Robin Rendle

Blogs, revivals, and workshops

This weekend I’ve updated the fonts on my blog like it’s 2009 and for this version I’ve chosen Commercial Type’s excellent Caponi Display and Caponi Text to replace David Jonathan Ross’ Output (which I still thoroughly adore and will most certainly forever live on as one of my favorite typefaces of all time).

Here’s what my site looks like now after this little refresh:

Caponi is much more stately and up-tight when compared to the programmatic Output Sans, however I had started to notice a trend with personal sites where serifs are abandoned in favor of plain and boring geometric sans. So I wanted to challenge myself a little by picking something wildly different in the opposite direction.

But why did I switch things around when nothing significant had to change? Well, I reckon there’s something deeply therapeutic about looking through hundreds of fonts, finding the one that matches my voice and tone the best and then updating the codebase of my website to use the latest tricks. Especially when I’ve been so heavily focused on UX and coding lately, I worried those visual design muscles were being lost to atrophy.

Anyway, Caponi is what’s known as a revival type family, or rather a playful nod to, Giambattista Bodoni’s work from the 18th century. There’s a lot of high-profile tributes of this style — some type families take their cues from the condensed versions that Bodoni cut whilst others take a more rounded direction in the end points of the a or lowercase c.

One such example that I think a lot about from time to time is Parmigiano sans that was published by the Typotheque foundry some years back:

Even though Bodoni never made a sans-serif typeface there is something Bodoni-adjacent I love in this typeface, it’s sort of like when you hear two songs that you love smooshed together.

Any who, with Caponi I’ve found that because of the x-height of the character set I’ve had to tweak the line-height and font-size of every bit of text on my site. During my little refactor I found that the typeface needs a little bit more white space between lines and between characters than Output Sans did; rather than welcoming the space around it, Caponi appears a little claustrophobic to me if it’s not given a little more room to breathe.

I think this screenshot from the specimen proves the point here; when these really tall letters hug the lines above and below like this my eyes start to panic and I struggle to concentrate.

That’s not to say that Caponi is a bad type family, my point is rather that different typefaces require different styles and settings for them to be read elegantly. And that skill of identifying those differences takes an awful long time to figure out as a typographer, or rather it did for me anyway. I’d see a typeface used incorrectly in the street or in an application and immediately blame the typeface instead of the design.

Sometimes even ugly typefaces can be forgiven though.

Hand-lettering Workshop

Earlier this week the team at Gusto headed up and over the bridge to Mill Valley where we had a couple of team bonding exercises — by far my favorite was Jenna Carando’s workshop on hand-lettering.

I’d been to one of Jenna’s workshops a couple of years ago and back then it was fun but it was a little rough around the edges compared to some of the other events I’d been to on the topic of hand-lettering and typography 101 lessons.

So it was wildly impressive to see the amount of effort and hard work that Jenna’s clearly put into this course since then as it was the best introduction I’ve ever seen, not only of hand-lettering, but on the subject of graphic design in general. It was simply outstanding whilst being light-hearted, funny, and quick-witted to boot.

Jenna’s always been extraordinarily skilled at lettering but I realized during her explanation of the different styles and techniques during the day that it’s one thing to be good at something, but it requires something entirely different to explain that skill in a way that other people will understand it.