The timeframe is the late 1950s, and more precisely, 1957. The economic boom had reached its zenith, Russia was about to launch Sputnik, Jack Kerouac’s book On the Road was published, and in Italy, the Fiat 500 was enjoying its debut on the automobile market. In this climate of progress and development, typography was also in one of its golden ages. Up until then, visual communications were expressed using the lines of Akzidenz-Grotesk, emblematic of the International Typographical Style (more commonly known as the Swiss Style). That year saw the market appearance of three typographical milestones: Helvetica, Folio and Univers, the latter designed by Adrian Frutiger, one of the most influential and prolific 20th-century typeface designers.

2021 07 21 Typography Univers 1

Drawing inspiration from Akzidenz, Frutiger created Univers, one of the first typeface families with different weights, widths and obliques, for the Deberny & Peignot type foundry.

The intention behind this project was to create a single system that would enable designers to create graphic layouts using a single typeface, in its different variants.

2021 07 21 Typography Univers 2

In addition to being a true masterpiece in terms of lettering design, Univers also introduced a system of classification and recognisability that was revolutionary at that time: the two-digit classification system.

Up until then, the font nomenclature system included, in addition to the name, the weight and width, all in the typeface’s original language. By way of example, in Germany a semi bold italic was named “halbfett kursiv”, in France a bold typeface was called “gras”, while in Italy it was “grassetto” or “neretto” and so forth. This system gave rise to – and still does today – a lot of misunderstandings regarding a font’s identification. An emblematic example is the difference between “thin” and “ultra light” which does not immediately clarify which weight is the lightest.

2021 07 21 Typography Univers 3

With the introduction of Univers, this classification method was superseded by a far simpler approach. The two-digit system consists of a prefix (the first digit) which defines the weight, and a suffix (the second digit) which defines the width and style (Roman or oblique).

For example, Univers 39 defines a light font (3) with ultra-narrow width (9), while Univers 83 specifies an ultra-black (8) extended (3) font. When the suffix is an even number, it refers to the oblique variants. This system is used still today in families of typefaces which, like Univers, have many internal variants.

2021 07 21 Typography Univers 4

By means of this tool, graphic layouts were able to attain a remarkable degree of simple hierarchic uniformity, making Univers one of the most influential typeface families of all time. One of its most famous applications is the visual identity project for Swiss International Air Lineswhich utilises a modified version of Frutiger’s Univers.

2021 07 21 Typography Univers 5

However, this Swiss style is not used just in that country. For many years, gigantic companies such as Deutsche Bank and General Electric have used modified (but always easily recognisable) versions of the typeface for their visual identity.

2021 07 21 Typography Univers 6

Univers was also the typeface used for the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. More specifically, Otl Aicher’s work on communications for the 1972 Munich Games represents one of the most important and successful communication projects in the history of design, in part due to the typeface’s elegance and linearity.

2021 07 21 Typography Univers 7

Other examples of its use by famous brands include the visual identities and logos of Unicef, ebay and Audi.

2021 07 21 Typography Univers 8
2021 07 21 Typography Univers 9
2021 07 21 Typography Univers 10

Apple itself, which has always dedicated a great deal of attention to typographical aspects, used a Univers font for the keys of its computers up until 2007, before changing initially to VAG Rounded and later, San Francisco.

2021 07 21 Typography Univers 11

The fascination of Univers has continued unchanged up until the present, now that grotesque typefaces are enjoying remarkable popularity and are widely used by designers all over the world.

2021 07 21 Typography Univers 12
2021 07 21 Typography Univers 13
2021 07 21 Typography Univers 14
2021 07 21 Typography Univers 15

Without doubt, 2020 was a year that overturned our lives, influencing our behaviour as consumers. In the retail sector, hard-hit by the pandemic, the online purchasing experience has shown the expansion of a decade in just a few months, with a 26% growth and a turnover of 22.7 billion euro in 2020 (source: B2C eCommerce Observatory, Politecnico di Milano – Milan Technical University). When consumers return to brick-and-mortar stores, they will have a new awareness that will increasingly narrow the separation between physical and digital space.

How are brands operating in this new scenario?

Over the course of the last twelve months, many companies, above all in the world of fashion, have ventured into new, hitherto unexplored, territories. Augmented reality, virtual stores and distance assistance are just some of the solutions that we have encountered and learnt how to manage.

Prada’s virtual fashion show for the women’s Spring/Summer 2021 collection, streamed live globally
Insight Design Digital retail 01 Prada

STAYING IN CONTACT WITH CONSUMERS

One of the first companies to take steps in this direction, with the objective of staying in direct contact with its consumers, is IKEA. After having abandoned its printed catalogue, the Swedish giant opened its first virtual store in which consumers can move along a route and make purchases with just a click, with the assistance of a virtual reality headset.

