Most of my work is born out of my love of the mid-century. I’m naturally drawn to something about the fulness of the geometry from that era. Everything is straight, geometric, but its most important feature is its fullness. It’s not just a circle you drag out in illustrator—it’s a circle that longs to be a square, bezier handles pushed to their extremes.
Don’t even get me started on the contrast. So goofy, but so professional.
In a similar way, for the last two years I’ve become a real sign painting enthusiast. I love the patina that accompanies it, not for the flaws or texture but for the intangible affability. I’ve spent so much time trying to figure out how to create that with type. Out of a very large group of painter inspired fonts I’ve only released Kansas Casual.
One such I currently call Painter’s Slab.
And while I hate to be the guy who designs fonts that are inspired by chairs and paint patina—such is the life I have been given. After being nearly done with Painter’s Slab, I took a step back and started to wonder what a slab would look like with the sensibilities of the mid century. So I set to work trying to inject that high contrast, curvy, vibe into this goofy, sign painter’s slab. This is the birth of Jeames.
Because Painter’s Slab was already finished, I started digital, modifying the B, W, and other interesting letters. Contrary to the usual approach of starting with O and H, I wanted to see what would make Jeames special. But I pretty quickly realized that I needed to pull out the sketch book.
It didn’t take long before I had a good idea of what I wanted. I returned to Glyphs and built out the remaining alphabet, pulling inspiration from rational serif families like Baskerville and Harriet. By the end it really looked nothing like Painters, and mutating based on that skeleton was more work than it was worth. But overall I’m happy with where it put me mentally, and the product does have a little bit of that fun vibe I was looking for.
Good News is the name of a wedge serif family I designed in May 2013. Good News Sans is what it became over the course of 13 months. The whole lengthy and emotional process would not be fun to summarize, so I’mma try to keep this simple.
Its inspiration is rooted in early twentieth century titling, gothic woodtype, geometrics like Futura Display, poster fonts of that era, and strong lowercase sets like Din.
Like most things, I wasn’t initially inspired by a complex mixture of ideas but by a single piece of lettering. In this case pharmacy labels at a antique store in NE Portland. The lettering in these samplings has magnificent character and charm.
As I designed Good News, I recreated those labels to see how well the two matched up.
The /O/ in “PLYMOUTH” below, and the /C/ in “DICE” really set Good News Sans on the right track. From there I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted, and it was just a manner of fine tunin’ them beziers.
- Ridiculously large serifs
- Dense /W/
- Uncharactaristic curves in /S/ and other characters
Tried to Keep
- Strong uppercase set that can stand on its own
- Chopped/geometric verticals and stems, like old headline type or wood type
- Rounds only on tops and bottoms
During the process of rebranding Banzai, over the course of the last year, I needed a font that represented the interests of the youth who used Banzai’s software. Previous to my efforts, hand written fonts (and “afflicted” grunge stuff) that held the hallmark of the early 2000’s had been used. Their time stamped look were just as friendly and inviting as they were insulting to the target age group’s taste.
After some testing, Eckhardt Poster Brush, Suti, and House Slant were all in the running. We eventually decided that there were some undesirable elements in each:
- The slant (on Suti and House) of about 15 degrees was much too intense.
- Eckhardt felt too juvenile, but had a lot of the old Egyptian Sans proportions that we sought for by way of educational tone and conventionality.
- Though the aesthetics of all closely matched what we wanted out of the one-stroke, all-caps, style they were all just off enough to merit a completely fresh take.
Kansas Casual became the compromise between these problems and needs: set at a 10 degree slant, with more conventional proportions, and more weight options for a wide variety of point sizes in both print and web.
Early Versions and Tests
The first version was put into use in July of 2013, in a variety of web applications. The first draft had some pretty elaborate node placement to draw letters like /S/ in the boxy way that I wanted. However, when scaled down, there was a lot of quality loss that was pretty lackluster.
Part of the revision process that was important to me was actually putting paint to canvas and seeing how the forms would look. That process lead to a lot of research on the one-stroke script, which improved my painting, and pushed me to go back to those drawings for some major revisions.
Painting became my proofing process.
Some Minor Adjustments
Almost all digital sign painter’s casuals have rounded corners to simulate the patina of authentic paint. At first I followed suit, but I had a super hard time finding a good balance. Once I started actually painting signs, I was super surprised to find that paint, properly thinned, hardly ever gave a rounded corner look. Which isn’t to say I wanted this to be 100% authentic, but I certainly didn’t want to follow a convention that didn’t make sense for this project.
Instead I opted for a bowed terminal that more accurately showed how a brush behaves when all the bristles are spread.