creating a revival typeface
Perhaps the greatest challenge of creating revival
typefaces is finding source material. Once upon a time, it was
a daunting task but, lately, it has become a lot easier. I consider
myself fortunate because I live in the Washington, DC area, and
have access as a Registered Researcher to the vast holdings of
the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library. I can do
searches in the Library’s online catalog, compile a list of promising
suspects, then take the train into the city on a Saturday morning
and spend time poring over potential revival prospects.
Of course, there’s another library of a kind available, potentially
even larger than the LOC, and that’s the internet. There are an
astonishing assortment of websites with graphic resources of all
kinds posters, luggage labels, travel brochures, sheet music,
signs and it’s always a pleasant surprise to discover new
Sometimes the source material is an outright gift complete
alphabets from old handlettering books or type specimen catalogs,
which makes the task of creating a font simply a matter of time
spent creating vectors. Sometimes the source material only offers
hints a few letters here and there, which require a lot
more prep time in analysis and interpretation. In this latter
group, perhaps the two most demanding projects I undertook were
ITC Scram Gravy and Picayune Intelligence BT.
Previously, I discussed the development of ITC Scram Gravy
with Allen Haley,
in an interview in the November/December 2002 issue of STEP
Inside Design magazine, so let’s take a look at Picayune Intelligence.
I came across a 1920 poster for Riquet Candies by the estimable
Ludwig Hohlwein in Steven Heller and Louis Fili’s "German
Modern: Graphic Design from Wilhelm to Weimar," and liked
what I saw .
Introduction to Riquet
I then did some analysis of what made the typeface
"tick" and came up with a simple set of rules:
1. The uppercase letters were basically mapped to a square originating
from the baseline that is, they were fairly wide.
2. The typeface had a large x-height the lowercase letters
were almost as tall as the uppercase.
3. The descenders and ascenders were equal in height.
4. Some lowercase letters had serifs, and some did not. I recognized
this rule, but chose to ignore it: the typeface I would create
would apply serifs consistently.
5. Finally, the curly tail on the uppercase R dictated that this
typeface would be playful.
With this set of rules in mind, I went about the task of creating
a complete font upper and lowercase letters, numbers, punctuation
and symbols. As it turned out, the only rule I had to alter slightly
was Rule #3 the very short descender made the lowercase
g and y a little too cramped, so I decided to increase that length
slightly to give me a little more breathing room on these two
I believe that the finished product retains all of the charm of
the original handlettering, while adding a few tasteful and exuberant
variations to it.