The IKEA virtual store
Insight Design Digital retail 03 Ikea

Hybrid approaches of this sort were also experimented by Gucci and Piquadro. Both of them offered its customers a virtual experience in which its sales assistants, wearing 3D glasses, take the place of consumers, providing a true distance personal shopping service.

A new virtual personal shopping service by Gucci and Piquadro
Insight Design Digital retail 02 Remote

These examples highlight the concern, particularly on the part of luxury brands, of generating value for an expression of e-commerce that is principally involved in products. Online purchasing leaves little opportunity for a brand to develop effective storytelling that can be perceived by the consumer. To avoid a sensation of dullness in the product range available, technology can provide an effective tool for disclosing the brand’s values, recreating the type of contact experience that usually occurs in the physical space.

NEW IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCES

With a view to involving customers in a new purchasing experience, virtual reality is the tool that comes closest to the physical situation. Immersive techniques are providing a new outlook on the use of content and engagement. For 2022, it has been estimated that about 2 billion people will utilise virtual reality at least once a month, with an estimated growth of 125 billion dollars over the next four years.

One of the latest examples was provided by FCA for the CES show in Las Vegas, the technology trade fair which this year took place in virtual format. The Italian-American group simulated a three-dimensional stand at which the visitor, accompanied by a virtual assistant, could interact with 3D models of vehicles, personalising colours and learning about the interior details.

FCA and its virtual showroom during the CES show in Las Vegas
Insight Design Digital retail 05 FCA

For the launch of the Spring/Summer 2021 collection, Diesel decided to replicate the event in the virtual world. The Hyperoom project gave its buyers the possibility of exploring the three-dimensional showroom, with guidance by sales staff provided by a live-chat platform.

Hyperoom by Diesel, a virtual showroom for the launch of the new collection
Insight Design Digital retail 06 Diesel

The most extreme and visionary example was offered by Harry Nuriev, Russian artist and founder of Crosby Studios, who launched Crosby Studios Homes, the first wholly online furnishing and lifestyle brand. Software from the world of gaming was used to display the collection, reconstructing an apartment entirely decorated with objects and items for the home. On the website, by means of a self-guided tour, customers can download 3D models of each article and order articles from the collection.

Crosby Studios Homes, the first online furnishing and lifestyle brand
Insight Design Digital retail 07 Crosby

THE PHYGITAL FUTURE

Companies’ investment into the online sector as opposed to stores, illustrated, for example, by Zara’s closure of over 1,200 points of sale, is leading to a new balance between physical and digital space. Even though some tools, such as augmented reality, are still only minimally accessible and exploited, the online experience will be a priority in the future. Stores will therefore have to evolve, offering an integrated experience in which to create more intense connections by rethinking purchasing processes.

However, the future will not involve exclusively the use of the latest technology to dazzle customers, but rather it will guarantee that the technological methods that are adopted meet consumer needs. Brick-and-mortar stores will become brands’ opportunity for creating a holistic experience in which to nurture the fidelity of its audience, going beyond solely the purchase of products. The design of omnichannel strategies capable of creating authentic relations with customers will be of key importance for long-term survival and for remaining relevant on the market.

Between the late 1990s and the first decade of the new millennium, the introduction of CSS (Cascading Styles Sheets) in information technology marked the start of a new age for typefaces. In fact, the CSS language made it possible to design the appearance of web pages with great freedom: designers were no longer restricted to the use of just the so-called “web-safe fonts”, but were free to choose personalised fonts as they desired. One of the typefaces that benefited most for its great versatility both online and offline was without doubt Proxima Nova, which many have defined as the Helvetica of the web.

Font Reach PN

However the path leading to consecration in the temple of the best-loved contemporary typefaces was long and tough. It was long ago, in 1981, that Mark Simonson, the father of Proxima Nova, began thinking about a new, geometric and elemental typeface, sketching it on a piece of paper (and provisionally naming it Zanzibar), never imagining that that sketch would take another 9 long years to reach fruition.

zanzibar

In fact it was only from 1990 to 1993 that Simonson, who was then Art Director of the magazine Business Ethics,created “Visigothic”, basing it on the 1981 sketch with the objective of creating a simpler and more geometric alternative to the typeface Gills Sans, which he was using at that time for the magazine’s page design. He thus devised a hybrid that combined Helvetica’s modern and regular characteristics with the more technical and geometric appearance of Futura and Franklin Gothic.

The first public appearance of Visigothic dates back to late 1993, printed on the Star Wars – The Original Radio Dramacassette designed by Simonson himself. In 1994its name changed and it was released as Proxima Sans. Initially Simonson had great plans for this project, but due to the accumulation of other work commitments, he decided not to dedicate any more time to it and unfortunately developed just a few font weights.

