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News and information related to Webtype, including new fonts, technology, and general observations on the state of online typography.

Brand Everywhere: REI

This is the third installment of our Brand Everywhere series highlighting excellent executions of typographic consistency across various kinds of media.

rei-seattle-ranger-station

For many campers, hikers, climbers, kayakers, runners, skiers, and other outdoors enthusiasts, Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) is the first stop in preparation for their next adventure. Founded in 1938, the Seattle-based company is one the most well-respected corporations in the world, due in large part to its unusual setup as a “consumer cooperative”, in which the customers own and run the show. It’s the largest such organization in the US, with over 5.1 million active members.

rei-store-member-sign

Under the helm of Creative Director Jason Sutherland, REI’s visual identity has grown as solid as is its reputation. The look is grounded in two strong, American-made typefaces: the bolder weights of Rockwell, which has long been part of the company’s identity, and more recently, Interstate, a straightforward, workaday sans that sits well atop REI’s heavy slab foundation. Clarendon is also part of the brand’s legacy, found on store exteriors and other branding.

Interstate was introduced to the brand a few years ago, with the goals of readability and utility in mind, but Sutherland also sought to build on REI’s unique qualities and heritage. “Because Interstate is a modern adaptation of the highway fonts developed from around REI’s founding era, it had what I was looking for in terms of readability, history, and authority,” Sutherland says. “In terms of quick read for headlines, nothing beats a font designed to be read from a speeding car! I also thought that the unconscious association with highway signs everywhere would encourage more spontaneous road trips of cars packed full of camping gear and good friends.”

Sutherland also reminds us of the diverse personalities that a typeface can reveal depending on how it’s set. “I liked the way Interstate balanced history with modernity, with those characteristics expressing themselves differently between uppercase and lowercase uses of the type.” This versatility manifests itself in Interstate’s various weights, as well. A loosely-spaced lowercase Regular can instantly evoke vintage road signs, while the hefty all-caps Black (as used on REI’s homepage and in the printed catalog below) is decisively modern, effectively promoting the latest helmet cam or hi-tech running shoe.

rei-catalog-shoes

Beyond typography, REI’s core branding elements include a refined and limited color palette and excellent nature photography, but another key component is the tone of their communication. Sutherland says his primary mission is to recreate the great experiences customers have in REI stores. “Because these experiences are based on person-to-person interactions, our tone is conversational, friendly, and imparting the knowledge of the outdoors. Language is very important to us.”

That sense of membership and community is echoed throughout the company’s materials, and even back to the stores themselves where the walls sometimes feature snapshots of members at play in the great outdoors.

Photo by Callison, the firm responsible for the SoHo, NYC store.

Photo by Callison, the firm responsible for the SoHo, NYC store.

rei-member-wall_REI-1164px

Despite the informal, scrapbook style of this display, the REI brand is still apparent. A deft touch of all-caps Interstate is all that’s needed. This balance of humanity and professionalism demonstrates the effort Sutherland and the designers at REI have put into their corporate identity.

Retail Signage & Displays

The REI retail experience is perhaps at its best at two of their landmark locations: the flagship in Seattle, and the historical restoration that recently opened its doors in SoHo, New York. We stopped by these locations and took some photos that show how Interstate promotes, informs, and points the way throughout the stores.

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Print

REI prides itself not just on selling stuff, but also on providing guidance on the increasingly complex array of recreational gear. Product info sheets are available in the stores to help members make more informed purchase decisions. Their design naturally mirrors the look of the in-store displays, for a cohesive shopping experience that instills confidence in REI’s expertise.

