Conceptual Faces in Use (research)

piccic's picture

I'm doing here and there (mostly by chance) a reseacrh of certain contemporary typefaces in use (almost all from the boom years of Emigre, the first middle of the 1990s).
What intrigued me most was the use of a specific face (Jon Barnbrook Ma(n)son) in a widespread way but also unexpected situations:
from the latest Barbie cartoons DVD to the novel "I, Lucifer", to religious theatrical pieces posters; from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to a big (and embarassingly banal) Italian shopping center logotype.

I would really love if you could drop me a line (and possibly the URL) when you see Manson used in unexpected (or even expected but good) ways.

Other typefaces with a conceptual background (which users cannot guess from the face itself) I'm interested in seeing and collecting samples of their use are:

Template Gothic (Emigre)
Keedy Sans (Emigre)
Exocet (Emigre)
Democratica (Emigre)
Prozac (Virus)
Auferstehung (Linotype)
Circumcision/CQN Molecular (T-26)
Merlin (FontFont)
Oneleigh (FontFont)

Most of these may be seen by many people as "novelty faces" but part of them have been and are undoubtedly faces reflecting our times and the relationship with the emerging computer technology from the late 1980s early 1990s.
In different ways, of course.
Oneleigh (and Merlin), for example, I would be really interested to know if someone have used them in books or textsetting.

Please, report freely also examples of any other face (expecially conceptual) used in an original or surprising way.

Thank you SO much!

sean's picture

Mason is used on those SOBE power drinks.


piccic's picture

Thanks Sean!
The use is quite strange (especially in those SoBe Suzuki imagery), even if the graphic design is not so original and it seems they've chosen manson for the "mythical" feeling it may give (here paired with a somewhat cheap oriental feeeling).
It seems a quite "superficial usage" (like they often do with otherwise historical faces like Trajan) but it's interesting indeed. Thank you!

I'm very grateful for any other link anyone could provide! Please do!

Cheers :-)

Isaac's picture

some friends gave this to us for christmas to read to our kids.
i've never thought of democratica as a lovey-dovey face, but hey...

everyone gave me strange looks when they gave it us. i automatically
said "democratica." my wife had to explain that any time they don't
know what i'm talking about, it's just about "fonts or something"
and they can just ignore it.

anyway, i thought it was an interesting use. very unexpected.


hdschellnack's picture

Works very well. . . Although a bit more spacing and a somewhat smaller size would have been nice. The illustrations-subline, though, looks very nice.

piccic's picture

Isaac, I'm really grateful. It's hard to nail down the samples I look for. Here in Italy we've had nice use of these faces but some of them I saw when I wasn't collecting samples yet.
Could you tell me more about this book? It's not so clear from the cover: the man seems a friendly blend between St. Joseph and Santa Claus but I guess it's just a good christmas story.
In case, could you send me a higher resolution scan in jpg? It seems enough interesting and unusual to fit in my project idea...

I wonder why people feel always the urge to enlarge Democratica's initial letters when the face is meant to be unicase. Anyway, this comes most from amateurs, while in your sample the enlargement is moderate and works quite nice.

Oscar Morris's picture

[everyone gave me strange looks when they gave it us. i automatically said "democratica." my wife had to explain that any time they don't know what i'm talking about, it's just about "fonts or something"
and they can just ignore it.]


Isaac's picture

this book is for grown-ups, although it's disguised as a children's book.
i don't know if you have board books in italy. in case it's a purely north american
phenomenon, board book are printed on very thick, almost cardboard like paper.
it's like two sheets of 179 lb. (488 gsm)cover paper, each printed on one
side with a glossy finish, and then stuck together. this particular
book is about 5.25 by 5.75 inches and is 0.75 inches thick, yet has
only 28 pages, including the covers. the point is the pages are very thick,
made so chubby little baby hands can easily grab the pages and turn them.
the book is about a man who builds a village to protect all of his
children from the dangerous forest surrounding them. one of the kids
finds a whole in the outer wall of the village and crawls through,
gets lost, etc. the man comes and saves him, etc. it's obviously an allegory
for the choices we make and how god will help us and all of that stuff.
email me and let me know where i should send the high res images. btw, i
think the designer should have left the title unicase instaed of faking
the caps. it's just weird seeing it like that.

piccic's picture

>think the designer should have left the title unicase instaed of faking
the caps. it's just weird seeing it like that.

