Seeing the light

Tags: Nick Shinn, Jane Hope, Graphic Exchange, printed material, social perspective, DSC-P1, legibility, demographic group, Canada, Snell Roundhand, digital still camera, faces, Seeing the light, Neue Helvetica, Ultra Light, David Berlow, purple type, Clearnet, Sony Style, Font Bureau, digital camera, Sony
Content: The Sony Cyber-shot. This could be fun. Headline, size as (see the whole ad on page 13). Futura Book, 9 pt., tracked +30
Seeing the light
A Digital Camera and a cell phone. Small, hefty boxes crammed with circuitry. For both, the typeface is a light sans serif. But beyond this similarity, the creative directors--Sam Sitt for Sony and Jane Hope for Clearnet--pursue different paths to extreme typographic conclusions. by Nick Shinn
It's common for Art Directors to have the same basic idea at the same time. In professional problem-solving, the solution is, up to a point, self-evident. Clients and consumers expect something that's appropriate, something contemporary which captures the essence of the product. Fine sans serif type fits the bill--it's a style in the spirit of the age, for the products of the age. However, the light sans serif is only an idea, a beginning. It's a category of typeface, not a specific setting. What's special about a piece of typography is the execution--the exact font, the exact size, the leading, the tracking, the setting that's precisely one out of millions of possible permutations, a delicately shaded signal that works in the context of the page, the campaign, the marketplace, and the culture. As Taxi's Jane Hope puts it, "design trends come and go; what matters is to support the [strategic] idea, to have aesthetic relevance." And if your design is on strategy, then an act of daring, like 12 pt. Helvetica Ultra Light text type, makes perfect sense.
With Clearnet, the marketing strategy centres on a distillation of desirability into the two words, "future friendly." From this personalization of the product spring other, supporting qualities, which flesh out Hope's description of the Clearnet image, "Purity, simplicity, an uncomplicated spirit, simple and approachable." These are qualities that Hope admires in a certain kind of Japanese design, and Clearnet carries the vibe loud and clear. A minimalist, she advocates "design in support of an idea," and defines the Clearnet motif with this three-part formula: · a large, close-cropped image of flora or fauna · a palette of white space, bright green, and a dash of purple · lower case Helvetica Ultra Light That's all there is, and it's a brilliant formula. It works consistently, as long as it's not diluted or altered, and to this end Taxi maintains control of the brand image by handling all Clearnet's marketing materials--advertising, direct mail, and packaging--either directly at Taxi, or by working closely with Clearnet's in-
10 Graphic Exchange
Photographer: Shin Sugino TM
Headline: Helvetica 25 (Ultra Light), 34/28. what you get what you pay features + service plans
"The light weight is friendly. The white space within the type is a breath of air and freshness." --Jane Hope In this 1996 brochure cover (reproduced at 70%), Taxi creative director Jane Hope established the Clearnet formula. The use of Helvetica Ultra Light throughout is an integral part of the design's Zen-driven aesthetic. This is new typography that depends on a careful management of fine detail. It's made possible ­ and practical ­ by the magnified view in graphics software, and the high resolution of the PostScript production process.
digital pcs
Original spot color of purple type: PMS 2685
cellular phones are great for keeping in touch. Unfortunately, they haven't always been very affordable or particularly easy to purchase. Until now, that is. Introducing Clearnet PCS. It's a truly affordable, easy to buy wireless phone. That means
Inside text detail, size as. Helvetica 25 (Ultra Light), 12/16 pt. No negative tracking; Helvetica 25 has a very tight fit, which was de rigueur in the phototype era in which it was created ­ c. 1980 ­ and the typographer has kept that look, although one or two units of tracking have been added to the shorter lines to improve the rag.
Graphic Exchange 11
As light as it gets
Agency Thin (David Berlow, after Morris Benton, Font Bureau, 1989) American Typewriter Light (Joel Kadan, Tony Stan, ITC, 1974) Avant Garde Gothic Extra Light (Herb Lubalin, Tom Carnase, ITC, 1970) Bodoni Egyptian Thin (Nick Shinn, ShinnType, 1999) Cirkulus (Michael Neugebauer, 1970) Glypha Thin (Adrian Frutiger, 1979) Light Classic Roman (Anon., 1900) Neue Helvetica Ultra Light (after Max Miedinger, 1983) Interstate Hairline (Tobias Frere-Jones, Font Bureau, 2000) Romeo Skinny Condensed (Jill Pichotta, David Berlow, Font Bureau, 1991) Saginaw (S.A. Cypress, Headliners, 1992)
house design and PRODUCTION STAFF. The ingredients of the formula are exact. Says Hope, "There's a fine line between simplicity and losing its personality." Helvetica (Miedinger, 1953) the mundane, the ubiquitous, the oft derided, most institutional of faces succeeds here because, within the context of the magic formula, it both plays against stereotype, and acts at face value. Against Helvetica's stodgy reputation, its Ultra Light weight is surprisingly delicate and handsome. Pretty, even. At face value, Helvetica's oh-so-subtle curves speak not of blandness, but finely engineered precision--in contrast to the large, natural images. "If we didn't have nature here, then suddenly the Helvetica would have a totally different life," says Hope. All this we know, and it makes sense--after the facT. Hope cautions that type should be chosen intuitively. "I'm not a big believer in rationalizing. The way something comes to life through design, every designer has a