A short note on Conductor

There are fonts and then there are fonts.

I believe that the Conductor family that was recently designed by Nina Stössinger and Tobias Frere-Jones is most certainly in the latter category: it’s striking, unpredictable and, best of all, it’s really, really weird:

In the design notes about the typeface there’s a quick explanation about the origin of this thing:

...based on the delicate, blocky numerals from vintage Bulgarian lottery tickets, it also incorporates elements of vernacular shopfront lettering and mid-century type design.

That’s sort of peculiar to me because those squarish characters – take the a, p and lowercase e as examples – are very much the sort of letters I associate with car logo design for some reason. With that said though, I’m not a big fan of this wide and square-letter style. I suppose I just can’t think of a moment when I’d reach for a typeface like this in my work. Instead, I much prefer the condensed versions to the wider ones, but that’s entirely down to personal preference on my part.

Take a look here to see what I mean:

The condensed versions just seem more useful in my day to day work somehow. It must be said however that everything pales in comparison to Conductor’s italic, which happens to be in a league of its own. Every character buzzes with energy and charm:

I’m obsessed with this italic because the shapes almost have a Carolingian minuscule look to them. The w! The lowercase a! (I feel like a whole book could be written on the lower left curve of the capital E, too) And yes, I know that sometimes I get a little excited about type but this is one of the rare typefaces that deserve such excitement.

Of course, this is before I harp on about the italic numerals which I cannot stop staring at, especially the 7 and 2, all of which would look wondrous if blown up large on billboards or posters:

What I’ve Been Reading Lately

Right now my reading is fractured between far too many books and so progress has been mighty slow. I’m still reading Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey and yet although I’ve barely moved on from the introduction yet there’s so many notes I wanted to highlight here.

Before reading Emily’s translation I knew little of The Odyssey’s history. I suppose I was vaguely aware that it started in a pre-literate culture where the text wasn’t written down for hundreds of years – it was sung by poets and bards instead. And so on this note I love the way that Emily describes the differences between the artistic style of oral and literate cultures:

...studies have shown that there are marked differences in the ways that oral and literate cultures think about memory, originality, and repetition. In highly literate cultures, there is a tendency to dismiss repetitive or formulaic discourse as cliché; we think of it as boring or lazy writing. In primarily oral cultures, repetition tends to be much more highly valued. Repeated phrases, stories, tropes can be preserved to some extent over many generations without the use of writing, allowing people in an oral culture to remember their own past. In Greek mythology, Memory (Mnemosyne) is said to be the mother of the Muses, because poetry, music, and storytelling are all imagined as modes by which people remember the times before they were born.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that for several weeks now.