Monday, 25 April 2011

Suddenly, Keanu

aka. Keanu Reeves and how I learned to love Futura
aka. The round-up post, April
aka. I've been... er... revising

Greetings, ladies and gentlefolk. It's been a busy coupla weeks in my life so I apologise for not keeping up the perfect four-posts-a-month thing this month. I have my exams next month so maybe it's acceptable, but it probably isn't because they're next month and I haven't been revising that much. I told myself I'd balance revision and creativity this easter holiday but that thankfully resulted in me being overly creative in defiance of revision. Hence, I've been working on a proper typeface, did a photoshoot in London, got depressed and  thought up the most disturbing sci-fi movie I know, and now I'm scriptwriting and feeling very good about it. Still, I have so much to catch up on here!

Now then, onto the meat of the post (expect no funny meat suitcase here, I've done that joke): Futura. Remember that font? No? Well, I guess not, we're not all typophiles. Futura is a typographic institution, that set the standard for geometric sans-serifs along with Avant-Garde Gothic back in the 1970s. You probably have it on your computer, it's thin and has sharp corners. It's great - maybe a little to pointy for my liking, lacking that control and standardisation that Helvetica has, but it's always good for the odd poster. I use it for the branding of my school's Film Club:

Here I combined Futura, the sharp and postmodern sans-serif, with Didot, another classic typeface that co-created its own typographic class, the Didone serif. It's high-contrast, Italian, and downright classy. Futura and Didot get on quite well actually, and though the poster could've been more restrained layour-wise, I enjoyed experimenting with two colours and two typefaces interacting. I never realised how wonderful Didot italicised lowercase looked. Mmmm.

Anywho, moving on. I was browsing Behance one day and came across this brilliant project for a fictional film festival, showing only Wes Anderson films. The design was consistent, witty, appropriate and well restrained. I always like to think the key to really good design is not finding the right features and gimmicks for your project, but actively restraining yourself from going so over the top. I know centuries of Italian and Spanish designers would protest, but functionalism didn't emerge in the 1920s for everyone to ignore it and get on with the same old shit we'd been doing beforehand. It's had an impact on us, specifically on me. A wise man once said 'moderation in all things, including moderation' and he couldn't have been more right. If I could find him, and he happens to still be alive, I'd give him a hi-five. If he's more in the mood, a hug, but I'm perfectly willing to just hi-five him. Moderation in all things, including congratulatory gestures.

Moving quickly on, you may notice a familiar face in that Behance project. A familiar typeface. Futura, but bold. Extra bold. The version I have is called 'Futura Standard Bold' but I can't always trust what I download off FontYükle. It's a bold weight of Futura, and it's gorgeous. It's overused, especially as you see in the Wes Anderson project - all-caps, small size, on a big photo. Perhaps coloured text on a black-and-white photo. Horizontal lines and bold, statement graphics, everything centred. Psychedelic hipster colours, patterned triangles, fashion shots. All this with Futura bold.

But what's so good about it? What about emboldening Futura takes it from a sharp sans-serif to an incredibly hip typeface? Well, I can't know for sure - because I don't know who used it for that sort of thing first - but those pointy acute-angle corners get lost in the bulk of Futura bold, yet it still keeps its formal shapes. It's a geometric sans-serif, so that means perpendiculars, almost-circular Os, and classical dimensions. Use all those in a font whose line weights are increased to the point of creating an almost chibi typeface with a masculine edge to it - and what perfect edges they are - and you have a font that is spot-on for the sort of indie culture that attracts youths to music festivals and Topman stores these days.

So I downloaded the bold weight off FontYükle (dankeschön!) and set to use it for something. Then I realised it was perfect for a small project of mine I've had in mind for a few weeks. Because, if there's one actor who constantly annoys me, it's Keanu Reeves. Appropriate he may be for The Matrix but in anything else, especially rom-coms, I can't bear him. So why not make a Keanu Reeves kit? This tastefully pink card pocket includes a little model of Keanu's torso on which you can put different Keanu heads. You can pick from a wide range of Keanu expressions - happy, sad, grumpy, joyous, pondering existential dilemmas, plus the token trollface!

Voila: tasteful pink, Futura bold and Keanu Reeves. Yay, hoorah and hell no! The kit comes in a little pocket (left) and includes the Keanu figure, a sheet about 'Keanu merch' and eight faces - seven identical Keanu faces and a trollface. I wish I could physically show this to you all, it makes no sense on the internet and you can't properly get the joke (the fact that all the faces are the same). Still, it has graphic design merit. Futura bold was surprisingly easy to master, it just needed some centering, horizontal lines and balanced layout and it looks positively hipster!

Close-up of this little 'Keanu merch!' sheet included in the kit
Why I love printing double-sided
That's all I've got for you folks. Some Keanu, some typographic discussion, and an apology for not blogging more. I'd like to say expect more from me in the next few weeks, but considering I said that about the easter holidays and here I am only posting on the last day of them, you can no longer trust me.

So, see you... erm... whenever possible. JOHNSPACE is not dead! Long live JOHNSPACE!

ps. I'm also busy playing Portal 2, which - and I don't often say this, especially about a game - is incredible. The scale, the ambition, the graphics, the story, the world it creates... Valve have not only outdone themselves but, in one move, bettered the entire games industry. Play it, for it'll set the standard for many years of games to come.


John said...

UPDATE: I no longer have the Keanu kit, I gave it to my Keanu-adoring English teacher to show her the ugly and emotionless truth :P

Anonymous said...

um, keanu reeves is fucking awesome, k?