Where's Hrant's article on Hague's Olympic font?

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

I kinda go back and fourth on this font. Don't hate it, don't love it. Hrant though seems to think it is something extremely special. I am interested in hearing why.

John Hudson's picture

Hrant tends to be enthusiastic about any type design that seems to break with convention, especially if it does so in some systematic way that suggests innovative thinking. In fact, I sometimes wonder if he has ever met an innovation he didn't like. The idea that instead of slanting letters one could rotate them is something about which he has expressed excitement on a few occasions.

Now, leaving aside the fact that I am simply not a very enthusiastic person, the problem I often have with Hrant's excitability is that it tends to be rather indiscriminate as to the actual results, i.e. he seems more interested in ideas than the things produced from them (this is roughly the opposite of my own inclinations, so this at least may be dismissed as a difference of personality). More seriously, it is difficult to judge the actual level of innovation in the objects of his enthusiasm. Once one starts digging, one finds the history of lettering is full of idiosyncratic invention and one starts to notice patterns and even the possibility of categorisation, at which point one begins to wonder if this innovation consists of people repeatedly inventing wheels that are not quite round and that, hence, no one who wants to get anywhere smoothly and efficiently wants to use. And then one begins to wonder if there has not also been a Hrant in every age, an enthusiast for those eccentric reinventions.

hrant's picture

Guilty as charged. Which I don't mind one bit. What I do mind is my inclination to often abandon worthwhile efforts, but I'm not going to let that happen to this.


Nick Shinn's picture

…he seems more interested in ideas than the things produced from them…

Nothing wrong with that. This is Typophile after all, where people get together to talk shit about reading science, piracy and Comic Sans.

Typefaces exist in many constituencies, and the cultural object (as opposed to the useful tool) is one of them—just consider that several of the faces “acquired” by MoMA haven’t seen much practical use.

Innovations are to be praised and cherished, given the sheer amount of conventional workhorses that are published.

Who can know whether a break with convention will become the new convention? It’s for users (typographers, not readers) to determine what will work. Change has to come from somewhere!

And there are commendable niches for fonts which aren’t smooth and efficient—the fast-reading book face for mass usage is not the only criterion of excellence in type design, thank goodness.

More seriously, it is difficult to judge the actual level of innovation in the objects of his enthusiasm.

I don’t have any problem. Legato, not a fan—but hats off to Hague!

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

Yeah I don't really get his love for Legato, especially since he seems to disdain 'warbly' lines, and Legato's aren't exactly straight. I do like Swagg however.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

You have a week and a half, Mr. Papazian.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

See, this image proves to me what I've been thinking all along. Many words have been said regarding how this font is rotalic instead of italic. However this font is not italic or rotalic at all. I would regard it as -- "2012 Headline - Roman"

The 'italic,' 'rotalic,' whatever, of this font, would have to be even more extreme.

BTW, -5 points for tardiness. You could have reached 1000 times more people if you would have released this while the games were still going on.

hrant's picture

An idea can be present whether it's subtle or extreme; and as a rule the latter won't work for text (my own main area of interest).

BTW, typographica.org might be an even better place to have this discussion.


JamesM's picture

> inventing wheels that are not quite round

Last year the show Mythbusters (a show that applies scientific testing to urban myths) tested square wheels. As expected the ride was extremely rough, although it smoothed out a bit as speed increased, and their testing showed that offsetting 2 wheels by 45% (as show in this photo so that 2 wheels had their corners touching when the other 2 had their flat sides down) helped further.

Video: http://tinyurl.com/c4dsgvy

(Okay, this has nothing to do with typography.)

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

To me it really doesn't feel like it's leaning, the way an italic does. There's something about it that feels cantilevered, balanced. It feels like its standing perfectly upright to me. But I'm probably just crazy.

I think it has something to do with the lowest "horizontal" strokes of the letters

You can see the rotalic bottom stroke angles down from left to right, while my hastily prepared italic keeps a perfectly level line. 2012Headline looks much like the rotalic from above the bottom stroke and up, but the bottom stroke itself is angled contradictorily. This is what I mean by "cantilevered." I think this might be what makes me view the design as somehow sitting upright, not leaning.

Interesting idea pairing up Keks and 2012Headline also.

John Hudson's picture

I see the Olympic font as mostly italic in structure, especially the lowercase, but as a result of interpreting normally curved strokes as straight diagonals it introduces a topography of unconventional angles. The really novel aspect of the design is the application of these angles across letters that do not share conventional structural similarities with those in which they originate, which at once makes the design distinctive while giving it strong internal consistency. So, for example, the structure of the uppercase C works as a construction of an open-sided counter shape expressed as a minimal number of straight strokes: you can imagine a conventional italic C superimposed on it and the forms reflecting each other. But then Hague has taken this form and applied it also to the uppercase E, and has echo'd the same diagonals in a different way in the uppercase Z. The modular repetition of the angles gives consistency to the design. I think only a very few of the letters could be described as 'rotalic', e.g. the lowecase s, and in my analysis they're that way because of an approach to representing curves as minimal numbers of straight lines and angles, not due to rotation per se.

hrant's picture

Interesting analysis; I agree that it's more complex than it seems. Would you mind replicating this on Typographica?


Stephen Coles's picture

Yes, please do, John. I had a similar observation but you articulated it better than I could. Your comment should accompany the article.

5star's picture

'rotalic', my typographic word of the day.


Frank U. Finkelstein's picture

"the more ways we can look at something, and look through something, the better off we are."

For me the angle isn't discordant and isn't the problem, it's the primitive nature of the design. I've been looking at it more than I care to, but perhaps I'm not able to look through it the way you have. I see it as many others do. I cannot move past the fact that it is identical to the lettering Jerry the electrician uses to leave notes on walls with his electrical tape. It is for that reason that I see this as a step backward more than a step forward. If the 2012 Olympics type and logo become icons, it will be more due to scale of use rather than innovation.

Frank U.

hrant's picture

It's certainly primitive in some ways (in fact I think the font isn't really finished, which is why I shied away from [also] doing a typeface critique) but it's the novelty of its structure as a potential Italic that makes it significant for me. As a type designer all I really want is for 2012Headline to influence positive change.

Also though, it nicely illustrates Erik Spiekermann's comment (on Typographica*) that a typeface tends to brand an entity more than a logo. I guess except if it's Helvetica, Frutiger or something megabland like that. :-/

* BTW, it would be great if you could replicate your comments there.


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