But in the early 2000s, things started to change for Proxima Sans. In 2002, Matthew Ball decided to use it for the redesign of the magazine Rolling Stone. In the same year, on commission from GQ magazine, Tobias Frere-Jones published a geometric typeface inspired by New York City and named Gotham. Gotham rapidly became popular, causing an exponential increase in the demand for simple, linear geometric typefaces.Seizing the opportunity, in 2005 Simonson republished Proxima Sans, renaming it Proxima Nova. This typeface was improved with many more weights and styles capable of combining a geometric appearance with modern proportions. The six original fonts in the Proxima Sans family (with three italic weights) thus became 48 complete OpenType fonts.

PNOVApng
T0467 01

In 2009the Typekit font hosting service was launched, and from the start, Proxima Nova was one of the first typefaces available. In 2013, Proxima Nova became extremely popular, inundating the digital world as a result of its incredible versatility both for print applications and for digital interfaces.

Tris

Today, it is the major typeface for some of the most popular digital media companies such as BuzzFeed, Flickr, Mashable, NBC News, Wired etc. It is used in the logo of the third best airline in the world, Turkish Airlines, and by many other companies

However, as is the case for all great typefaces, the long process of refinement has not ended yet. New weights are arriving for the rounded version Proxima Nova Soft, an additional language support tool has recently been implemented, including Vietnamese, Cyrillic and Greek, and apparently, a possible Proxima Nova Wide is in the development stage.

Stay proximal for the next release!

Mark Simonson

Today we are accustomed to asking questions and talking to various virtual assistants such as Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant. Each has its own tone of voice, personality and characteristics. At the dawn of artificial intelligence, this was not the case. The assistant’s “voice” was inextricably linked to the shape of its lettering. Microsoft became acutely aware of this in 1994, when it was working on a project to enhance the friendliness of the user interface of MS Bob, an alternative operating system in which the workspace took the form of a domestic lounge. Inevitably the system also comprised the perfect assistant, the faithful dog Rover.

Insight Typography ComicSans Single Image 01

This is where the Comic Sans adventure began. In fact, the friendly dog “spoke” to the user, giving its suggestions using texts displayed in Times New Roman, a typeface that had been designed in 1932 for totally different purposes. Vincent Connare, a Type Designer at Microsoft who had previously worked at Agfa/Compugraphic, was struck by this typeface’s inability to express the desired approach. He had some copies of Watchmen and Batman on his desk. Connare immediately realised that the human touch of cartoon lettering could be more appropriate for an assistant with a friendly appeal such as that of the dog Rover. So he started working on Comic Sans, a typeface that would go down in history.

Insight Typography ComicSans Single Image 02

Unfortunately the typeface was not used for MS Bob, but it was included as one of the basic fonts of the Windows 95 operating system that was then being developed. Any person with a PC of that generation could use Comic Sans. It soon began to be used on a massive scale: for birthday party invitations, greeting cards, restaurant menus through to home-made posters. A large proportion of the sheets emerging from domestic printers were in Comic Sans. The typeface’s amusing, infantile and naïve appearance evoked a personal feel, something that other fonts, even though prestigious, were unable to express. It became the natural choice for people who didn’t want to take themselves too seriously. Unfortunately, it was used for many other things as well. Its use led to misuse, and this is where the problems started. Official documents, police cars, signs indicating danger of death, tombstones: all too often, Comic Sans began appearing in totally inappropriate situations, giving rise to involuntary humour which soon became loathing, above all in the world of designers.

Insight Typography ComicSans Single Image 03

In the early 2000s, a movement against the typeface came into being, giving rise to the website bancomicsans.com (no longer active), on which you could buy T-shirts, caps and stickers that expressed the desire to ban the font. The site’s founders, Holly and David Combs, also published a sort of manifesto that explained their dissent:

Insight Typography ComicSans Single Image 04
Insight Typography ComicSans Single Image 05

The typeface was also discussed by the Wall Street Journal, which in 2009 defined it as being so unpopular as to be retro-chic. Design Week even dedicated a cover to it, using it for the ironic message “The world’s favourite font!?”. Its inability to communicate plausibly is also treated by the ironic blog Comics Sans Project, in which famous identities are redesigned using the culpable typeface.

Insight Typography ComicSans Single Image 06

Over the years, inappropriate applications of the typeface have not ceased. For example, in 2012 it was used by CERN researchers at the press conference informing the world about the discovery of the Higgs Boson, and in 2014, some NBA stars wore a protest T-shirt with the text “I can’t breathe” in Comic Sans.

Insight Typography ComicSans Single Image 07

Despite the amount of criticism it has received, Comic Sans has an important point in its favour, the fact that it clearly showed that every typeface has its own personality, suitable for certain contexts and unsuitable for others. The reasons that led Connare to design it were wholly valid, and if only its use had been restricted to the areas initially contemplated, Comic Sans would have performed its role to perfection, without giving rise to so much debate. As Connare himself said in an interview, “If you love Comic Sans, you don’t know much about typography. If you hate it, you really don’t know much about typography either, and you should get another hobby”, underlining the fact that it is not the typeface itself that is right or wrong, but rather the way in which it is used.

