R is for Rotis


Rotis was designed by German designer Otl Aicher in 1988. Rotis is a ‘superfamily’ of typefaces, whose four basic variants are Rotis Serif, Rotis Semi-serif, Rotis Semi-sans and Rotis Sans. Aicher was reputedly ‘frustrated with the conservative mentality of many typographers who were determined to draw a clearly defined line between serif and sans serif typefaces’, and as a result sought to create transitional elements within a super font family that would blend serif and sans serif designs. Hardly surprising, then, that Rotis, named for a hamlet in the town where Aicher lived, was originally named ‘rotis’, because he believed capital letters were a sign of hierarchy and oppression. Rotis has been criticised for being a typeface that, while it has some good letters, lacks cohesion, proving that theory alone does not make for great typography. Either way, and despite the fact that I haven’t used it for quite some time, I have a soft spot for Rotis because it was the type family of choice for the first books I designed at the first publishing house I worked in.

Q is for Quixley


Quixley was designed by Vince Whitlock in 1991. There doesn’t appear to be much readily available information about either the designer or the typeface, but I found it interesting to read that Whitlock was inspired by an old Zoltan Nagy typeface, although which one in particular was not mentioned. Nagy, a Hungarian type designer, wrote ‘Techniques of Type Design’, produced engravings for postage stamps, and designed Antikva Margaret, his most notable typeface, which won a third place award at an ITC-sponsored competition in 1966. Whitlock had a hand in the design of several other typefaces, including Academy Engraved, Crillee, Lexikos and Equinox.

230 megabytes


Hard to believe, I know. What good would a 230 megabyte drive be these days! This is the hard drive from my first computer, a Centris 660AV, known affectionately (and descriptively) as the pizza box. Even harder to get your head around is that it had a whopping 8 MB of RAM! The tiny capacity is laughable now, but at the time it was a big deal, and who had even heard of terabytes. I designed books on this computer, set up my first email account, and even tried to program the futuristic voice commands—it was the first mac to integrate audiovisual features into the basic design—although it never seemed to understand a word I said. This is the computer that taught me how important it was to back up files, because one day I got a sad mac face and a black screen, complete with na-na-na-na-na spoken message, which took me quite by surprise.

P is for Poetica


Poetica was designed by Robert Slimbach in 1992. Slimbach, who joined Adobe in 1987 and is now director of their type design program, is a multi-award-winning type designer whose classically inspired digital typefaces include Adobe Garamond, Adobe Jenson, Minion and Utopia, to name just a few. Poetica was the first Adobe Originals script typeface, and was modelled on Italian Renaissance chancery handwriting scripts. It is notable for its huge array of swash characters, ligatures, ornaments and embellishments (although later designs by Slimbach often feature many more glyphs than the Poetica character sets—up to three thousand!).

Bus stopping


In my working life I prefer to work in the comfort and familiarity of my own office (and have been lucky enough to be able to do so), but during the last few months one of my favourite clients has required my presence in-house for a particular project. I like it more than I thought I would, and while it is kind of a disruption to my usual work routine, there are some definite pluses: like birthday cake and a cheery bit of singing in the middle of the afternoon! And I like the view from the bus. My short commute along Parramatta Road gives me the opportunity to admire the impressive turn-of-the-century facades along that noisy, dirty and faded—but once glorious—thoroughfare. Oh, and inside the bus is interesting too, especially on overcast days when the reflections are intensified.

O is for OCR


OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition. OCR-A and OCR-B, both designed in 1968, are monospaced fonts optimised for use by OCR applications. Their design came about from a need to have a font that could be used and reproduced electronically while remaining legible. OCR-A was designed by ATF to meet the criteria set by the US Bureau of Standards; OCR-B was designed by Adrian Frutiger for Monotype to meet the European Computer Manufacturer’s Association standard. To improve recognition accuracy each character is drawn with the same stroke thickness and each character shape is distinctive. Although optical character recognition technology has advanced and no longer requires such simple fonts, OCR is still used widely. OCR-B is easier for the human eye to discern, but OCR-A has a distinctive technical appearance which makes it favoured by graphic designers.

Spookily accurate


Jonathan Cainer, the well-known, ‘spookily accurate’ astrologer, died earlier this week at the very young age of 58. They say he didn’t predict his own death: in fact, in the days prior, he talked about an unprecedented number of celebrity deaths so far this year, and how an ethical astrologer would not predict the date or cause of anyone’s demise, not least because of the risk of the self-fulfilling prophecy. His own Sagittarius forecast for the day began: ‘We aren’t here for long. We should make the most of every moment.’ I was saddened to hear of his death. He had a particular way with words that, even if you thought it was bunkum, had the ability to shed a different light on your day and to open the way to choose the higher road. I first came across Cainer when I had a contract in a publishing house many years ago. The editors started it, the designers joined in: someone would do the coffee run and while we waited, we’d check our horoscopes online, all gathered around one computer while everyone’s forecast was read aloud. This symbol for Sagittarius the Archer is from the Frutiger Symbols Negativ character set: I think it is apt that you don’t immediately make out the obvious.

N is for News Gothic


News Gothic is a grotesque sans serif typeface. It was designed by the prolific and influential Morris Fuller Benton for ATF in 1908. The original release—two light weights, a medium weight and another related light weight (Lightline Gothic)—was added to in 1958 with two bold weights. News Gothic, as the name would suggest, was used for many years in newspaper and magazine publishing. Subsequent digital releases have added many more weights—Font Bureau’s aptly named Benton Sans, for example, is a font family based on News Gothic which comprises more than eighty weights, making it one of the most comprehensive typeface families in the News Gothic style. Bitstream, Adobe, Monotype, Linotype also have their own versions of News Gothic.