For the last two projects of the semester, we were tasked with displaying the characteristics of an assigned typeface through a two-page spread and short video. Since both the spread and the video would cover the same typeface, Brandon Grotesque, I decided to develop them together so that they would complement each other visually.
The first stage of this assignment was to discover the optimal size, justification, leading, and measure for the best possible readability for a given application as well as considering legibility. By comparing print-outs pinned up on a wall, I found that, for body text purposes, the best settings for 10 point Brandon Grotesque Regular (across a 22p4 single column on letter paper) were left-aligned, unhyphenated, with 12 point leading for readability. However, for greatest legibility a 13 point leading was most visually pleasing. This exercise would later inform the body text setting of the spread.
Next, as both works would need to present the characteristics of the typeface, I began to research Brandon Grotesque. From information published by the foundry, HVD Fonts, as well as third-party font websites (MyFonts by Linotype, Adobe Fonts, etc.) I found that 1) Brandon is very young, published within the last ten years, 2) it’s creator, Hannes von Döhren, intended it to have a “certain softness and warmth,” and 3) it’s inspired by the Bauhaus movement of the 1920s and 30s – fitting for a geometric sans-serif. The typeface is defined by a small x-height, even stroke width, and near-circular apertures and letterforms. Subtly-rounded characters, informed by magazine printing in the 20s and 30s, complement sharp angles to give the font a clean but approachable look.
As the typeface is so young, the amount of historical information and significant applications are significantly less compared to older, storied typefaces like Futura and Helvetica, which was somewhat disappointing (I like history and appreciated when my classmate’s projects showed recognizable applications of their typefaces). However, there was one quote from Hannes von Döhren that shaped my video and spread:
“Letters are like sculptures — if you look at them carefully you can see the beauty in every detail.”
Rather than focusing on the historical qualities of the typeface (I had pulled multiple magazine scans from the early 20th century to try and find examples of curved letter corners), I could focus on Brandon Grotesque itself and the sculptural qualities that define it. In that way, not having to try to whittle down a lengthy history was quite liberating. I began to draft storyboard frames on paper and digitally (I lost the paper ones).
Originally, I had the entire quote at the beginning; my professor suggested stretching it out over the duration of the video such that it would tie all the visual elements together. Next, the soundtrack would set the pacing of the video. I narrowed the selection down between two tracks, an instrumental version of Tame Impala’s “Why Won’t They Talk to Me” and PatBrooks’ “Score to Paper Video”; however, they were complete opposites with the former possessing a prominent bassline and drums and the latter a melodic piano track. Neither paired quite well with the nature of Brandon, which is calm and comfortable yet definite. After some more listening, I decided to use “Porter” by PatBrooks, which strikes a balance between the first two candidates.
Most of the time spent on the video was creating the animated builds and syncing them with music. For example, this sequence of morphing characters showing off commonalities in structure and form:
My objective with the many transitions/animations was bring the font to life, adding to its sculptural quality with smooth, elegant motion. My storyboards described these as best as possible in a non-moving medium, but only actually animating in video form could fully capture the element of time.
A change I made near the end of the project was to smooth out motion. Compare this early build of part of the quote:
To the final build:
After Effects’ Write-On effect was used extensively throughout the project. I think there’s a way to use track matte to do something similar with a crisper “brush” shape but with the time constraints, Write-On was more efficient.
Frames with Von Döhren’s quote are black text on white while everything else is white on black. In the clip above, I used a deep vermillion as the highlight color; although a rich hue, it with black and white seemed somewhat sinister. I changed highlights to a friendlier coral (inspired by Pantone’s 2019 color).
Characteristics of Brandon I wanted to highlight in addition to its sculptural quality were the different weights, alternate characters, ligatures, and a true italic version. I used the coral to point out these traits. It was also used to near the end for a bit of fun:
The final video:
After finishing the video, I returned to the spread. Versions I made before the video shown below:
I actually made the lowercase g graphic with circles for the spread before bringing it into the video with the intention of statically demonstrating sculptural and geometric qualities of Brandon.
Comments I received about the last draft were that the g graphic had too much visual gravity, some cramping in the arrangement of letterforms on left, a heavy stroke on the body text, and the overlap between the text and the circle. I tried to address these by reducing the prominence of the graphic, increasing spacing between letterforms on left, refining the body text layout, and deemphasizing the title. I also adjusted the highlight color to match the coral used in the video.
Looking back at these joint projects, the spread in particular would benefit from more time and refinement. Something I want to try is integrating the quote into the print component as well as increase visual harmony and similarities across the gutter. There was a significant learning curve in starting and developing the video, having never used After Effects before. Some say that pressure is conducive to learning and productivity — I definitely am much more comfortable with the application having completed the project. Also, in different videos I’ve watched since, I can theorize how animations and effects were implemented. I would say I have acclimated to After Effects at a faster rate by learning and immediately applying skills to a project than if I had tried poking around by myself out of curiousity.