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Redefining Weight

Alda by Berton Hasebe

Alda by Berton Hasebe

TypeCon 2009 was a great experience. The week was filled with many highlights including a sign painting workshop with John Downer, a letterpress workshop with Jim Sherraden of Hatch Show Print, the premier of the film Typeface by Justine Nagan and numerous thought-provoking presentations. And I met a lot of friendly, engaging and typographical astute people along the way.

Throughout the week I observed that many designers have found creative ways to challenge the traditional definition of font weight. The standard conventions of bold, roman, light and so on have been cast aside in favor of new inventive definitions.

Throughout the week, the TypeCon Gallery showcased an array of type-related design projects from posters, to books, to original typefaces. The Type Directors Club collaborated with TypeCon to exhibit the TDC2 2009 Winners. One of the winning typefaces, Alda by Berton Hasebe, represents a weight by emphasizing “each weight’s inherent characteristics, where the bold is robust and sturdy, and the light is delicate and soft.” Rather than simply developing the roman and interpolating to produce the bold and light weights, Hasebe drafted an entirely unique design for each weight. The greater variation in weight that is achieved helps to expand the definition of a font family.

Alda by Berton Hasebe

Alda by Berton Hasebe

Alda by Berton Hasebe

Alda by Berton Hasebe

Designer Andrew Byrom uses various materials such as steel tubing, bent neon, kites and corrugated plastic to construct custom lettering. During his presentation entitled “Prototypes: New Forms in Type Design”, he described the development of “Venetian”, a typeface composed of venetian blinds. Traditionally, font weight is a factor of the thickness of the stroke. However Venetian maintains a consistent line thickness while the varying density of the letterforms determines the weight. Venetian has three weights: Closed, Regular and Open. By simply opening and closing the blinds, the various weights are achieved. Andrew Byrom serves as Associate Professor and Graphic Design Area Head at California State University Long Beach.

Venetian by Andrew Byrom

Venetian by Andrew Byrom

Venetian by Andrew Byrom

Venetian by Andrew Byrom

Professor Sharon Oiga’s presentation, “Three-Dimensional Letterform Objects” presented the physical letterforms produced by her students at the University of Illinois Chicago. In order to help her students grasp the concept of the assignment, she uses her own “Ice Type” project as an example. “Ice Type” uses ice and egg dye to create letterforms on watercolor paper. Elapsed exposure to room temperature conditions determines the weight of the letterforms. The weight names are recorded in seconds, such as 30 seconds, 60 seconds and 120 seconds. A weight of 120 seconds would result in a more melted and fluid letterform.

Ice Type by Sharon Oiga

Ice Type by Sharon Oiga

Seeing weight represented in unusual ways is refreshing and challenges the normal constraints of type design. If you’ve spotted other interesting ways designers have represented weight, please leave a comment.

If you weren’t able to make it to TypeCon this year, mark your calenders for August 17-22 for TypeCon 2010 Los Angeles.

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Discussion

  1. Jeff says:

    OMG Alda Bold Italic so hot! Those Zs!

    And Ice Type is the perfect summer experiment. I want to be cooled off by letterform Popsicles!

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