Hollywood has changed so much in the almost 25 years I’ve lived in Los Angeles. The demand for skilled digital effects artists and designers brought me here. I was not alone. With demand came competition and advancement and a young, highly-skilled workforce willing to work inhumane hours for little money — for experience and credit.
On November 26, Dreamworks Animation will release its Penguins of Madagascar movie. The logo, or key art, for the film is not what you see above this title — I’ve buried their new logo a couple paragraphs down. I created the art above the title of this post in collaboration with Riverstreet Productions and Universal Animation’s marketing team. It was my take on a title design for The Penguins — aka Kowalski, Skipper, Rico, and Private.
Hello Sir Jony,
Of course you don’t know me. Like millions of others – designers and appreciators of design – I’m a fan of your work for Apple. But this is not a fan letter; this is a note about type.
You and Apple have been rebuked by learned type designers and typographers. You are roundly criticized for employing Helvetica Neue as the interface font for much of iOS and the new Yosemite operating system. As a designer and professional who relies on Apple products, I wish to share a few relevant thoughts.
Type is the most useful aspect of any operating system or user-driven experience. Symbols may help concepts, actions, and apps be memorable – but nothing explains as well as expert use of language via type, in well-considered graphic design.
For more than 500 years, type designers have crafted type for specific uses. From the crudest printing, to the highest resolution pixel displays, type has been created to exploit the benefits and overcome the shortcomings of particular media. In the 20th century, pixel-based fonts were created for monochromatic low-res screens like those on the first personal computers – Apple’s original Macintosh, for instance.
Those pixel-specific fonts and newer UI tailored type designs — like Fira — were created for better pixel rendering. In comparison, Helvetica is ill-suited to being rendered in smaller sizes on pixel displays. Its rounded geometry forces anti-aliasing that makes the letters appear less precise, more fuzzy. Type authority Stephen Coles points out Helvetica’s other shortcomings as a UI font, “The lettershapes are too uniform and the spacing is too uneven — space between letters is narrow while interior space is broad — for easy recognition and reading.” Technical problems aside, Helvetica evokes the mid-20th-century Modernist aesthetic; considering that, it is an anachronism. Type, like other graphic arts has evolved in the past 60 years. It seems incongruous that in spite of their myriad technological advancements in hardware and other software, Apple has selected an outmoded typeface for the operating systems of their excellent products.
Type appreciation and technology is in Apple’s DNA. Steve Jobs studied calligraphy. His appreciation of type was a catalyst for better rendering and printing of computer generated typography. That’s why the use of Helvetica is such a baffling misstep.
Apple should be leading the way in commissioning a new generation of type designed for this particular age for Apple’s excellent technology products. It is a mistake to hold up the 60 year-old Helvetica as a typographic ideal for user interaction.
In Hello I am Erik — the Erik Spiekermann monograph by Johannes Erler — type master Spiekermann expresses his desire to create an OS font for Apple. Please grant him this commission and save us from a future dominated by cold, bland UI type like Google’s Roboto and the Apple Watch font. If not Spiekermann, then Tobias Frere-Jones, or Christian Schwartz, or Mark van Bronkhorst…. Perhaps you might consult fellow ex-pat — and living type design legend — Matthew Carter on which way to go.
Designers like me have long been supporters of Apple. Please understand this is a plea to make Apple better, for all of us. We are waiting.
With appreciation and warm regards,
Editor’s note — The paragraph that begins “Those pixel-specific fonts…” was added following valid criticism that my note lacked an explanation of why Helvetica is a poor choice for the Apple operating systems. Leading type design authorities have bemoaned this adoption of Helvetica. My plea to Sir Jony is on behalf of typophiles like me.
This is a brilliant, beautiful, enigmatic short film by the very talented Irishman, Eoin Duffy. The transcendent George Takei lends his powerfully resonant pipes to narrate the tale of loss, perspective, everything, and nothingness.
An amazing collection of talent gathered to promote BBC Music, including the man who wrote the song. If you want to know who’s who in the video, check out this link. And no, the large lady isn’t Adele in a wig, although it would have been appropriate to have her finish the song.
The very talented Graham Smith – aka the Logo Smith – posted an essay about the frustration of a dissatisfied client. Graham is one of the best logo designers working today. He was understandably troubled by less than glowing reviews of his work from a recent client. Professional graphic designers will agree that his experience is hardly uncommon.
Technological advances and business trends have made design, designers, and design tools familiar to a wide swath of the connected public. As YouTube has made clear, the public does not let their ignorance of a topic prevent them from offering their less-than-expert opinion.
Familiarity with a subject does not equal expertise.
But familiarity with graphic design has hampered the working relationship of designers and clients.
I wrote Graham to share some thoughts.
I was intrigued by your dissatisfied client post. I am familiar with the less-than-elated client.
Following the debut of bigger iPhones and the new Apple Watch, I’m riddled with questions. If you will humor me, I will fire a few at you.
Don’t you realize that the iPhone is why most of us stopped wearing watches?
So aren’t you supplying a consumer market that really no longer exists?
Or did you attempt to work to make wristwatches obsolete so you could reinvent the wheel?
Why do your operating systems all appear to have their own, independent aesthetic guidelines?
Why would I want a device that reminds me how little exercise I get?
Your use of typography is inconsistent at best. Why not take a holistic approach to brand typography and adopt a type system that can be applied company wide, across all your devices?
Why have you have made yet another device to distract us from our families, jobs, driving…?
Why do you continue to ignore that crumbling cornerstone of your business called iTunes?
First off, no shit — you myopic Hollywood ass clowns.
Second, this is in colossally poor taste.
Given the source, perhaps we should be grateful that they exercised some editorial restraint and weren’t compelled to use favorite words like boffo, or to employ some grating pun.
Still, no excuses. Fuck you Variety.