Giuseppe Mascia, Visual Design Lead at CBA

Ten years have gone by from when Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, published the first photo on his digital platform. The world was entering a new era, the age of smartphones, influencers and memes. The epoch of streaming, the internet of things, and the sharing economy.

These great developments have changed not only everyday habits, they have also affected culture, the visual arts and design. Typography has not been a mere onlooker in this evolution. The 2010s were years of important revolutions in typeface design, playing an increasingly pivotal role in graphic design due to a new and more mature awareness of typography.

Return to rigor

In the early years of the new decade, there was a renewed interest in uncluttered geometries, a trend that had appeared a few years earlier with the spread of linear typefaces such as Gotham, and that propelled typefaces such as Akkurat and Circular to popularity towards the mid-decade.

Insight Typography Typo Decade Circular Single Image
Insight Typography Typo Decade Akkurat Single Image copia
Insight Typography Typo Decade Replica Single Image

Alongside technological innovations, an elemental, minimalist style of typography developed, linked to digital aesthetics, which replaced all elements of traditional ornamentation, considered as superfluous or even problematic.

Insight Typography Typo Decade Kasperflorio Single Image

One of the most important reasons for this return to minimalism was the need for greater legibility, fundamental in a world in which most content is accessed through the screens of smartphones or even smaller devices. This was keenly felt by Apple, to the point that, specially for the Apple Watch, the company launched “San Francisco”, a typeface that successively became standard for all products by the Cupertino-based company.

Insight Typography Typo Decade Apple Single Image

This trend towards minimalism has also been clearly visible in the world of branding, above all within the largest digital corporations, but in other companies as well.

It was in fact the decade of historic rebranding operations for important names such as Google, which abandoned the historic serif character of its logotype in 2015, adopting instead a geometric, linear font, “Product Sans”. The same approach was adopted by Facebook, Spotify, Airbnb, Motorola and Lenovo, and later by Dropbox, Mastercard, Pandora, Pinterest and Uber. This quest for simplicity reached its peak of popularity towards the middle of the 2010s.

Insight Typography Typo Decade google Single Image copia
Insight Typography Typo Decade Rebrands Single Image 3

Towards the end of the decade, the phenomenon spread to important fashion brands, which gradually adopted more neutral and geometric versions of their historic logos, with varying degrees of approval on the part of the public.

Insight Typography Typo Decade loghimoda Single Image copia

The experimental phase

At the same time, from the mid-2010s, there was a powerful interest in more experimental forms of typeface. This trend was made possible by the introduction of user-friendly software such as “Glyphs”, which enabled increasing numbers of designers to enter the world of type design, and fuelled an increase of typography’s popularity on social media. Good examples include viral projects such as “36 Days of Type” which over the course of 6 years collected over 670,000 participants.

Insight Typography Typo Decade 36days Single Image

The possibility of accessing tools that were previously reserved to just a few people induced a sort of revolution that went beyond the pure Nevill Brody-style provocation of the 1990s. Typographical experimentation became more mature, acquiring a full awareness of its identity as a true form of expression.

Insight Typography Typo Decade triple Single Image

Mirko Borsche became one of the most important exponents of this point of view. He succeeded in bringing this trend to a mainstream level, working with important fashion and sportswear brands.

Insight Typography Typo Decade borche1 Single Image

The academic world has always made powerful contributions in terms of experimentation. Without doubt, one of the most significant examples is Ecal, the Swiss institute based in Lausanne, which in recent years has often anticipated and launched new trends in the world of typography.

In Italy, the height of excellence in this regard is Isia in Urbino. This college has always dedicated a lot of attention to its students’ typographical research and experimentation, and it has embraced this new wave of creativity in initiatives that include the New Wave project.

Insight Typography Typo Decade isia Single Image copia

Typographical experimentation has also included the redesign of historic, classic typefaces. It is no coincidence that the last decade saw an increase in popularity of the Didone family, typefaces of French inspiration that emerged in the 18th century, and that were given new interpretations compliant with the needs of new technology.

Insight Typography Typo Decade didoni3 Single Image copia 1

Technology and new opportunities

With the development of technology, the 2010s saw the introduction of another important opportunity: the possibility of displaying every typeface correctly on the web platform, made possible by the introduction of the WOFF (Web Open Font Format) in 2010. Before then, the choices of typefaces available for a web page were limited to a handful of “system” fonts, which made it almost impossible to communicate your own identity online through typography.

It was normal practice to include an alternative “web safe” font that was as close as possible to the same typeface used for printing, but due to the limited number of options available, the result was not always acceptable.

Insight Typography Typo Decade websafe2 Single Imag

It was precisely for this reason that in 2009 the Swedish company IKEA decided to abandon Futura, after having used it for 50 years, and adopted Verdana, one of the few “web safe” typefaces of the day, in order to attain a greater degree of coherence between online and offline communications.

