped T were intended to emphasise the word beat. While there is nothing typographically sophisticated, or even particularly interesting, about The Beatles logo, the power of typography is such that it endures in its ability to evoke memory and emotion. Yesterday marked the fiftieth anniversary of The Beatles’ first arrival in America, and tomorrow marks the fiftieth anniversary of their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. The typeface has been digitised as ‘Bootle’.
Steinway & Sons, maker of high quality, award-winning pianos, was founded in New York in 1853 by German immigrant Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg, who later changed his name to Henry E Steinway. By 2000, they had made more than 550,000 pianos, each of which takes almost a year to complete. In 2010, on John Lennon’s 70th birthday anniversary, Steinway introduced a series of limited edition pianos based on the white grand piano Lennon owned. More than 1600 artists—including Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, Daniel Barenboim and George Gershwin—have the title Steinway Artist, which means they have chosen to perform exclusively on Steinway pianos. Not only are Steinways notable for their sound quality, but their logo is instantly recognisable. It was designed by William Steinway and the current design was first used in 1955. I have noticed the typography of the logo before, with the S shapes and ampersand, but what brings it to my attention now is seeing Diana Krall, a Steinway Artist of course, play her set last night on the Sydney Opera House piano, logo in gold on the side facing the audience.
The number 19 by itself would be noteworthy but its surroundings give it an added dimension. There is such attention to detail in the ornate framing and duotone brickwork. The left hand side of the facade had matching brickwork and a corresponding framed AD, but I liked this side better because of the way it abuts the concrete pillar of the neighbouring building. On a dull day it would most likely look completely different but the blue sky and clear light make the concrete appear architecturally dramatic.