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And that sense of continuity holds for every printed piece in the store, including this credit card offer for members.
REI-Visa-2

REI doesn’t send a lot of direct mail (they are, after all, as environmentally conscious as retailers get), but when members receive their occasional catalogs the familiar typographic tone immediately reminds them of their last trip to the store. Color cues are cohesive too: in the REI brand vocabulary, red means “you’re going to save some money”. Just as red banners call out the clearance section in the retail space, catalogs (like the one below) with red accents highlight sales. Discounted percentages and prices are all set in crimson Interstate.

rei-fall-2013-sale-catalog
rei-fall-2013-sale-catalog2

Video

REI’s YouTube channel is replete with engaging coverage of their travel programs, product tips, member stories, and short company culture documentaries. Over the last year or so, the videos invariably use Interstate for titles and captions. The type is always white, with just enough subdued drop shadow to separate it from the background.

rei-video-adventures
rei-video-advice

Web

rei.com

REI.com is undergoing an iterative transformation to adopt all the elements of the branding guidelines. Until recently, implementing the corporate typefaces on the website was a complicated matter, requiring images or font replacement hacks. Webtype is helping to bring REI’s online presence in line with the rest of their identity by serving Interstate for homepage features and other headlines. Now that these bits of text are truly text — not images — they are much easier for the REI production team to edit and scale.

Note the green bar at the bottom of the main image, echoing the in-store displays. Even the “Clearance” label matches the retail store look.

Note the green bar at the bottom of the main image, echoing the in-store displays. Even the “Clearance” label matches the retail store look.

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rei.com-product-list

Some of REI’s minisites are fully integrated with Webtype. The REI 1440 Project, a place for members to share photos of the outdoors, is a particularly eye-catching example. Webfonts are critical in this environment where the page needs to work at any size, all the way up to fullscreen.

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The remarkable consistency throughout this broad range of material shows just how effective a strong typographic identity can be when it’s well defined and executed. With its direct and deliberate design approach, tempered by a sincere love of nature, REI makes us want to grab some gear and get outside.


Agency FB from Font Bureau

Agency Specimen

Font Bureau’s popular Agency FB series of rectangular sans-serif typefaces is now available for the web, exclusively from Webtype. The extensive family, designed by David Berlow, harks back to Morris Fuller Benton’s Agency Gothic for American Type Founders. First released in 1932, it was a single all-caps titling style of narrow proportions, accompanied by an outline version, to be used for headlines and advertising.

In 1990, Berlow saw potential in the squared forms of the narrow capitals for a wider range of application. He designed a lowercase and added a bold to produce the initial Agency FB family, which was an immediate hit. Sensing strengths that surpassed the original condensed styles, Font Bureau developed Agency into a major series comprising 25 styles of five weights in five widths.

Agency FB is well-suited as an incisive headline or display typeface in medium to large sizes, according to the particular weight and width. It combines well with strong or squarish serif typefaces like Ibis RE, or an all-purpose sans like Antenna RE.

As with all fonts on Webtype, Agency FB can be tested free of charge for 30 days. For more details, see the Agency FB webfont page.


Stainless from Font Bureau

Stainless specimen
Distinctly contemporary and robust — we are happy to now offer webfonts for Font Bureau’s popular type family Stainless.

Stainless started out in designer Cyrus Highsmith’s sketchbook where he was experimenting with the idea for a sans serif version of his slab serif Dispatch. As he drew strokes and counters, he realized that he had an original family with its own strong character, not just a partner to his Slab. The discreet geometry gives Stainless a reliable presence without feeling overly static or rigid. Wide open forms in letters like c, s, a, e aid readability in smaller sizes and emphasize the horizontal line. The fonts are optimized for use in sizes down to 14px.

Stainless styles

Stainless is available in compressed, condensed, normal width and extended, and in the weights Light, Regular, Bold and Black, each with Italics.

The ample choice between 32 styles in different widths and weights make Stainless perfectly equipped for branding, complex designs, editorial and display typography. While its serifed relative Dispatch is a great, obvious pair for Stainless, try combining it with other serifs like Prensa, Proforma or Rocky. To complement Stainless in very small sizes we’d suggest Scout RE, Antenna RE or Dispatch Mono.

Stainless, or any other typeface on Webtype can be tested free of charge for 30 days. For more details, see the Stainless webfont page.


Brand Everywhere: Myspace

In our continuing series, Brand Everywhere, we look at organizations who present a strong, seamless identity by standardizing their typography across all media. After our first case study on Ally Bank, today we switch gears to social networks, demonstrating the power of consistent typography in the relaunching of a well-known but reimagined brand, Myspace.