Ironically, just one year later, developments in technology would have made it possible to use Futura online as well as in print, which would have enabled the company to save the large capital investments that had been made for the transition to the new typeface.

Insight Typography Typo Decade IKEA2 Single Image

Another factor in the move towards typographical democratisation was a pivotal innovation introduced by Google. In 2010 it launched its “Google Fonts” service, giving its users the chance to work with a wide range of professional typefaces, totally free of charge. The typefaces are web- friendly, and superbly designed right down to the smallest details. They represent a valuable resource, for web designers and many other web users. Two of the most popular typefaces on the platform are Roboto and Open Sans.

Adobe has worked in the same way, introducing the “Adobe Typekit” service in 2011, for all Creative Cloud users, providing access to an extensive typeface library included as part of the subscription.

Over the years, these services have become very popular, giving a new meaning to the definition of “free font”. Originally this expression referred to amateur typefaces, with a limited range of font weights and often with a restricted number of glyphs; today on the other hand, the definition can be applicable to some very interesting typefaces, accessible to everyone without any compromise.

Insight Typography Typo Decade googlefonts2 Single Image

This typographical democratisation has, however, increased the need for distinctive typefaces, something that, in addition to a growing visual awareness amongst the population at large and not just professionals working in this field, has induced an increasing number of companies to have their own proprietary typefaces, so-called “Custom Fonts”. In addition to giving the company an original visual identity and adding prestige, this decision can also have important economic benefits.

An emblematic example is that of Netflix, which saved millions of dollars in copyright fees by designing its own typeface. Or that of “Cereal”, Airbnb’s custom typeface created by Dalton Maag in 2018.

Insight Typography Typo Decade netflix2 Single Image 3

Returning to the subject of technology, there is another important event that characterised the 2010s, changing the rules in the world of typography: the introduction of Variable Fonts in 2016.

This new technology has expanded the possibilities of Open Type, in the sense of a single font file that includes innumerable variations in weights and shape which become “variable”, i.e. they can be modified directly within the programme. So, instead of large typeface families, there is a single file that includes all the possible variants, with every version respecting the fundamental characteristics and identity.

Yet to reach widespread acceptance, this technology provides maximum font flexibility, and at the same time, maximum efficiency in terms of light weight, an important factor for the web.

Insight Typography Typo Decade variable5 Single Image
Insight Typography Typo Decade variable4 Single Image
Insight Typography Typo Decade variable3 Single Image

And so, an intense decade has come to an end, a decade in which technology, above all web technology, has played a central role in the epochal changes that have made quality typefaces an increasingly appreciated and pivotal element.

It is likely that over the course of the next few years, an increasing focus on customer-centric design, together with the development of new technology, will mark a turning-point in the interaction between users and typography, further improving user experience with respect to its functionality.

Insight Typography Typo Decade interaction Single Image

One thing that is certain is that at the start of another decade, a concept that has accompanied us in previous years is still valid: “Type matters!” is true today more than ever before.


Emilio La Mura, Visual Designer at CBA

Even those who aren’t die-hard comic book lovers will be familiar with Gotham City, the imaginary city where the adventures of Batman are set. However, the artists at DC Comics didn’t start from nothing: Gotham City is the fantastical transposition of New York City. Even though it is not mentioned explicitly, the link between Batman’s hometown and the Big Apple is very close indeed.

Insight Typography Gotham Single Image 01c

It may be for this reason that type designer Frere-Jones, Hoefler’s partner at the time, decided to name the typeface he designed Gotham after the comic book city. As with Batman, here too New York is a great source of inspiration.

The font was born in 2000, commissioned by GQ, which wanted a linear font with a geometric structure. A u0022masculine, new and freshu0022 typeface capable of lending a certain authority and credibility to the articles they published.

Insight Typography Gotham Single Image 02

In order to capture the essence of the city, Tobias Frere-Jones took thousands of photos all around New York, concentrating especially on the old signs from the mid-twentieth century. The type designer wanted to capture the rationalist spirit of those years, which can also be found in its architecture and urban planning.

Insight Typography Gotham Single Image 03B

He was most strongly inspired by the sign at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on Eighth Avenue, whose simplicity was summarised thusly by Frere-Jones: u0022not the kind of letter a type designer would make. It’s the kind of letter an engineer would make. It was born outside the type design in some other world and has a very distinct flavor from thatu0022.

The typeface that comes out of it fully embodies the minimalist philosophy by which it was inspired. In its 44 weight variations – now 66 – there is no room for frivolous or pointless elements. Gotham is a solid and functional typeface, yet accessible. The description on the Hoefler & Co website is quite clear: u0022From the lettering that inspired it, Gotham inherited an honest tone that’s assertive but never imposing, friendly but never folksy, confident but never aloofu0022.

