In celebration of the official launch of Why Fonts Matter in the US today: Eye’s panel checked out the taste of Helvetica, Impact and Comic Sans (as cooked up by Sarah Hyndman). “Perfect. Helvetica is too serious to be sweet.” “Tastes more like Akzidenz Grotesk”, “Comic Sans deserves better”
Type on the tongue
I recently gave a talk to the Visual Communication (VisCom) students at the Arts University Bournemouth. After the talk I was delighted to accept the invitation to be one of the judges of their third annual Type & Cake bake off.
I was recently invited to the BBC studios for a short chat with Nick Coffer about ‘fonts’ and he gave the book a good plug. I’m on at 1:37 after Elvis and it lasts for around 11 minutes.
To celebrate their 5,000th Twitter follower, Monotype commissioned Type Tasting’s Sarah to create an edible version of their newest typeface release, Burlingame.
Burlingame was developed by Carl Crossgrove following pioneering investigations by Monotype into the legibility of vehicle displays. The research revealed a set of optimum criteria for dashboard display fonts: large counters and x-heights, simple shapes and a loose spacing of characters. It was found that a humanist sans serif typeface with these characteristics reduced male drivers’ glance time significantly.
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.
Helvetica water biscuits recipe
Using food to describe the experience of typography
The typeface Helvetica was created to be neutral and to have great clarity, but to have no intrinsic meaning of its own. It was intended that it could communicate any message, but without it being influenced by the style of the font in any way. i.e. clear enough to be used across a wide range of applications, but plain and neutral enough that that its sole purpose is to support the message.
My interpretation of Helvetica is to create it from savoury water biscuits which are plain enough that they can be included in a wide range of meals but take on the flavour and style of the food that they accompany. They have a sprinkling of salt to make them tasty enough to eat, and a dash of rosemary for a Swiss Alpine touch. Serve them with cheese, ham or a tasty dip.
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.