I totally agree. I've just seen such disgusting enlargements of the caps of Democratica here in Italy that the cover of your book after all is not bad...
I'll mail you my address for "heavy postage".
Thank you so much again, Isaac!

piccic's picture

P.S. Sure, we have "board books", we just don't have an italian term for them, I guess.

johnbutler's picture

I just got the latest alumni magazine from my alma mater, Georgia State University. The main feature article is about the business school's outstanding reputation in the field of risk management. All the body copy was in Goudy or something like it, with big imposing blocks of black bordering super-clean photos of tall, polished glass and steel buildings.

And then there were the callouts. They were all in Exocet.


karen's picture

How about democratica for a spa?

It has become a very feminine font despite its name.

piccic's picture

John: your spotting seems intriguing.
Can you send me a low-res scan of an example?

Karen: what is exactly a "spa"? The use might be curious but the design is sloppy. I'm trying to find examples both significant and well designed.

My last picks: a big thank you to Simon Schmidt (Closefonts, Fountain) for a job he used Manson Sans in. And another big thank you to Isaac for sending me hi-res scans of the christmas book.

This afternoon I've found with an incredible luck the poster for a "Jasus Christ Superstar" theatrical piece held in my city, Modena. Together with the Duncan novel cover they are a great example on how Manson is appealing to represent the most varied situations, being them ethical-related or not.

Thanks to everyone's collaboration!!!

piccic's picture

PS. My stupid "star" votes are not meant to be a real "vote" they're just to help you grasp what I'm looking for in particular.

I have another great example in my collection: A book dustjacket by Mucca Design (NY) for Rizzoli (Italia). It's for the italian edition of the scientific essay "Impossibilities", and it's the best use I've seen of Barry's ubiquitous face yet.

The book (by famous scientist John D. Barrow) talks about the limitations of scientific thought (and of man's "God complex" in general), and this is echoed masterfully by the use of Template Gothic, designed by Barry in a deliberately "irregular" way to underline the imperfection and irregularity (and thus the limits) of this life.

karen's picture

I agree the website sucks. But I thought you wanted samples, good or bad.

Exocet for Tazo?

piccic's picture

Karen: please, I didn't mean to let you down!
I appreciate a lot any indication from you all and I'm really grateful!
Samples of any kind are fine! It's just me: I tend to be selective when I do such researches... ;)

Exocet for Tazo is an appropriate use (and good design, too!). Exocet being based on greek and early latin stonecarving embodies the ancient origins of that kind of beverage (assumed the data they provide is true!).

Thank you, Karen!
And please let me know if you are looking for examples of other kind. I'll be glad to help if I find something in Italy. In fact in each country many of these fonts have been used in very surprising ways. I hope more and more people will aid me! :-)

hrant's picture

But tea is Chinese.


matha_standun's picture

No, it's Irish. It was introduced into China in 3000bc by a Celt on a hiking holiday.


matteson's picture

Claudio: I'm not sure if this is of interest - it's not one of the faces you mentioned - but I saw it on my bookshelf last night and happened to think of this thread. I didn't have a chance to scan a chapter page (the chapter titles are in Filosofia Unicase too), but if you want, I'll post one later.



matteson's picture

Sorry, here are the images:


cheshiredave's picture

While I was in Austin this weekend, my girlfriend noticed a sign and asked me what the typeface was (bless her heart). "Hey, that's Mason," I said. "I'd better tell Claudio about it."

"Who's Claudio?" she asked.

Anyway, it's Aztec Screen Printing.

Isaac's picture

i saw this yesterday in a paper store. it was in a book of sample announcements.
the lady working there photocopied it for me, but i could go back and try to
borrow it for a scan if you want. interesting use for template anyway.


piccic's picture

First of all thank you all for your sympathy and kindness. You are helping me a lot, since I'm doing this research by chance, in spare time.

Nathan: the dinosaur book is fantastic! Maybe Filosofia is not so conceptual (not in the way I meant) but this use is so unexpected I just love it! the two images you've scanned are *great* could you send me the same two in hi-res at
That's my work e-mail and I have DSL. Drop the NOCRAP line, Ive put it to avoid spam.