Myspace profile page

The new Myspace, designed by Josephmark, is unlike anything you remember from the infamous user-customizable disarray of the old social network. The new design approach could be considered more authoritarian/top-down, but results in a much cleaner, more sophisticated look. And there are still plenty of opportunities for users to customize pages, it’s just that now they’re offered within a clear structure and functional type.

In fact, the entire experience is driven in large part by typography. A broad variety of views and layouts are all anchored by a single type family, Benton Sans.

The new typographic look is obvious from the start, as Benton Sans welcomes new users and guides them through the process of creating a profile.

The new typographic look is obvious from the start, as Benton Sans welcomes new users and guides them through the process of creating a profile.

Mashable ran an in-depth interview with Josephmark CEO Ben Johnston and Creative Director Jess Huddart about the project, but we wanted to hear more about their approach to the type, of course, so here’s a quick Q&A with the firm:

Why did you select the typefaces? How do they support the brand?
We were heavily involved in selecting, refining and using the Benton Sans typeface. We were looking for a clean, modern, sophisticated font, but most importantly we were looking for something that aided the design, without overtaking it. So Benton Sans, being a fairly neutral font, was the front-runner from the beginning. Having a large family, with a variety of weights and availability of different languages also helped. This was partly why we decided against creating our own typeface.

The complex hierarchy of information on Myspace demands more than the standard regular and bold weights. The site is clarified through the use of variety of styles – from Thin and Light to Bold and Black.

The complex hierarchy of information on Myspace demands more than the standard regular and bold weights. Views are clarified through the use of a variety of styles — from Thin and Light, to Bold and Black.

How was the experience of licensing and implementing the fonts? Did you make any customizations to the typeface?
For such a massive site, licensing naturally took a bit longer to do. We worked with the guys at Webtype to make sure the font was completely web-optimised for both Windows and Mac, especially for sizes 14px and less. For a long time, designers have been limited by web-safe fonts, so we needed to cross-test on multiple platforms (from desktop to television and portable device) to ensure it was truly optimized for a universal audience.

Myspace’s new infographic views give musicians new insight into their fanbase. The clarity but subtle personality of Benton Sans shows, even in the figures.

Myspace’s new infographic views give musicians insight into their fan base. The clarity and subtle personality of Benton Sans is evident, even in the figures.

What other elements — such as color, structures, imagery, language — are key to the brand?
The new Myspace brand is exciting and raw, so we needed to design a platform that could complement this energy and immersiveness. We intentionally made the colour palette simple and neutral so that the emphasis is placed on the content, rather than the structure. During conception, the words “expansive”, “unconfined”, “free” and “full-screen” were used a lot. We wanted profiles to feel like blank canvases, where the user has the freedom and space to express themselves.

Big, bold type makes every search a more engaging experience.

Big, bold type makes every search a more engaging experience.

iPhone App

Myspace’s new look extends to their iOS app where Benton Sans is embedded and used exclusively throughout. The app not only offers a mobile-optimized view of the site but also tosses in the ability to create animated GIFs and listen to personalized radio stations.

myspace-app-content
myspace-app-prefs

Benton Sans replaces iOS’s standard Neue Helvetica for all UI elements, including the controls in the GIF animation creator.

Benton Sans replaces iOS’s standard Neue Helvetica for all UI elements — including content from the site, app preferences, and controls in the GIF animation creator.

TV Advertising

The identity type makes a couple of quick but significant appearances in the first TV commercials to air since the official Myspace debut. The raucous 30-second spots begin with “this is myspace” in the brand’s signature Benton Sans, and end with a list of Myspace URLs for the participants in the ad. These brief bookends are all one needs to associate the commercial with the new site. It’s a testament to the power of a comprehensive typographic brand.

myspace-ad

You can read more about the new Myspace design at Co.design and The Next Web. (Coincidentally, TNW launched a redesign using Benton Sans, too. No wonder they’re a fan.)


Marat and Marat Sans from LudwigType

We are happy to welcome our latest foundry partner Berlin-based LudwigType and designer Ludwig Übele to Webtype. The German type specialist honed his skills at the typeface design masters program at the Royal Academy of the Arts in the Netherlands. Now back in Germany, he designs typefaces for his own label, works on brand development, and collaborates with type design legend Georg Salden under the name Typemanufactur.

