Rockwell is a slab serif typeface released by Monotype in 1934. The design, based on Litho Antique, was overseen by Frank Hinman Pierpont, Monotype’s in-house designer. Rockwell is geometric and mono-weighted (although with some slight unevenness that stops it looking too regular), with a large x-height and unbracketed serifs — features that make it suitable for display purposes rather than for large bodies of text. Distinguishing features of Rockwell are the serif at the apex of the uppercase A and the circular O of the light and regular weights.



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.

Franklin Gothic


Franklin Gothic, the widely used sans serif typeface named after Benjamin Franklin, was designed around 1903 by Morris Fuller Benton, head of typeface development at American Type Founders. In 1980 ITC commissioned Victor Caruso to produce four new weights – book, medium, demi and heavy – and in 1991, David Berlow drew twelve condensed, compressed and extra-compressed variations. The typeface can be distinguished by the weight stress within individual letters, for example the left side of the A is lighter than the right, and the left stroke of the M is lighter than the other three strokes. I came upon this album art, with its pre-digitised type, on one of those Saturday mornings when you run into someone you know at every turn – one of whom was taking a whole lot of records to the op-shop. After we stopped to shoot the breeze she went on her way one Beach Boys record lighter.



Baskerville is a transitional serif typeface, notable for its upper case Q. It was designed in the 1750s in Birmingham, England, by John Baskerville, in an attempt to make improvements to Caslon to achieve a typeface that reflected his ideals of perfection. In addition to increasing contrast between thick and thin strokes and making the serifs sharper and more tapered, Baskerville conducted experiments to improve legibility that included paper making and ink manufacturing. In 1758 he was appointed printer at Cambridge University Press, and it was there that he published his master work, a folio Bible, using his own typeface, ink and paper.

Blue B


I love everything about this: the shades of grey and silver in abstract shapes on the metal capping; the wood of the telegraph pole, dirty and textured and streaked with creosote; and most importantly, the bold sans serif blue B, startlingly clear and bright, attached with rusty rivets. The typeface looks like a cross between Gill Sans Bold (with its slightly smaller upper bowl) and Akzidenz Grotesk but is more likely a generic gothic sans concoction.



Memphis is an Egyptian, or slab serif, typeface designed by Rudolf Wolf in 1929 for Stempel, the Frankfurt type foundry opened by David Stempel in 1895. Slab serif typefaces were popular in the early 1800s but Memphis was the first twentieth-century slab serif design. The letter shapes are geometric and the stems and serifs have the same optical weight. Noticeable features of Memphis are the apex serif on the uppercase A and the angle of the tail on the uppercase Q. Memphis is an excellent display face for posters and headlines but also works well for short blocks of text.

Communications below


This has the appearance of Helvetica Rounded Condensed, but the rounded quality of the stroke terminators is no doubt the result of the engraving tool rather than a conscious and deliberate choice of typeface variant. Helvetica, the most widely used sans serif typeface, was developed in 1957 by Max Miedinger for Edouard Hoffman at the Haas Type Foundry in Switzerland. The Helvetica family contains a large and varied range of weights, and versions also exist for alphabets and scripts other than English. Helvetica is everywhere, from the New York subway to the space shuttle to this small and humble metal footpath plate, scuffed and worn (in a very aesthetically pleasing manner, might I add) by years of foot traffic.