Dave: Your post made me genuinely laugh. It's great how, when we refer to colleagues or occasional type friends to our close ones, assuming they are familiar with them. My mother has yet to figure out quite well who's Jonathan, who's Oded, who's Alan. :-)
The Aztec use is really interesting.

Isaac: thank you so much for the card with Template Gothic. I think this is more an occasional use of the face, given is wide diffusion, than a conscious choice. Anyway I've downloaded the lowres.

I keep using the stupid "star-rate" system to let you focus best on what I seek.

thank you! thank you! thank you!

matteson's picture

Claudio: I'll try to get the hi-res images out today. Here's something else I found last night - once again though, not of the faces you mentioned. Dead History and, I believe, Matrix Wide.


Isaac's picture

nice tank nathan. it looks like a museum piece.

matteson's picture

Ahh, Isaac, only in the magical world of Thailand, I'm afraid. Nice lip growth BTW.

piccic's picture

Thank you, Nathan. I already knew the Fight Club cover using Dead History and though it's beautifully designed I'm still unsure on how (and if) treat Dead History. It could be handy, anyway. I'll keep the low res.
Matrix has never been a conceptual face. More on the technological side, so it's out of my still floating "selection".
Thank you so much!

I'm wondering what's your real face, Isaac! :-)

Isaac's picture

just take away the photoshop facial hair. and i don't have blue hair anymore.
and it's shorter. other than that i look exactly the same.

do you have any samples of ma(n)son from barbie packaging? my neice loves
the barbie fruit snacks, so i can easily scan a box for you if you need it.
interestingly, the package also features triplex condensed and quartet.
somebody loves emigre i guess.

Isaac's picture

here's a lo-res in case anyone is interested. apparently triplex condensed
is used for brach's logo:
it seems as if brach's and mattel were a match made in heaven. or sacramento.


piccic's picture

>do you have any samples of ma(n)son from barbie packaging? my neice loves
the barbie fruit snacks, so i can easily scan a box for you if you need it.

Isaac, I love you! I did not imagine they have used Manson in other products beside the Barbie DVD (and I wasn't even sure they did outside Italy). Here Rapunzel translates as Raperonzolo, which is one of the most ridiculous names you can find in Italian. I guessed the original german name would have been something like that. After all it's from an old fairy tale. Barbie just plays the role of the Princess.

Please do send the hi-res scan. The size you've used here it's just fine: make it 300ppi and it would be A-OK. In fact I mean to showcase the DVD cover in big size.
This is because in it the "dreamy" and "fairytalish" atmosphere is so strong contrasting with Manson in an incredible way. The logo is also clean (without nifty digital effects like I see in your cereal box) but the cereal box is an excellent addition. I need it anyway!

Now you can send it to my thought mailbox ( Leave out the NOCRAP string, which I put to avoid spam engines. Now I have a DSL connection at home (sort of, it's pretty crappy).

I wish to thank Nathan for sending the Dinosaur scans. I repeat my request to him anyway, to have the two beautiful interior pages as they appear in the low res above, and not cropped like the ones he sent me.

Guys, you are really helping me!
Thanks and love to you all.

P.s. Nathan, you can use the thought address, too, for re-sending the two interior pages.
There is no need to make them huge. Smaller files with a less lossy jpg compression would be better, in fact.
Have you guys ever used proJPEG plug-in? It's *amazing* for the quality and compression.
I have to see if they've released a OsX version.

piccic's picture

In case you wish to see my face, you may see it here:
And while you're at Thirstype, welcome the new LuxSans and the coming aboard of the great Greg Lindy!
Visit also Greg at Intersection Studio:
and check his other great faces (do not forget to download the useful Intersection One Pi free pictorial font).

matteson's picture

Do you really feed that to your kids Isaac? I imagine the beauty kit must be for you, though...

Isaac's picture

ha! we don't eat no girl food around here.
we prefer dinosaur fruit snacks, thank you
very much. but i am waiting for that beauty
kit. i am going to look so good.

piccic's picture

My threads often get surreal.
I like it! ;)

BTW, Nathan, Isaac, please use the claudio<at> email address to send me the missing scans. I'm having serious problems with that crappy DSL connection at home.

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