Marat Specimen

Our first releases from LudwigType are Marat and Marat Sans — an extensive type series of distinct personality. Marat was originally conceived as a magazine face but evolved into a comprehensive family for general use, combining the best features of all genres. While most letterforms and the swinging italics cite classic book faces, the strong serifs in letters like a, c, or s induce a vertical emphasis that allows the letterforms to become bold and striking (see Marat Fat). This makes Marat interesting for display use and body copy alike. Opening up counters and the moderate proportions contribute to good readability where space is limited.
Marat styles

Marat Sans, designed several years later, is not just a supporting sibling with the serifs chopped off, but a typeface with its own unique identity. It continues the dual personality of Marat — half Humanist, half Rational traits. Ink traps and basic structure hint at the seriffed partner but the design is more tamed down and regular. The x-height is slightly larger, the caps slightly narrower, the letterforms a bit more closed than in Marat, resulting in a cleaner, more adaptable typeface.

Marat Sans is available in nine finely graduated weights — three more than Marat — plus true italics, making it suitable for a very wide range of applications and sizes down to 10px in the lighter weights. Naturally Marat and Marat Sans make perfect pairings, but they also both combine well with other type families. How about Marat and Solitaire for instance, or Marat Sans with Proforma or Harriet?

Marat, Marat Sans, or any other typeface on Webtype can be tested free of charge for 30 days. For more details, see the Marat and Marat Sans webfont pages.


Scout and Scout RE from Font Bureau

Scout Specimen

Scout, our latest release from Font Bureau, is a fresh yet pleasantly familiar sans serif by Cyrus Highsmith. Originally drawn for the redesign of the magazine Entertainment Weekly, Highsmith found inspiration in early 20th century German grotesks such as Venus, DIN, or Cairoli and its doubles, which were ubiquitously popular between the 1910s and 1950s.

Unlike other early sans serifs and neo-grotesques, Scout is less broad and less rationalized. The oval forms fit the angled terminals, opening up counters and making Scout more readable and approachable. This is particularly so in Scout RE — Scout’s specialized companion for small font sizes and a new member of Font Bureau’s Reading Edge series of typefaces, optimized for excellent rendering down to 9 px. Compared to other sans serifs in this series, Scout RE is of more narrow proportions, making it an ideal choice for user interfaces and small labels.

Scout RE text sample

The Scout series consist of 24 fonts, six weights with Italics and Condensed, plus Scout RE in four styles. Use it for body copy for less literary texts, captions, or side notes. The condensed styles lend themselves for punchy headlines. Scout combines well with Ibis RE, Highsmith’s serif of similar proportions and rhythm, and other workhorses such as Turnip or Benton Modern.

Scout styles

As with all fonts on Webtype, Scout and Scout RE can be tested free of charge for 30 days. For more details, see the Scout and Scout RE webfont pages.


Solitaire from MVB Fonts

Solitaire specimen
After the introduction of his Sweet label with us earlier this year, we are happy to welcome Mark van Bronkhorst with his type foundry MVB fonts on Webtype, too. Our first release is MVB Solitaire — a no-frills tempered humanist sans.

Bronkhorst intended the design to blend into the background and let the content speak through the legible, unbiased letter forms; nevertheless, he managed to give them a lively, contemporary character, especially visible in the Light and Black styles as well as the buoyant Italics. MVB Solitaire webfonts are available in six well-attuned weights with the Regular and Book styles comparably close in stroke thickness for cases where consistent color across different font-sizes is desired. The desktop fonts are even more finely graduated into 11 weights with Extra Light and Thin styles, which are available as webfonts upon request.
Solitaire styles
MVB Solitaire’s text weights are suited for body copy down to 10 px. The Bold styles make for strong headlines while the Light shines in large display applications. It combines well with serif faces such as Poynter RE, Turnip RE or characterful Prensa.

As with all fonts on Webtype, Solitaire can be tested free of charge for 30 days. For more details, see the MVB Solitaire webfont page.