Insight Typography Gotham Single Image 10c

Its main characteristics include the circular shape of many of its letters and the fairly prominent height of the lowercase letters, with consequent quite small ascendants and descendants.

Insight Typography Gotham Single Image 11

A few years after its publication, when the exclusive rights for GQ expire, it is used as the main character for the identities of the Freedom Tower and for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, at the World Trade Center.

Insight Typography Gotham Single Image 06

But it wasn’t until 2008 that it truly became famous: Barack Obama, as a candidate for the presidency of the United States, chose it as the official font for his campaign. “YES WE CAN”, “CHANGE”, “HOPE”: all clear, direct messages which found Gotham, with its simple and incisive look, to be the natural solution to represent them.

Insight Typography Gotham Single Image 05

The rest is history. The u0022Obama typefaceu0022 became popular not only in the United States, but worldwide. It became the font of choice for Coca Cola, Netflix, Saturday Night Live, Turkish Airlines, DC Comics, Tribeca Film Festival to name but a few.

Insight Typography Gotham Single Image 08

In the world of cinema, too, it gained a great deal of popularity, featuring on the posters for many blockbusters.

Insight Typography Gotham Single Image 09

Obama himself, 4 years after his first campaign, decided to adopt Gotham as his font once again for the 2012 mid-term elections. However, this time he decided to add serifs to “his” font. Hoefler and Frere-Jones themselves commented on the request with a hint of irony:

Insight Typography Gotham Single Image 07C

Giuseppe Mascia, Visual Design Lead at CBA

In the second half of the 15th century, with the development of moveable-type printing, Venice became one of the most important centres for typography art. One only has to think of the exquisite work of Francesco Griffo for Bembo, a typeface studied at the end of the 1400s for “de Aetna” by Pietro Bembo, from which it takes its name.

There was however a character that was to be associated with the timeless elegance of Italian printing, the Bodoni, created a few centuries later in Parma. Again in this case, the name of the typeface was associated with a surname, that of Giambattista Bodoni, a native of Cuneo who lived in Parma. Bodoni was born in 1740 to a family of typographers, and after years of training in Saluzzo and Rome, he moved to Parma, where he became director of the Royal Typography.

Insight Typography Bodoni Single Image 01c

His artistic sensitivity, combined with his considerable technical ability, drove him to experiment with new forms of character, drawing inspiration from France.

Taking his cue from the work of Pierre-Simon Fournier, later taken up by Firmin Didot, Giambattista Bodoni created his typeface in 1798. Its main characteristics lay in the extreme contrast in the very fine serifs and in the perpendicular nature of the same in respect to the vertical lines.

Insight Typography Bodoni Single Image 02b eng

These characteristics were made possible also thanks to progress in printing techniques and improved quality paper, which allowed for very fine lines to be used without the risk of them disappearing.

Bodoni rapidly became the new standard for typographical elegance, to the extent that almost every print workshop had its own version of Bodoni, although none of them ever reached the level of elegance of the original.

Due to the modernity that it introduced, the new font was identified as “modern serif”, a definition still used today to indicate typefaces of a Bodonian nature such as Didot, in contrast to “classic” or “Venetian” serifs such as Bembo, and “transitional serifs” such as Baskerville.

Insight Typography Bodoni Single Image 16

The principles on which the character were founded were illustrated by Bodoni himself in his “Manual of Typography”:

regularity, all the letters must be constructed on a common base which defines them;clarity, the letters must be highly legible;good taste, the letters must fulfil their task without excessive affectations;beauty, the letters must be created with all the care and attention necessary without limits of time (it is no coincidence that Bodoni was to spend his entire life perfecting his typeface).

Thanks to his art, the Piedmont-born typographer rendered Parma the world capital of printing at the end of the 1700s. His ties to the city were so strong that in 1963, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of his death, the Bodoni Museum, the oldest printing museum in Italy, was inaugurated.

Insight Typography Bodoni Single Image 04b

In its more than two hundred years of history, the Bodoni font has been subject to various interpretations by the main type-foundries. Among the most significant are those by the American Type Founders (1907), by Bauer (1926), and by the International Type Corporation (1994), which, while inspired by the original design, have stylistic characteristics that render them clearly distinguishable.

Insight Typography Bodoni Single Image 05b

Even the famous designer Massimo Vignelli, a great admirer of Bodoni, made his version of the font in 1989 in collaboration with Tom Carnase, called Our Bodoni. However, in 1991 Vignelli, convinced that the enormous proliferation of digital fonts created nothing more than visual confusion, organised an exhibition of his work, demonstrating that all projects can be handled with just a few standard typefaces. It goes without saying that together with Helvetica, Futura, and just a few other well-known fonts, Vignelli featured Bodoni in his list.

Insight Typography Bodoni Single Image 07

The many uses of Bodoni, or its closest derivations, include the identities of Valentino, Vogue, Armani, Dior, Calvin Klein and Elle.

