Typography/Lettering September 26, 2016
The ADC Young Guns 2016 Awards Ceremony + Party, which unfolded in all its glory at the ADC Gallery last Thursday night, has always been a showcase of creativity that is guaranteed to shape the years to come. So it’s very serendipitous that our friends at Monotype have recently shared with us the story of a new typeface that invokes both the distant future — or at least what we thought the future would be like in our pop culture past.
Following in the footsteps of such sci-fi inspired geometric sans serifs as Eurostile and Futura is Posterama, a retro-futuristic typeface by font designer/album artist/poster artist Jim Ford. Divided into eight separate styles, Posterama serves as a slick visual commentary on how various eras of designers gazed into crystal balls to anticipate the future.
Beginning with a seven-letter, outer space-inspired logo, Ford used these initial forms as a guide for expanding the logo into a design system, using early 20th century posters to guide his research into what designers were doing with geometric fonts throughout the decades. “There are many different variations, and a lot of it’s connected with Art Deco and that genre of style,” he explains. “I think it has to do with art and technology, and the industrial boom. Up to the 1920s people were influenced by machines and new technologies, and they were using them as expressive tools – in art, type, or design.”
Ford worked alongside two designers to create Posterama, tapping into historical trends in architecture and furniture design, and bringing along a wealth of ideas for alternates. With Posterama becoming increasingly hard to manage, the design team started developing ideas on how to organize it.
While typefaces are traditionally sorted into various weights, Ford decided to invent a system that would reflect his own interest in history. “My idea was that the years would be ways of identifying different packages,” he explains. “We’re used to seeing typefaces with lots of OpenType features, but the idea with Posterama was to make it easier to change the whole typeface and have a completely different look.”
Each of Posterama’s styles harkens back to a different moment in history:
- Posterama 1901: Art Nouveau-inspired, with slender S letters and underlined Os that revive the spirit of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the designers of the Viennese Secession.
- Posterama 1913: Abstract, angular characters reflective of the jagged Cubism of Picasso, Kandinsky and Duchamp, first introduced to surprised American audiences at the Armory Show in New York in 1913.
- Posterama 1919: Straight-sided, rounded As invoke the iconic Staatliches Bauhaus.
- Posterama 1927: Its look — and the year in its name — pays homage to legendary type designer Paul Renner and his even more iconic Futura typeface.This was the starting point for all of the styles in Posterama.
- Posterama 1933: classic Art Deco stylings with flowing curves and drop-waisted letters.
- Posterama 1945: Cyrillic characters with a clear visual inspiration from Soviet political posters.
- Posterama 1984: As dystopian as the Orwellian year in its name suggests, this font draws heavily on the kinds of modular lettering of such 80s films as Blade Runner, The Terminator and Videodrome, as well as video games such as Pac-Man and Space Invaders.
- Posterama 2001: With obvious nods to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, as well as NASA’s own design guidelines, including its classic crossbar-less A.
“I like that it gives a printed feel to digital media, and makes it more soft and familiar,” says Jim. “I think the expectation with new typefaces is that they’re perfect all the time – not to say that Posterama isn’t, but it has a little bit more softness and charm to it.”
“It’s the typeface of the future… only yesterday.”
Posterama is included in the Monotype Library Subscription. Get unlimited access to over 2,200 font families for $14.99 month.