One of our upcoming fonts is the result of an interesting project, developing original initials based on designs by Walter Crane. We recently acquired an obscure edition of French tales of Reynard the Fox illustrated by Crane with a series of square black and white illustrations of forest animals.
They were just the right size and shape for the backgrounds of decorative initials characters, so we are adapting them to be the basis of a new decorative initials font with the letter forms provided by our Crane Gothic font. The initial character designs look excellent and the font should work really nicely in conjunction with our other Walter Crane fonts.
Look for the new font to be released soon.
With Halloween looming, thoughts naturally turn to issues of horror and to classic horror films, particularly the creative title design and unique lettering which some of these classics feature in their titles, but even more especially in their preview trailers. YouTube is a great resource for these trailers, including many for films which are themselves very hard to find. Trailers are great design inspiration, because they boil down a film to its most dramatic images and older trailers include extensive descriptive titles in very dramatic styles.
Expectation of trick or treating kids naturally brings to mind the broader topic of creepy children, which leads the mind naturally to the classic film Village of the Damned and its arguably superior sequel Children of the Damned. Some people like the original and others prefer the sequel, but both of these classic British films based on John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos are seminal examples of the “alien kids with psychic powers” sub-genre of Science Fiction.
There’s something uniquely British about these films and the script, acting and directing are all outstanding. Plus one nice development is that a lot of these older films are now available for viewing for free on YouTube, including both Children of the Damned and the original Village of the Damned. You can also watch the John Carpenter remake from 1995 for #2.99 but despite an interesting cast it can’t hold a candle to the originals.
Of course, for our purposes the trailer is more of a resource, and as you can see from the accompanying graphics it includes a lot of examples of an unusual title alphabet design which would be pretty easy to convert into a unique font. The titles from Village of the Damned aren’t that interesting, but those featured in Children of the Damned are really eyecatching with a bold geometric look which typefies the type of high-impact design popular in 1960s shock cinema. I’ve taken stills from the trailer and have added them to the archive of design resources, so don’t be surprised to see a font based on it down the road.
For a look at how we make fonts from sources like movie titles see our article on designing the Captain Kidd font.
|Our new Barnabas font is the result of our Dark Shadows font design project. It’s an original font inspired by the original titles for the Dark Shadows television show, but updated for a more contemporary audience with the upcoming release of Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows movie in mind. It combines gothic capital letters with Latin small caps reminiscent of the original titles, but distressed and roughened to create a darker and more degenerate effect.
The name of the font was picked by voters on this page who preferred Barnabas (the first name of main character Barnabas Collins) to several alternatives. The sample graphic features a picture of the Corey Mansion which is the model for Collinwood in the TV series. It’s also the first new font to include the OpenType version as one of the standard formats at no additional charge, which will be our practice from here out. You can try the DEMO version of Barnabas for free with a limited character set. Or you can ORDER the full version for only $24 online and download it right away.
|Serenissima takes its name from a nickname for the city of Venice which means “The Serene One.” It’s a particularly inappropriate name considering what a huge and absolutely unserene effort went into the creation of this digital version of the lovely sample of 16th century lettering which it is based on. Serenissima may be the most demanding design I’ve worked on in years. The complex outlines and fine divisions between sections of the capital letters required unusual exactitude, so much that many of the character outlines had to be redrawn multiple times and then extensively tweaked and fine tuned to get them to look just right. It was an awful lot of work, but I think the results are worth it. The upper case characters are complex and unique and the lowercase is elegant and provides excellent balance for the overall look of the font.You can try the DEMO version of Serenissima for free with a limited character set. Or you can ORDER the full version for only $24 online and download it right away.|
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
Although judging has begun on the Make Your Font Contest and we do have a number of promising entries, we’ve decided to extend the deadline for entries until the 7th of September while we process the initial entries and prepare them for judging. So if you wanted to take part, but missed the deadline, you have an additional week to get your entry in.
The Make Your Font Contest is a chance for people with great ideas but no font design experience to see their design turned into an original font. You draw your font and we digitize the winning entries. We will take submissions of hand drawn or computer rendered fonts in three categories. The designers of the winning entries will receive a Scriptorium gift certificate as a prize and their designs will be made into a font which will they will get a copy of and which will be added to our product line. Winners will also receive a royalty on any future sales of their font. The three categories are:
- Calligraphic – Entries should be complete alphabets hand lettered with a pen with the look of traditional or free form calligraphy.
- Constructed – Entries should be complete aphabets drawn or constructed, either physically or digitally.
- Ornaments – Entries should be sets of at least 26 original ornamental glyphs with a common theme.
The Make Your Font Contest is open to anyone who wants to enter who is 18 years or older and agrees to some simple rules which will be available in complete form when the contest starts. We will be taking entries starting on August 15th and ending on August 29th. One winner will be picked in each category. All entries must be original designs, submitted in JPG format of sufficiently high resolution to render good outlines. For more information see the contest rules and guidelines (PDF). Questions and submissions can be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.