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Dispatch and Dispatch Mono from Font Bureau

Dispatch
Our latest releases from Font Bureau are the slab serif families Dispatch and its brand new small-sized companion, Dispatch Mono. Cyrus Highsmith created the series in his search for a typeface with industrial atmosphere that can serve a variety of applications and sizes. Inspired by the angular letterforms found on engineering blueprints, shipping labels or in typescript, Dispatch is a powerful and energetic addition to the Webtype library.
Dispatch Styles
Dispatch Mono — a Webtype exclusive — grew from the original Dispatch series but adds hints of typewritten correspondence and computer code to the angular appearance. With computer screens and small sizes in mind, Highsmith gave Dispatch Mono an extra large x-height and generous spacing. Like Font Bureau’s Reading Edge series, the family was optimized for clear rendering across the board, with hinting for font sizes down to 9px.

dispatch mono textsampleDispatch Mono Styles
Dispatch is an all-purpose slab serif, suitable for a wide range of applications such as headlines, editorial design and advertising, with Dispatch Mono as its small-sized partner. It pairs well with squarish sans serifs such as Antenna or Amplitude. Its sans serif sibling from the same designer — Stainless — will be available on Webtype shortly.

As with all fonts on Webtype, Dispatch and Dispatch Mono can be tested free of charge for 30 days. For more details, see the Dispatch and Dispatch Mono webfont pages.


Trio Grotesk from Bold Monday

Trio specimen

The second release from our Dutch foundry partner Bold Monday is Trio Grotesk. And it is one with an interesting Dutch background, too.

While studying in the Netherlands, Trio Grotesk’s designer Florian Schick discovered the only two remaining printed copies of Dutch modernist Piet Zwart’s influential essay Van oude tot nieuwe typografie (From Old to New Typography) in book museum Meermanno in The Hague. It was printed by Drukkerij Trio and set in an early 20th-century sans serif — Kaart Antiek. Schick decided to revive the typeface, and very closely that is, incorporating the typical rounding and ink spread of the 7 point letterpress printed text in his model. The result is Trio Grotesk — a charming rounded sans serif of broad proportions with a discreet modernist feel.

Trio styles small

The fonts are optimized for our medium size range (14 px+) and lend themselves particularily well for all-caps settings. The character set consists of as many as 688 glyphs with Latin 1 and 2 language support as well as numerous symbols like arrows, manicules, various sets of figures, and a series of Dutch countryside themed pictograms, accessible via their unicode value. If you don’t want to make use of the full character set, you can subset the fonts in your account settings to reduce the file size. Trio Grotesk combines well with many text fonts, for instance the similarly round Apres RE or old-style Poynter Serif RE.

As with all fonts on Webtype, Trio Grotesk can be tested free of charge for 30 days. For more details, see the Trio Grotesk webfont page. For information about the desktop fonts and images of Trio Grotesk’s lovely printed specimen book, check out Bold Monday’s website.


Griffith Gothic from from Font Bureau

Griffith Gothic specimen
Font Bureau’s popular Griffith Gothic is now available as webfonts on Webtype. The series, designed by Tobias Frere-Jones, has its roots in the typeface Bell Gothic from 1937 by Chauncey Griffith, long-time Mergenthaler Linotype type director.

Of all the typefaces Griffith designed and directed throughout his career, he considers Bell Gothic his most original design. Commissioned by AT&T especially for the use in telephone directories, its open, economical forms are drawn to stay highly legible in small sizes and under demanding printing conditions. The serifs on ‘I’ and ‘1’, deep notches to prevent joints from filling in, as well as the overall sharp corners and tapered terminals became Bell Gothic’s signature features.

For his revival under the name Griffith Gothic, Tobias Frere-Jones removed obsolete remains of old typesetting systems but retained the characteristic thinning of joints as a salient trait. Initially drawn as the house sans serif for Fast Company, he developed the typeface into a full series in six weights, accompanied by a condensed variant and italics for the regular width.

Although originally designed for text and listings in small sizes, Griffith Gothic is well suited as a strong headline face where its distinct features are allowed to stand out in display sizes. It combines well with all genres of serif typefaces, such as Poynter Serif RE, Harriet Text, or the equally edged and economical Proforma.

As with all fonts on Webtype, Griffith Gothic can be tested free of charge for 30 days. For more details, see the Griffith Gothic webfont page.


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