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This is the most fascinating typeface I've seen since 2004.
I'd love to hear how people see it.
Ryan: Remember, I'm mostly here to learn!
Nick, to be fair, Bill didn't say that Fenland wouldn't work for others, he said that he couldn't see how it would. A subtle distinction to make perhaps, but a reasonable one: Bill was expressing a thought about his own perception.
I ask, "What voice are you trying to enable and for whom?"
This is the most voice-challenged typeface I've seen since 1584.
Creepy, crawler across the page. E.G. I'd rather kern two n's together than use the m.
Of course Fenland will do well… Rotis has become a classic and that’s was a novelty font too (this remark will also educate all readers to what I define as novelty font).
Novelty addresses the parts of the brains of graphic designers and art directors that crave regular stimulation. Especially the people that are insecure about their taste and appreciation of ‘good’ stuff.
Mark my words: within three months a major magazine will start using Fenland. And within a year after that this design will be celebrated by major awards, the least of which will be for ‘typographic excellence’… (I am not joking!)
This is no gimmicky vertical invader from an alien planet.
JT cited a bibliography.
Legato has been mentioned.
Cyrus Highsmith for one has made several forays into “…a process of wrapping outside curves around the inside…”, a technique inspired by the work of W. A. Dwiggins. (Amira, Prensa, etc., published by David’s foundry Font Bureau.)
We’ve discussed The Stroke repeatedly.
Fenland advances the investigation of ourselves, our tools, our culture, in the practical manner that type design (so broad in its relevance, so objectively tantalizing) does so well.
Be aware of the distinction between process and result. I think Nick is right when he says ‘Fenland advances the investigation of ourselves, our tools, our culture’ insofar as this statement applies to the design process. I think Bert may be right that the result will end up being a ‘novelty type’: not necessarily because of the shapes themselves, but because that is how the graphic design business digests the unusual. In the case of Fenland, I think this digestion will be aided by the stand-out letters that I think are problematic, precisely because they do stand out.
"Novelty addresses the parts of the brains of graphic designers and art directors that crave regular stimulation. Especially the people that are insecure about their taste and appreciation of ‘good’ stuff."
I am not the least bit insecure about my taste or "good stuff" and do not find this approach "Novelty" any more than Columbus's voyage across the Atlantic was a novelty. If a person wants to stay safe from the possibility of criticism of their work, it is quite easy. They can just tinker with what has already been done by the now safely admired and numerous times repeatedly praised masters of the past. I have no problem with that. Do what ever pleases you. The problem I have is that those locked safely in the boundaries of past models of 'good' stuff should not ridicule those who choose to do things their own way. If you want to sail your model boat safely in your bathtub, away from storms, currents, and reefs, fine. If that does not give you a superiority complex over those who venture further, fine. But do not point to the numerous safe voyages you have made across your bath tub as evidence of your superiority as a sailor of the real seas you fear too much to sail. How easy it is to align yourself with the historic masters you can safely emulate and thereby equate yourself with them. Those historic masters whom you emulate were once the explorers of the high seas. Years later, after the jury of hundreds of years of history has anointed them Masters, you are now safe to say, "see, my stuff looks like theirs so it must be 'good' stuff. No one is asking you to take the unknown voyage, certainly not those who do. If your guilt of playing it safe controls you, then you have no choice but to heap ridicule on those who would take the risk. That way, you take the attention away from your own performance anxiety.
No one is saying that Fenland is the greatest success and should now be emulated by all the lemmings. If you fear risk, do not mock those who take risk. You need not even praise them, just let them do what they choose without blame.
Like people have already said, I think the lower case is good - the f in particular is very interesting - but the uppercase isn't doing it for me. With regards to the curves wrapping around the inside, this seems to fall apart a bit in the corners of letters like E, L, F etc. The rounded inside corner doesn't appeal to me, and doesn't fit with the thinking behind the lower case. Perhaps big ink traps or just 'normal' corners would have been better. I do think it will be successful though. It has the weirdness factor that magazine editors go for. An acquired taste, perhaps, but one that will be easily acquired when you see it used more often.
Now it's getting deep. Please pass the shovel. I have no doubt that there will be some attention garnered by this work, and that some fringe use will be made of it. But we are not talking about Dwiggins or Highsmith's work, or Rotis, or 1994.
Troubled letters grinding against each other, no matter how well thought out, is not getting most jobs done. And if Nick, in particular, were right, providing most of the depth I mention at first, then what the hell is he waiting for?
What am I waiting for?
Well, I’m not particularly interested in conceptualizing type designs around the issue of “the stroke” as it relates to the relationship between inside and outside edges.
Recently I’ve been exploring contextuality and unicase, which more concern overall letter shape.
I’m quite happy to occupy the fringe, leaving others to “get most jobs done”.
Actually, I did have a go at a type along vaguely similar lines to Fenland, Artefact.
In the sample application at
some words look fine, but seem oddly spaced at the smallest size (still pretty big: 18 pt). Try the word "variety". To my mostly untrained eye, at 18 pt, r and i are clumped together, with a huge amount of space around the a, and the t and y look connected. As I increase the point size, this effect goes away pretty quickly. Is this the fault of the online app, or kerning specifications, or?
Well done, Chris.
If a fashion designer chased a herd of mutilated and bleeding models onto a runway with an electric whip it would certainly be a fresh and creative approach to the design of a runway show. But I doubt anyone would want to watch.
James, we have enough old fogies already without youngsters like you taking up the cloth :-)
Before speaking of novelty one should perhaps also look at Hubert Jocham’s early fonts. Being of the same generation as Jeremy and Hubert and whom i both know as we all started doing type design around the same era, i had to think immediately of those experiments i knew from Hubert when i first saw Fenland. I’m not sure though if Jeremy is aware of Hubert’s work. There’s nothing revolutionary in either approach.