personal attitude. Rationalization is only as strong as the design's credibility." BROAD JOKE, ARCH TYPE Sam Sitt on his roughs: "Whenever I present layouts I try and do it in the bone-ass simplest way." This has two benefits. First, it concentrates the discussion on the concept, not the execution. "Sony has a tone of voice, as opposed to a specific look," he says. And secondly, it establishes the layout as a blueprint that can be modified. As he points out, "Whenever you jot something down on a piece of paper, that doesn't mean it works in reality." You can see how the position of the headline and product have moved, from the prosaic rough layout, to a more considered position top right. The Sony Cyber-shot is a $1400 camera targeted at prosumers with the slogan "This could be fun." Future fun, like future friendly, is, no doubt, the love-me-please marketing theme of a great many digital thingies. But if fun, why not zany Fontesque (Shinn, 1994) instead of the ьber-rational Futura (Renner, 1927)? Proving once and for all that context is king and type choice a subjective matter, Sitt says, "It felt like a fun typeface." When pushed, he adds, "Controlled fun, to match the conceptual aspect of Sony products...both technical and novel." And if you think about it, he's right--there is a sense of pure play of form in Futura's basic geometry, a happiness in its profusion of circular shapes. Not fun like a Barbie-cam. It's a question of tone, and with a slick, expensive, silver brick of a camera--no matter Sony's reputation for novelty--given the broad humour of the visual joke, the type has to play the straight man: fun that's neat and discreet. Hence Sitt's understated choice. And with a headline so tiny, that's fearless understatement. He prefers traditional faces with the novelty worn off. "If I had picked a typeface that was any bolder or more outrageous, the eye would be distractingly drawn to it first." Nonetheless, he specs types with strong personality, like Futura and Clarendon (Eiden-
12 Graphic Exchange
The Sony Cyber-shot. This could be fun.
Introducing the Sony Cyber-shot® DSC-P1 digital still camera. It's spectacular. Also, our new Clip Motion feature allows you to combine
one of the smallest (113mm x 53.9mm x 43.8 mm) and lightest 10 pictures into an animated file for e-mailing. You can even make
(208g) cameras in its class, which means you
an MPEG movie up to 42 minutes long. Add in the
can get shots just about anywhere. It captures
Stamina® InfoLITHIUMTM battery, which lets you take
high-resolution images up to 3.3 mega pixels
up to 1,700 pictures per charge and its 6X Digital
and stores them on a Memory Stick®, which is a
Precision Zoom lens and you begin to get an idea of
simple way of saying the images you can store
just how fun this camera could be in the right
and send to your computer will look
hands. Like, say, yours. Purchase a Sony Cyber-shot digital still camera now and save up to $50 on selected optional video accessories with a mail-in rebate. See coupon for details. Only valid on the purchase of one of the following selected digital still cameras: DSC-S30, DSC-S50, DSC-S70, DSC-F505V, DSC-P1, MVC-FD85, MVC-FD90, MVC-FD95. ®TMSony, Cyber-shot, Sony Style, Memory Stick, Stamina and InfoLITHIUM are trademarks of Sony Corporation.
Sony magazine ad by MacLaren McCann, Toronto, 2000. Creative Director: Sam Sitt Copywriter: Andrew Anthony Photographer: Bruno Crescia Designer: Christian von Seydlitz
Sam Sitt's deliberately rudimentary layout­as presented to the client­focuses attention on the concept, not the execution. Introducing the Sony Cyber-shot® DSC-P1 digital still camera. Text detail, size as. Futura Light (URW), 9/26 pt. The URW Futura has characters that are identical to the usual Futura fonts, but the nominal size is smaller and the metrics a little more spacious. This looks like a typical 8 pt.
Pushing it The previous examples are showpieces. As campaigns play out, different formats and layouts can compromise the typographic niceties. At right is some body copy scanned from a newspaper version of the Sony ad, and some text from a Clearnet accessory leaflet, both reproduced size as.
Rugged Phone Case Made of durable nylon material with multifunctional belt attachment. Heavy duty velcro straps
benz, 1953), but he uses them small. That works--the balance of familiar, strong faces in a low key setting is readable in a way that ordinary faces at the same size would not be. SOCIO-TYPOGRAPHIC CRITIQUE These pieces are targeted at the young and affluent. For other sectors of the population, their legibility is problematic. Never mind legibility, how about literacy? In Canada, Adult literacy is dismal: 22% of Canadians have serious difficulty with any kind of printed material; a further 26% struggle with all but the most simple of Reading and writing tasks (StatsCan, 1996). From a social perspective, fine sans serif type is ageist and elitist. But then, so is Snell Roundhand. The issue is not whether any-
one would want to read type unattractive to their demographic group, but whether they're physically able. If you're an art director working on high tech accounts, you're lucky. Bring on the microfine sans serifs!--typographic control is great at 400% in Quark, and the high resolution printing is really sharp. However, if you're working on non-cyber stuff for an older or a wider demographic, you'll have to crash the party, because you weren't invited. Nick Shinn, R.G.D. is an art director/graphic designer and the proprietor of Shinn Design. He also designs and publishes typefaces through ShinnType, telephone (416) 769-4198, email [email protected], Web Fonts shown are available through FontShop Canada.
Graphic Exchange 13

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