Wednesday, June 11, 2014

US Pavilion at Venice Biennale Features Lowly Fonts in High Design

The challenge for the designers of OFFICEUS, the American pavilion at the Venice Biennale of Architecture, was to create a visual graphic identity for all the printed and web materials representing the US.  Pentagram, the design company tasked with the job, decided to up the ante on the graphic challenge by choosing two of the most common system fonts available free on every computer, and raising them to iconic status with careful attention to placement, leading and kerning.

The results, using simple Arial and Times New Roman, demonstrate how using the most basic of typefaces can still yield glorious results when treated with care and thought. Natasha Jen, the head of Pentagram's design team, says they spent a year tweaking the nuances of each font, paying particular attention to the spacing, kerning and tracking of each letter. “It has much less to do with the typefaces as an object, and more in how you use them,” she says. “I was relearning all of this, and that was a very beautiful thing.”

Hunter Communications Original News Source:

Link to article:

Excerpt: "System fonts are like Top 40 radio: Fine for the masses but easy to snub if you’re of more discerning taste. It’s easy to look down on the default typefaces we find on our PCs and Macs (think Verdana, Comic Sans and Arial), especially if you’re in the business of making fonts look good. 'As graphic designers, we tend to spend a lot of time and energy picking out bespoke fonts,' says Natasha Jen, a partner at Pentagram. 'My habit was to always think, what will be a new cool font for this, or what’s the most exquisite cut for that?'''''''''''''

It’s funny then, that for her newest project, Jen and her team actually did the exact opposite. When asked to design a graphic identity for the US Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, Pentagram decided to do it using two of the most common fonts available: Arial and Times New Roman. With these fonts alone, Pentagram designed a sprawling identity system that encompassed a logo, letter templates, infographics, publication layout and maps. And if you ask us, the fonts look pretty damn good.

Deciding to design an entire identity with two of the most widely-used fonts is certainly an unorthodox choice. In fact, asked about the last time she used Times New Roman or Arial in a logo, Jen responds, 'Never.' But the biennale identity was born more from practicality.

Less Headaches for Everyone

Ideally, graphic identities do more than look pretty. And while Pentagram’s vision actually contributes to the efficiency of the work environment, graphic designers will be graphic designers. 'The challenge was how do you use these two seemingly mundane fonts to actually create interesting design to create something of beauty,' says Jen.

The U.S. pavilion will be a working office, where six architects will conduct business as usual for the 25 week span of the biennale. Sure, it would look cool if you chose a stylish bespoke font in your letter template, but you’d give everyone headaches because of it. Pentagram wanted the identity’s typefaces to be useful. 'Fonts aren’t something people think about until they become a problem,' says Jen. 'These fonts are automatically in every computer system, so the staff working in the office will never confront issues.'"

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