Insight Typography Bodoni Single Image 09

But it is not only the fashion world that makes use of Bodoni. The typeface is also particularly popular in the music industry, from Bruce Springsteen to Nirvana, right up to Lady Gaga.

Insight Typography Bodoni Single Image 10

The Bodoni style was also the protagonist for the re-branding of the Langosteria restaurants and bistros, studied by Cba. Beginning with the need to express a higher level of premiumness in line with the new positioning of the brand, a Bodonian-style font was used as the standard character. As well as being used in the composition of the logotype, the character has become an integral part of the new visual language of the brand, conferring it with stature and elegance.

Insight Typography Bodoni Single Image 14b

Even the Type Directors Club has recognised the prestigious use of the font, awarding the editorial project “Rivoluzione Langosteria” the ambitious certificate of excellence in typography.

Insight Typography Bodoni Single Image 15

The latest uses of Bodoni also include that for the identity of Zara. In 2019 the famous Spanish fashion house made use of Bodoni to lend new prestige to its more than 2,000 shops located in 93 countries around the world, demonstrating that the font is still a very topical choice, despite its more than 200 years of history.

Insight Typography Bodoni Single Image 15 191025 134823

Giuseppe Mascia, Visual Design Lead at CBA

In 1967 Marshall McLuhan declared: “the medium is the message”. Nowadays, this concept has been proven yet again through the use of typography, which has become vital to conveying a brand’s message and identity.

Insight Dalton Maag Incontro 2019 Presentazione 0 Single Image

We have been delighted to host at our Milan offices Riccardo De Franceschi, creative director of the prestigious English type foundry Dalton Maag, who shares some fundamental principles with our agency, such as attention to detail, passion for good design and the desire to find the best creative solutions for the client.

Dalton Maag is a benchmark for the main communication agencies across the whole world, who they partner with to create fonts for companies such as Facebook, Airbnb, Amazon, Nike, Intel and Nokia, to name just a few.

Located in the bustling neighbourhood of Brixton, south London, it has been working in the field of typography for thirty years, with a team of about fifty people from all corners of the world. It offers font library services, which you can use to get hold of typefaces;custom fonts, and multiscript type, the production of fonts in various alphabets.

Insight Dalton Maag Incontro 2019 Presentazione 1 Single Image

The meeting has brought about a shared design plan that leads to the creation of a font: the starting point is a workshop with the client, lead together with the creative agency, in order to set out common ground for conversation and identify what has provoked this need for a typography service.

When the creative brief is being put together, it’s important to hold fast to four principles: expression, establishing a unique connection with the end-user through the typography that describes the brand; accessibility,allowing different demographics to access the written text, through legibility, readability and likeability (factors that determine the text’s comfort and appeal); functionality, exploiting the fonts’ potential to the maximum through proper use of technology, and global presence, being able to reach new markets by developing wide-ranging sets of fonts in different alphabets, not only Latin.

Insight Dalton Maag Incontro 2019 Presentazione 2 Single Image
Insight Dalton Maag Incontro 2019 Presentazione 3 Single Image

What are the advantages of an ad hoc font?

The economic benefit is definitely one to take into consideration: the development of a proprietary font means you can use it on any platform for an unlimited time, without having to buy individual licences for each user. But as well as the immediate financial advantage, the real upside relates to communication: like the colours, shapes and photographic and illustrative style, the typography is to all intents and purposes an exceedingly important visual asset for a brand. It is the medium through which the brand “speaks” and makes known its tone of voice, forging a connection with its clients.

All in all, having a unique font firmly and undeniably highlights the brand’s uniqueness.

Insight Dalton Maag Incontro 2019 Presentazione 4 Single Image

Mattia Ferrari, Visual Designer at CBA

Throughout the 1920s and ‘30s, a new aesthetic model established itself across the whole of Europe, linked with rationalism and functionalism. It involved disciplines ranging from architecture to painting, from sculpture to graphic design. The entire art scene adopted this new mindset, which took the name of the Modern Movement. At its heart is the idea that each project should primarily aim for maximum utility. That which is functional is beautiful. All the European avant-garde movements were united in promoting this new philosophy: Le Corbusier in France, the De Stijl movement in Holland, the Bauhaus in Germany.

futura 01

Typography could not ignore this revolution. It was precisely in Germany that an advertising graphics and typography teacher from the Frankfurt school of art, Paul Renner, created one of the most important typefaces in the history of modern typography: the Futura. Bauhaus’ influence on this font is clear. There are no frills or stylistic affectations. Everything about it is based on geometric principles.

futura 02

The first version of it was born out of a redesign that Paul Renner conducted on one of his pupils’ projects at the Graphische Berufschule. The letters, especially the lowercase ones, were so rigid it was almost difficult to read them. Between 1924 and 1926 Renner worked on the typeface with great skill, conducting a series of optical corrections that resulted in a more balanced font, without overturning the rationalist principle that it started from. Now, the whole alphabet still derives from pure geometric shapes, but without any problems of legibility. The shape caters to the function, just like with the new diktat.

