Webtype in use: Northwestern University Knight Lab

Knight-Lab-home

The goal of Northwestern University Knight Lab is to “promote quality journalism on the internet … through new prototypes, projects, and services”. Their work involves a lot of writing about the development of these projects and blogging about the issues that surround them. This, of course, amounts to a lot of text. And a text-heavy website can feel static and dull. But the design team avoids this through the savvy use of interesting, underused typefaces: Salvo Serif, Apres RE, and Turnip RE.

Northwestern_University_KnightLab_Logo1 Webfonts aside, the first thing that strikes you when you visit the site is the Lab’s lively logotype. It’s a bit unexpected. The mark does not follow the typographic tropes so common in journalism — classic newspaper serifs, plain gothics — signaling visitors to the Lab’s modern methods, combining news and technology.

The logo is also completely unique, a custom modification of Turnip with details borrowed from another Font Bureau face, Quiosco. It’s an example of how Font Bureau’s staff of designers can tailor their fonts available from Webtype (and the rest of the Font Bureau library) to suit specific needs.

Not only was the source foundry part of this customization, but it’s especially advantageous when the work can be done by the designer responsible for the typeface being adjusted. In this case, it was David Jonathan Ross who designed Turnip in 2012, imbuing it with some fairly unorthodox forms that emphasize the tension between inner and outer shapes. The Knight Lab designers liked Turnip overall, but found the curves in the ‘n’, ‘h’, and ‘b’ a little too unusual for their logo.

David Jonathan Ross describes the differences between Turnip’s and Quiosco’s curves.

David Jonathan Ross describes the differences between Turnip’s and Quiosco’s curves.

Ross reworked Turnip in response to this request, and also made the individual letters work as a group for this particular word.

I softened it up, and give it more of a true old-style stress, where the northeast corners are thickest. Then it was a matter of narrowing things slightly, tightening up the spacing and particular letter pairs … turns out that “knight” is a tricky word!

The final tweaks introduce the diamond symbol from Knight Lab’s logo into the dot of the ‘i’ and ear of the ‘g’.

Turnip for the Knight Lab logo, before and after customization.

Turnip for the Knight Lab logo, before and after customization.

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