FontShop’s Font 004

Font 004's front cover, reading ’type rocks'.

I’ve just now caught up with most of my life after getting back from TypeCon (Except for writing about TypeCon. Sad, I know.), and I got a chance to actually sit and absorb FontShop‘s fourth issue of font magazine. Honestly, it’s my favorite thus far, though that’s not surprising since there are so many names I recognize and admire/appreciate associated with it. font 004 is friendly and accessible, which is not always the case with type-centric publications and the writing within. The content is interesting and engaging, fun but not overly fluffy or shallow, and there are some interesting design moments within.

font is, ultimately, a vehicle for FontShop (specifically handled by the San Fran office), but with the addition of some independent foundries, the editorial prowess of Tamye Riggs and Stephen Coles, and the art direction of Jared Benson and Joe Pemberton, it delivers both the advertising and editorial content in an engaging manner. Not once did I get that slogging feeling that comes with some of the drier or more redundant design articles I’ve come across.

Showings and thoughts from Mark Simonson.

Type showings from Mark Simonson, whose work draws largely from historical stylized display types.

The bulk of the content is given over to FontShop advertising, usually ads with lots of type to check out. Some of the promotions are less overt, however, such as the foundry vignettes containing some showings and descriptions, along with some designers’ thoughts on community. This is particularly nice because the featured foundries are small independents for which FontShop distributes.

Font article, ’Revealing Underware'.

Notice the white type, which is vertically inverted. This is part two of the article, which reads from back to front and upside down.

Dutch design trio Underware‘s involvement (as both subject and cover designers) made this issue particularly sweet for me, as my fascination with their type and work is ascending the remaining steps from hearty fascination to full-on obsession. The piece on Underware and their work, by Margaret Richardson, is broken into two parts; the first begins reading in the standard orientation and the second inverts vertically, leading the reader back to the beginning. It’s a fun device and hints at their quirky nature as designers. And, of course, the whole thing is set in three Underware fonts: Bello, Auto, and Sauna (I’m a big Sauna fan). The inside front and back covers are dedicated to their online process of designing the cover for font 004, which is, as usual, an interesting and entertaining view into their working methods.

Detail from Bantjes' infodesign art.

This series of spreads deserves examination up close, the subtle humor and social commentary contained within reward the thorough reader.

Marian Bantjes, a part of the Speak Up community, contributes an eerie and interesting visual study of communities and groups, how we sub-divide ourselves as people, and emphasizes the flip side of communities: the divisions inherent to our communal tendencies. This is an idea that’s always fascinated me, so I found this piece particularly fascinating to pick over and read in detail. The content has to be somewhat simplified, because of the nature of the subject, but Bantjes manages to cover an impressive amount of ground in her expressive infographic of sorts. It’s worth a closer examination, and she sure makes use of plenty of fonts (and does it quite well).

The closing piece, which I believe was written and compiled by John D. Berry, is the one I immediately appreciated the most. It’s not the most visually engaging of the group, but its simpler layout makes way for pure comparative and critical content, of which I’m a big fan. It’s an examination of nametags, specifically those distributed at conventions and conferences. It’s not all that comprehensive either, but it makes some clear, succinct points about nametags, their use, their design, and how the two work (and how they often don’t). I know it didn’t exactly push Joe and Jared’s design capabilities to the limit, but the content carried the piece. I also have to admit that I had to design some nametags recently, so this article was a good way to prep my brain for the problem.

All in all, not too shabby for a free mag. Just pop on over to this page on FontShop’s site to subscribe. If you ask them nicely, I’m sure you can get some back issues. It’s worth it.

Font 004's back cover, reading ’type sucks (if you can't read)*'.

The issue’s back cover. The tiny asterisked type reads: ’According to UNESCO, in the world today there are about one billion non-literate adults.’