Some of the main characteristics are the circle shaped “O” and “Q”, the triangle based “A”, “V”, “W” and “M” and the rectangular “H”. The lowercase letters have rather long descenders and ascenders, which necessitate a relatively generous line spacing.

futura 03

In 1927 u0022the type of today and tomorrow” was marketed by the Bauer Type foundry and straight away received huge appreciation. In the years to follow, countless versions of weights and different styles were developed, making Futura an extremely versatile font.

futura 04

In 1933, the same Renner presented it to the Triennale di Milano, drumming up huge success also in Italy. Futura quickly became the font that perfectly embodied the avant-garde spirit of the 1930s, but its real popularity would kick off in the following decades.

From the second half of the twentieth century it was being used practically everywhere, from Volkswagen advertising campaigns to famous trademark brands such as Absolute Vodka and Swiss Air.

futura 05

In 1968 it was used on the poster of one of the most famous science fiction films of all time: “2001: A Space Odyssey”. The following year, this fantasy became fact. Futura crossed our planet’s borders and became the fully-fledged font of the future: it was chosen for the plaque that the Apollo 11 astronauts would leave on the moon.Nomen omen (the name is a sign), as the Latin goes.

futura 06

Unlike other famous typefaces, Futura has never declined in popularity. From cinema to fashion, transport to politics, it has always been in constant use, guaranteeing an elegant and timeless style.

futura 07

Nike, Fedex, Louis Vuitton, Gillette and Usa today all make use of Futura, whilst in Italy Confindustria, Rai, Dolce&Gabbana and Gi Group, to name just a few of the most famous cases, have used it as their font of choice.

futura 08
futura 09
futura12

Recently, the top division of the Spanish football team, “la Liga”, has also chosen Futura to modernise their wordmark, proving that there is no field in which this typeface doesn’t hit the mark.

futura10

We can say with some certainty that in the history of typography, the only font to be more popular than Futura is Helvetica, but then again, we’re only talking about planet Earth.

Giuseppe Mascia, Visual Design Lead at CBA

There are dishes like pizza, nachos or sushi, whose geographic origin is so well-rooted that they become an emblem of their country of origin. If we were to look for an equivalent in the typography world, we could well see Gill Sans in the same light as roast beef or fish & chips: 100% British.

It is no coincidence that its creator Eric Gill was an apprentice to Edward Johnson, the artist who designed the font for the London Underground, from which Gill Sans drew much inspiration. But while the Johnston Underground font has remained tied to the city, Gill Sans has become one of the most popular characters of the twentieth century throughout Europe.

GillSansEric Gill 1024x587 3 eng

The first letters, capitals, were designed by hand for the sign for a bookshop in Bristol. Two years later the font was mass-produced by the Monotype type-foundry. The year was 1928. It was an immediate success.

GillSansEric Gill 1024x587 2

Just like the font from which it drew inspiration, Gill Sans was used extensively in the railway sector, firstly by LNER (London and North Easter Railways), and then by British Railways. It later became the standard typeface for the Penguin Books publishing house and the Church of England.

GillSansPenguin books2

But why was it so successful? The main characteristic of Gill Sans is that it is a modern font, without serifs (from the French sans= without), but with a human touch, inspired by classic Roman letters. This particularity earned it the definition of a humanistic character, a definition that from that moment on described a specific category in character classification, and one that is still in use. Despite being a rational and balanced font, it maintained that warmth that the other linear fonts of the same period lacked, being of purely geometric origin. In addition to this was the enormous range of weights developed by Monotype, which rendered the typeface extremely versatile.

GILL LETTER Tavola disegno 1

The most significant characteristics of the upper-case alphabet include the slight downward curve of the R, the half-height cross sections of the M and the ample opening of the C, with lines perpendicular to the base. The lower case is closer to the typical serifed style, above all in the t and the g, with its “eyeglass” form.

Returning to its use, Gill Sans saw an unsteady period from the 1960s onwards, when the international scene was dominated by the Swiss rationalism of Helvetica and Univers. However, thanks to its strong personality, it came back into fashion in the 1990s, when it was adopted as the official typeface of the BBC.

gillsans bbc

Its most famous overseas uses include the logo for Tommy Hilfiger, Tag Heuer, Wikimedia, AMD and Toy Story. It has even seen a certain level of popularity in Italy, as the font for Benetton, De Agostini and Mediaset.

marchi
benetton

In 2018 it was chosen for the rebranding of two icons of the British retail scene, John Lewis and Waitrose, demonstrating that even today, 90 years on from its publication, Gill Sans continues to be one of the best choices when speaking of pure British elegance.

john lewis

Giuseppe Mascia, Visual Design Lead at CBA