I don’t see the primary characteristic of Fenland in any of Jocham’s types, his concern in the sans being primarily with letter shape. Only a few have an irregular stroke, and in those it follows the nib ductus with correspondingly stressed contrast at a consistent angle, throughout the face. Contra Sans, thus, with a similar premise to Amira.
Fenland is calligraphically informed, but by being deliberately disﬂuent in that respect, with both traditional “right-handed” and “left-handed” (ﬂipped) stress (angle of contrast) exhibited in the same glyph. That’s the difference. As a calligrapher, I can imagine/feel making Contra or Amira with a pen nib, the kind of manipulations it would require (and that’s part of the pleasure of admiring those faces). But looking at Fenland I feel bewilderment at the difficulty of making its strokes.
That’s not a revolutionary idea, as JT admits with his bibliography, and as has been discussed re. Legato at Typophile, but it goes beyond purely formal invention to address the fundamental structure of the contrasted, pen-informed stroke and its relationship to the reading process. How many types do that?
If indeed the mobius band concept is what Jeremy is following, it seems no conspicuously consistent. I thought he was trying something different but I don't know what.
I see very little similarity between Jocham and Jeremy's work here.
Before speaking of novelty one should perhaps also look at Hubert Jocham’s early fonts.
My god this man is prolific. J, could you list a couple of his early fonts here? It is very hard to find any chronological order of his works.
Ryan, here is a list of Hubert Jocham’s typefaces that were designed before 2000:
Cholla is sexy. Sahara is attractive, but not very usuable.
Some early sketches and a brief write up on the making of Fenland by Tankard:
Not earth-shaking, but:
The thing that sticks in my mind is the image of a copper pipe being bent to 90 degrees, and how that looks in profile. My grandfather was a plumber, God rest his soul. Anybody need a pipe cutter?
But not the kind of bend your granddad would find acceptable — this kind of bend in copper pipes would impair flow, hence the use of prefabricated fittings.
It IS the kind of bend one finds in low priced tubalar furniture…
"...in low priced tubalar furniture…"
...and I was about to look up tabular furniture, having never heard of such a thing outside of figures. ;)
David, there is a new furniture company called Exel. they spread shit furniture all over he World. ;-)
@David Berlow: I must have had an incident of sympathetic aphasia or some such thing. How is that kind of furniture called, then?
Tubular, like the bells.
I knew what you meant, it's a great description. High quality bent copper pipe is in the recipe of every gate here at Fenland Farms.
@hrant: Is there anything in particular you are drawn to?
And one fine day I'll manage to "process" all the comments above...
Vile. In taste, there is no dispute - unless you can fit it into a vast, gorgeous philosophic superstructure, which I will one day do. For now I lament the lack of taste displayed by so many experts here. Anyone who likes (or, worse, loves) this should be ignored in matters of aesthetic judgement.
What a breath of fresh fascist air!
Absolutely wrong, but I can see why you might think that. This, alas, is not the place to explain myself. I’ll just say that these days total moral or aesthetic relativity* falls straight into the hands of the totalitarian corporate system (not government or leader, as with its opposame fascism) we all live under.
And bid you a friendly adieu.
(*although, granted, its quite a push to extend criticism of such insanity to a completely hideous font - po-mo continental philosophy and abstract art are more suitable aesthetic examples)
I don't know how one would elaborate on "you have difference taste than me so everybody should ignore you", but there are two good places to explain yourself: right here and/or my Typographica review.
However the central thing that seems to escape you is: this isn't even about taste - that would be boring. «Les goûts et les couleurs ne se discutent pas.»
I’m not saying you have different taste to me, I’m saying you have (at least as far as this disgusting font is concerned) bad taste, in an absolute sense. Its an outrageous, preposterous statement without full explanation - of this I am aware. As I say I’m not going to explain though - far too big a job and far, far off topic. I’ll conclude (again!) with one final comment: for me morality, quality and life itself are all connected, and they can be shared and ‘known’.
That is all.
But please don’t take ill will from this burst of ire. I wish you the best.
Just goes to prove that if you're going to post to Typophile on Saint Patrick's Day you should do so before hitting the Jameson. Just sayin'. ;-)
Stephen Coles writes the following of Fenland in Print magazine April issue:
It isn't often that a new typeface challenges the basic principles of how letters are made. Jeremy Tankard attempted just that with Fenland (2012), a sans serif that imagines what the alphabet would look like if it had no roots in calligraphic form - if it had been constructed rather than written. The result is quite unusual: lines are thick where we are used to seeing them thin and vice versa. Fenland isn't necessarily beautiful, but it's still quite readable and usable, uniquely suitable attire for text that defies conventions.
Cool. What article was that part of? What other fonts were featured?
Faces in the Crowd: Seven Recent Typefaces Worth A Second (Or First) Glance ...by Stephen Coles and Paul Shaw
Neue Haas Grotesk, Benton Sans RE, Fenland, Modena, Daphne, Tangier and Libelle.
Any of those six I would replace with Turnip or Eskapade in a heartbeat. And considering this
I'm surprised Stephen didn't include Turnip. Maybe too much anti-chirography would have pissed off Paul. :-)
Actually, Paul wrote about Turnip in the previous column as one of his top 3 faces of 2012! You forget he’s a Dwiggins fan, Hrant.
The column Neil mentions was all about mentioning some recent releases that we didn’t have an opportunity to write about during the year for one reason or another.
Good to know. I can use that. :->