We’ve recently been doing much work on our Dark Shadows font project, and it’s encouraging to be reminded that there is an ongoing association of our fonts with various Tim Burton projects. This is evident most recently in the selection of our classic Zothique font as the style for Tim Burton’s name in the packaging and promotional materials for the new series of figures based on designs from some of his cartoon drawings titled “Tim Burton’s Tragic Toys for Girls ad Boys” which features odd characters like Oyster Boy, Stain Boy and The Girl with Many Eyes.
Not sure what the other font used prominently on the products is, but it’s very gratifying to see Zothique selected for Burton’s name and it looks great at the head of the poster as shown to the right. The peculiar and quirky style of the script fits Burton’s personna rather well.
With the Dark Shadows movie in the early phases of filming and some production stills (let’s hope they improve the make-up on Depp) already appearing on the web, it’s time to step up work on the Dark Shadows font. At this point I have the basic character design done for a complete set of uppercase and small caps characters plus a partial set of more elaborate initials. All of this is still in hand-drawn form, but it’s at the pont now where I can put characters together to see how they look and move on to rendering them as outlines to make them into a functional font. See the image to the right for what they look like right now. Feedback and suggestions would be most welcome.
Also of vital importance is the name of the font. It’s down to Collinsport, Collinwood and Barnabas. If you want to contribute to the naming decision, vote in the poll below.
Dark Shadows Font Name Poll
In developing an updated font for Dark Shadows one interesting challenge is that there are only two upper case characters to use as a starting point. What is immediately apparent about them is that they fit into the category of “Old English” style fonts, a popular term for a particular style of black letter font developed for the publishing industry in the late 19th and early 20th century. In the days of metal type everyone had a black letter font and although no two were exactly the same, they all shared certain characteristics and were often remarkably similar.
While it was obviously quite difficult to identify the specific Old English font which was used for the D and the S in the original Dark Shadows titles (shown to the left), some research presented many similar fonts of the right period and general appearance, starting with our own classic font Collins Old English, which coincidentally shares the same name as the family the TV series was based around.
While Collins Old English was a good first point of reference, it differs in several particulars from the font in the original titles, particularly in having a somewhat lighter overall weight and having double spurs on the characters instead of single spurs. It also has an overall narrower look than the original titles and also flourishes on the ends of some of the swashes. Those flourishes are very typical of Old English fonts, and are an element which might be desirable to incorporate in a reimagined Dark Shadows font because they make the font look more gothic and more antique than the very plain style of the original titles.
The next step was to do some research and look at some Old English font alternatives in our extensive library of old books on type and lettering. In this my eye was drawn to two examples of metal type from the early 20th century (shown to the left of this paragraph and to the right of the next) and also to one example of a hand lettered Old English style by German-American sign painter and calligrapher Hermann Esser (the last sample).
Of these, Pendleton Old English (above and left) was probably closest stylistically to the original titles, but was much lighter in overall weight, sort of like Collins Old English, while Shaw Old English (right) and Esser Old English (below and left) were closest in weight, but not great matches in every particular of their style and features.
All three of the fonts featured some flourishes, but by this point I had determined that the best approach was to take the titles farther and make them more ornate and fanciful than the originals, so that wasn’t a problem. In overall shape, weight and features Shaw Old English seemed like the best choice for a starting point, with Esser Old English as a secondary point of reference.
One of the determining factors in this was that Shaw Old English included the same kind of ball-style caps on some of the flourishes as the original S, something which none of the other fonts had. Several questions remained, of course. Should the D have double spurs like Esser Old English or the single spurs of the original and of Shaw Old English. Should it retain the longer upper stroke of Shaw and Esser or a shorter top stroke like the original. And should the interior of the D have two vertical lines or just one like the original. In most of these decisions I leaned towards Shaw Old English, with some notable modifications. You can guess what they are until the next installment.
The Dark Shadows font project is back on track…
When I first heard that there was a new Dark Shadows movie in development I was pretty excited, especially since it was a Tim Burton project and he has used fonts I designed in some of his past films. I started tossing ideas around for a design for a special font for the movie – not at their request, but purely on spec. Then it looked like the movie was going to take forever to get into production, backed up behind other projects, so I set the project aside for a while. Well the latest on IMDB is that they’ve more or less finished casting and may start shooting soon, with an eye on a release date in May of next year.
That means the Dark Shadows font project is back on the front burner, at least for my amusement, though who knows where it might go. I’ve already done the initial research for the font, drawing on five years watching the show devoutly as a kid, and using video clips as a reference for the kinds of designs which were used for the titles of various incarnations of the show
The starting point for the project is the original title font from the first four years of the series which is visible in the first image to the right. The second image shows the title from the poster for the theatrical movie House of Dark Shadows. The third image shows the title from the 1991 primetime series which is an updated variant of the original title style. All of these title designs will to some degree inform the final design, especially the initial D and S characters from the original.
