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#59 — Woodcuts for Type

Letter friends! After a brief hiatus in which I did my absolute best to stay away from a laptop and e
Coffee Table Typography
#59 — Woodcuts for Type
By Coffee Table Typography • Issue #59 • View online
Letter friends!
After a brief hiatus in which I did my absolute best to stay away from a laptop and enjoy my time off (failed at the former, succeeded at the latter), we’re back. So there’s no shortage of things to talk about and tell you all about — let’s get to business.
Typekit is the big piece of news of the month, of course. Typekit is no longer going by that name — its former Adobe acquisition has made it finally seamlessly integrated as it’s now known as Adobe Fonts, and you can read all about it here.
But wait! I know what you’re thinking; an Adobe integration is probably the last thing I want; after all, having to sync fonts through Creative Cloud was already a pain… but there’s amazing news for those with a subscription: there are no more font syncing limits 🎉, no more page views/domain limits 🎊, and no more web-only typefaces 🎁! Everything is now both Web and Desktop, which is extraordinary news. Well done, Adobe.
Just this week, the ever-so-inspiring Robin Rendle published one more of his Adventures in Typography newsletter that I would love for everyone to read. His views on Future Fonts, a few dissections of a couple of typefaces, and some thoughts/explorations on variable fonts for logos are definitely worth a few minutes of your time.
And if you still have some free time left, check out a couple of very sweet new typefaces from Mark Simonson, which we’ve all dearly missed: Parkside, a script font inspired by the 30s, and Acme Gothic, a proper gothic workhorse (disclaimer: not an actual work horse).
Portuguese type designer Vitória Neves just started a project on Instagram which aims to feature the work of women in type design, so make sure to follow this promising initiative.
Last but definitely not least, the relentless-at-work Bethany Heck released a Champion review for her fantastic Font Review Journal, which is never to be missed. More from her work below in this issue, in fact, so stay tuned for more.
From a little coffee house in rural Portugal this time,
—Ricardo

From Idea to Typeface: How Are Fonts Designed?
Structural Typography – Bethany Heck
We previously mentioned Bethany Heck’s reviews in our introduction, and promised you more of her work… well, this (Premium) Medium article delivers the kind of quality, density and knowledge you’d find on a really good book. I mean it.
Bethany talks about typography as both composition and a language, and it could very well serve as a typography foundation lesson on its own — both for those creating type, and consuming it. I won’t even attempt at summarising this article as it would be a huge disservice. Just the second paragraph makes the case for learning how to think about typography really well:
It’s a tool you will always have available to you, no matter the project or medium. Regardless of if you have imagery, regardless of how good the copy is, and regardless of the typeface, if you force yourself to think of type as a structural tool, you’ll always be able to add depth to your designs. It forces you to go beyond the fundamentals of typesetting to seek new opportunities for interaction and storytelling with typography, and to consider the formal qualities of every typeface you choose in the hunt for connections between its graphical design and the message you want to reinforce.
Through several visual examples, Bethany explains case by case which lessons we can take away from their composition pieces. For brevity’s sake, I’ll only cover her first example, which is related to the display of information in the grid of a poster:
Jessica Svendsen, “Exhibiting Architecture: A Paradox” poster
Jessica Svendsen, “Exhibiting Architecture: A Paradox” poster
Besides showing us the underlying grid in this example, Bethany dissects it a little bit for us:
If we abstract and diagram this design, we can see the way Svendsen lets the vertical lines created from the 3D extrusion of the display type establish the grid that the supplementary text is aligned to. This approach brings a sense of order even within the sweeping lines of the question mark—you can see that the question mark itself hits many of the same grid lines that are organizing the lower section. 
In this particular example, we can see how the main typographic element of the poster is influencing directly all other elements of the design. And sometimes, that’s exactly the direction we quickly dismiss because we don’t allow for this kind of playful exploration.
And here’s the very practical takeaway lesson from this example.
The interplay between dimensional space and the flat-plane type below adds a sense of movement, space and scale to the design that would be lacking if the hero type was also flat.
One object can be the fulcrum for your design’s structure.
Design can often be tackled in a cascading fashion. If your design is best served by a single focal point, solve for that, then decide how your type and secondary elements can relate back to that focal element.
And, there’s 20 more minutes of reading goodness for you to learn about the composition of typography intertwined with structure. I can’t recommend this enough to any designer, or anyone interested in how to think about letters in general.
Rhythm in Web Typography | Better Web Type
Kontiki Typeface — A Different Kind
Boy, have I wanted to share this with you for a while now. The process for creating Kontiki, a decorative typeface simulating the detail of woodcut type, shows so much pure dedication to the craft. Just consider this:
To create the Kontiki fonts, 193 glyphs were manually cut into five wooden plates and carefully printed by hand. From countless test prints, the most charming four were selected and digitized to create the different styles. For each of the 560 characters, the font offers four different qualities of print and gives you the opportunity to create a vivid typography according to your own visions.
Bonkers, yes, but those results already smell like wood just by looking at it. Felix Braden decided to cut a full set of glyphs for a manual print run. To start with, he draw a Clarendon style bold typeface, by reducing the contrast of one of his favorite typefaces: Century Schoolbook. A light and a black weight were digitized and interpolated to generate a bold weight to be cut in wood.
The effect for the wood was achieved due to the choice of a matte coated printing paper with a smooth surface, showing then the misprints in the printed image and not the effects caused by the structure of the paper.
One can only image the satisfaction.
One can only image the satisfaction.
Perhaps the most striking thing is that it’s not an English only typeface — oh, no. There is full support for all Western, Eastern and Central European languages, complete with all diacritics and symbols. This project is absolutely endearing, perhaps because it combines a very physical, manual process (and double thumbs up for woodwork) with a ton of digital processing to turn it into a not-so-impossible task.
You can view the rest of the process here, or try it/buy it and view some even more satisfying videos of it in the makings. Don’t miss it!
Typeface Du Jour ✍️
FS Koopman
FS Koopman
True story.
True story.
On the Coffee Scene ☕️
A New Fuel Cell Converts Coffee Wastewater Into Electricity
Did you enjoy this issue?
Coffee Table Typography

A love for words, letters, language—and coffee.
A digest of curated resources, articles and knowledge sharing about the beauty of typography; in design, on the web, or books.
You will read these over your morning cup of coffee, while the aromas of freshly ground beans are still in the air, quickly realising that words are beautiful and that you might need that second cup after all.

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With 💙 from Montreal, Canada