Happy Birthday to John Baskerville, the English printer and typographer who was born on January 28th, 1706. He was based in Birmingham, which is where he designed the famous transitional serif typeface that bears his name.
Baskerville (the typeface)*
Personality: Intellectual, academic, wise.
Values: Traditional, conventional, trustworthy.
Style: Neutral, credible, knowledgeable.
>> If Baskerville is your favourite type, click here to read your lighthearted personality analysis! <<
From Why Fonts Matter by Sarah Hyndman.
*Around 300 participants took part in an online Type Tasting survey, the majority in the UK and the US.
Baskerville Earl Grey tea biscuits recipe
Using food to describe the experience of typography
Baskerville is a transitional serif typeface that sits between the old style serif typefaces of William Caslon and the modern serifs created by Giambattista Bodoni & Firmin Didot. English printer and type designer John Baskerville developed a typeface with more defined angles and greater stroke contrast. This was a refined face with improved legibility which also took advantage of the improvements in technology happening in the 1750s. Baskerville is a recognisably English typeface that has stood the test of time as a legible, everyday text face.
My interpretation of Baskerville are Earl Grey tea biscuits for an authentic eighteenth century flavour. At this time improved technology and transport allowed foods to be enjoyed throughout the country. Tea had become the national drink and the tea leaves would be dried, rolled and used again. I had initially thought that Baskerville should be savoury, since it’s an everyday ‘jobbing’ typeface, but sweet biscuits tasted better.
Here at Type Tasting I’ve been having conversations about how we respond to different typefaces. Whether we’re type designers, graphic designers or nothing to do with the design industry, all of us are type consumers. We interact with typefaces constantly in our everyday lives and, although it happens on an instinctive level, when we read a word the choice of font also has an effect on us.
In the film short Font Men, type designer Jonathan Hoefler from type foundry H+FJ explains how he and Tobias Frere-Jones feel there’s a “poverty of descriptive terms” for the experience of typography and instead they use qualitative terms that are purely descriptive or that “reference cultural milestones”. He gives the example of describing a typeface as being “too Steven Segal and not Steve McQueen enough”.
I’ve found that an effective parallel is to use food as a way to describe the experience of typography. Doing this has started a well debated conversation and introduced a lexicon of sensory descriptions and metaphors. It interests me that, although the discussions revolve around food, they still sound authentically ‘typography’ and reveal a great deal about our experiences with fonts.
I was invited to talk about this at the recent Type Tuesday at St Bride hosted by Eye Magazine on the topic of Food and Design, the theme of the current issue of Eye. The main speaker was North’s Sean Perkins who took us on an inspiring tour of North’s design for food and hospitality. David Lane and Marina Tweed spoke about creating new alternative food magazine The Gourmand. I explained that Type Tasting began as my ‘grown up gap year’ and was initially based on the idea of wine tastings. I talked about the edible typography project and how it had come about, taking the audience through the ideas behind some of the recipes. After the panel discussion I handed out the edible Helvetica, Baskerville and Futura that I’d baked earlier and answered questions.
Top: Sarah Hyndman talking edible typography under a photo of the font Impact made from dark chocolate and chilli, photo by Eye Magazine.