My first inclination is to follow the idea of the original titles where the initial letters are in a gothic style and the other letters are in more of a text style, possibly drawn from the style of the House of Dark Shadows movie titles. It also occurs to me that because a part of the story is set in the 1790s drawing on colonial typeface design makes a lot of sense, so it seems logical to move towards more of a woodcut look for both the initial capitals and the main text letters. I’m also thinking about borrowing some ideas from the original lettering in the titles of Burton’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow to give the font a rougher and more edgy look. And before you even ask, I do hate the titles from the last season of the original series and don’t plan to incorporate them in the design. The idea would be to pull all of these inspirations together into an original font which draws on the tradition while being original and new at the same time. It should be a font which people look at and immediately think of Dark Shadows but if anything even more of an embodiment of the gothic atmosphere of the series.
So now the project ought to move forward more quickly. Look for preliminary drawings of the font in the next installment.
My name is Victoria Winters…
For almost five years those were the words which greeted me when I got home from school at 4:30 and sat down infront of the small black and white television in our kitchen to watch with wonder as the convoluted gothic narrative of the cursed inhabitants of Collinswood unfolded half-hour by half-hour in Dark Shadows. This constant exposure to the world of gothic horror as a middle-schooler clearly had a profound effect on me, turning my thoughts to dark and mystical themes, an interest reflected in many of my font design choices, which explains our Horror Fonts and Art collections.
All Dark Shadows fans harbor a secret hope that some day the series will somehow return to the air. It did have a brief primetime revival with a new cast in the 1990s and there was a failed attempt to revive it in 2004. Hopes for a successful return seemed dashed when producer, writer and director Dan Curtis died in 2006. Now, surprisingly, hope has resurfaced in the form of a new Dark Shadows movie based on Curtis’ original scripts, produced and directed by Tim Burton and likely starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins.
The new Dark Shadows movie is still in that gray area that exists in Hollywood where movies are optioned and even have a script, but are still a long way from getting cast and produced. It seems like a natural project for Burton to take on, and given his age he may have had much the same childhood experience with the series that I did. But there is a lot that can go wrong between starting a project like this and actually getting it to the screen. Right now all we can do is hope optimistically that sometime next year work will start on the film for release in 2011. Everything else is just rumors in fan magazines and websites.
Now, as some readers may be aware, a few of my font designs have been used for other Tim Burton movies. Goodfellow was the title font for A Nightmare Before Christmas, Buccaneer was used for the credits in Corpse Bride and in a weird, roundabout way our Beynkales font became the official Corpse Bride font when they discovered that the custom title lettering which was based on our Tuscarora font was not a complete set so they commissioned us to design an new font based on the movie titles for use on the DVD cases and promotional materials. Through all of this, communicating with Tim Burton and his staff has always been problematical. Burton himself is reclusive and the process through which he gets graphic design work done is an utter mystery. When they used Buccaneer I even went through an elaborate stalker-like campaign to try to get them to update to a newer and better version of the font to no avail.
However, with two years to prepare and plan out a campaign I think I might be able to get Burton to actually pay attention and work with us in advance to get just the right font for the Dark Shadows movie. That’s what the Dark Shadows Font Project is all about.
The idea is that I will start to design an original font with input from our customers and fans of the TV series and chronicle the process as I do the work, with the hope that this will attract some attention and perhaps get input and direct participation from Burton or his design staff. It’s worth a try and even if it doesn’t work, it’s going to be fun to try and something new and interesting to promote on the website.
The starting point for the project is the original title font from the first four years of the series which is visible in the first video clip to the right. The second video clip shows the alternate titles from the final season of the series. The third video shows the titles from the 1991 primetime series which is an updated variant of the original title style. The fourth video shows the titles from the spinoff movie House of Dark Shadows. All of these titles will to some degree inform the final design, especially the initial D and S characters from the original.
My first inclination is to follow the idea of the original titles where the initial letters are in a gothic style and the other letters are in more of a text style, possibly drawn from the style of the House of Dark Shadows movie titles. It also occurs to me that because a part of the story is set in the 1790s drawing on colonial typeface design makes a lot of sense, so it seems logical to move towards more of a woodcut look for both the initial capitals and the main text letters. I’m also thinking about borrowing some ideas from the original lettering in the titles of Burton’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow to give the font a rougher and more edgy look. And before you even ask, I do hate the titles from the last season of the series and don’t plan to incorporate them in the design. The idea would be to pull all of these inspirations together into an original font which draws on the tradition while being original and new at the same time. It should be a font which people look at and immediately think of Dark Shadows but if anything even more of an embodiment of the gothic atmosphere of the series.
This is where the project starts. Look for updates and the first sample character drawings soon.