Thursday, 16 January 2020

Not quite the real thing

This certainly was a clever idea, to produce a fake house magazine for Anaheim Electronics to celebrate their hundredth anniversary but it does have one glaring fault, it's not multi-language throughout (so four stars). The only English Japanese part is on page one with the CEO's introduction. Other than that the articles have titles and perhaps a few lines in English but then all the editorial throughout the pages is in Japanese. Another quirky thing are the ads which, except for one half-page upright are all in English, some of these are fun: 'Happy meals are here!' the headline for McDaniel hamburgers (and using font very much like McDonald's) maybe you might like to apply for an Anaheim Electronics credit card with an ad spread over three pages.

The articles are about various products produced, by Anaheim and some of them have some very attractive futuristic illustrations. There's nine page lifestyle section with pictures of various products with headings in English but the text is Japanese. There are two additions included with the magazine. A mini-poster with an illustration of a Gundam prototype that Anaheim manufacture. The poster's reverse has thumbnails of all the magazine's spreads and forty-two company logos, some of which are really quite cleverly thought out. The other is an eighteen page Visitor's Guide in flight magazine devoted to Von Braun space colony with text in Japanese except for two ads, one for Luna Coffee and the, on the back cover, for Moorgarten, which looks like a whiskey drink.

The magazine and additions are enclosed in a stiff blue plastic sleeve so you can look after this fake Anaheim keepsake but I thought it was shame that the designers didn't get some professional magazine design advice to really make this a 'authentic' publication look real.


Pixel perfect

Who would have thought that the subject of this book, extracted from an incredibly thin seam of the typographic coalface, could prove so interesting. Toshi Omagari writes with enthusiasm and technical knowledge (he works for Monotype) about historic arcade game type. None of the typefaces in the book existed outside of a digital screen so there are none of the usual type attributes like point sizes, leading, alternate characters, small caps et cetera. With these faces it's all down to an eight pixel square box but within this very tight limitation some very creative ideas have flourished.

The ten chapters on typefaces have plenty of complete alphabets plus numbers to show how clever some of the letters are though the three Sans chapters (Regular, Bold and Light) with letters like E,F,H,I, L and T with no curves obviously stand out from other letters that have curves, this was solved by adding graduated colour pixels, partial or full drop shadows and thick or thin outlines to the letters and in the case if a capital I adding a block serif top and bottom to make fill out a square like other letters. The basis for so many of these alphabets was an Atari font, probably created by Lyle Rains sometime in the late Seventies.

Lower case letters in most of the fonts are a real challenge and really so many of these letters end up as being almost unreadable. The chapter on Slanted (or italic) faces reveals some clever ideas for those characters that are basically straight, now they have to have a pixel added here and there to suggest a leaning letter. Page 184 has an alphabet for the 1987 Shinobi game with not only italics but in a sort of script. Luckily the eye reads complete words rather than individual characters.

The book is basically visual with its dozens of coloured alphabets, some of which are enlarged to fill a spread so it's possible to study how the characters have been made up in the eight pixel grid and I doubt they have ever been seen as big as this. A nice touch, here and there, are screen grabs of some games showing how the various type faces work as real words. Omagari's book covers an incredibly tiny corner of the typographic world but its excellent design and interesting words make the subject a worthwhile read (especially for typographers).



Sunday, 12 January 2020

Just your type from Aftershock to Zerbydoo not forgetting ITC Out of the fridge

Unless you are involved with type professionally most people just take in the meaning of the words and ignore the face the message is set in and it's only until the obvious differences between, say, Caslon and Univers are actually pointed out that capital and lower-case letters probably all look the same to everybody. Peter Dawson's chunky and fascinating book has eighteen hundred faces to prove that each type is in fact different, though because sans faces have fewer design options to set them apart some of them do look incredibly similar. Unless you know what to look for Bauer Folio could easily be mistaken for Haas Helvetica (the cap Q is in instant giveaway).

The book's format allows each type to have the same display. The four chapters: Serif; Sans serif; Display; Script cover the eighteen hundred types with the alphabet in caps, lower case, numerals and some punctuation (plus @, #, &) all set in twenty point with a short caption describing the face's characteristics. A really useful addition for each entry is the name of the foundry who holds it, so if you wanted to use a particular type in a job this makes it easy to get more information via the net.

What I particularly liked about the book were lots of single pages and spreads devoted to individual types with printed examples of their use. There are also seventeen spreads of foundry profiles and eight designer profiles. The back pages have a thirty page index of types, designers and foundries. It's worth pointing out that frequently the index lists the correct name of a type so Avant Garde is found under ITC Avant Garde.

The author has compiled an impressive book of alphabets that has a practical use for any professional typographer but the excellent design and print makes it a joy to look through.