Could Cincinnati Benefit from Its Own Typeface?
This is the first in a series of posts about civic design, iconography, and branding. Some of these ideas I’ve had for awhile, but now with GOOD Ideas for Cities coming to Cincinnati I figure it is a good time to share.
The question comes by way of Chattanooga, Tennessee where two out of the world’s few hundred typeface designers reside. They’ve designed Chatype - a typeface for Chattanooga. But first, a little background via GOOD:
Chatype came about when D.J. Trischler, a brand consultant, discovered he’d been sitting next to typeface designer Jeremy Dooley at their local coffee shop. The two became fixated on a question: What if Chattanooga had its own typeface? The idea may sound strange from an American perspective, but it’s actually the norm throughout Europe, where even small cities employ unique typefaces to distinguish themselves. In the United States, the only similar attempt was a failed one by academics in the Twin Cities, according to the Chatype team. Yet Trischler and Dooley say this is the first-ever attempt to create custom typeface at the grassroots level, rather than from the demand of a city government.
The two typeface designers started to sell the idea on KickStarter and just passed their fundraising goal of $10,000 with 5o hours left.
The following video via vimeo explains the campaign well:
So that’s where and why the question originates. Is this a good idea for Cincinnati? I don’t see the harm in employing unique fonts. After all, who doesn’t love typography? It would be noteworthy if Cincinnati was the first city, or at least the first major city, with its own typeface. It would be nice to have an identifiable municipal font used on everything from letterhead to bike lanes to street signs. A Cincinnati typeface (Cintype?) would be something that sets the city apart from other large American cities, and it relates nicely to Cincinnati’s growing reputation for design and branding.
Are there any typeface designers in Cincinnati? I know of at least one Cincinnatian who has designed a typeface. His name is Tobias Brauer and he’s an associate professor of visual communication design at Northern Kentucky University. Read more about him and his first font here.
But wait, doesn’t Cincinnati already have its own font? You can see it in the header of this blog. It’s an Art Deco typeface that was created for and used throughout Cincinnati Union Terminal. Here it is via CincinnatiViews.net:
If Cincinnati was to create its own typeface for city purposes, I’m not sure an Art Deco style would be the wisest choice. I found quite a few examples of it throughout the city, sometimes in unexpected places like the Moerlein Lager House, so I’ll share my findings:
Here is a video made about Union Terminal’s typeface for this youtube user’s “final project in digital typography”:
And some photos of it at Union Terminal via AbigailSteinem.com:
This book about Union Terminal uses the typeface as well:
The Union Terminal typeface was not limited to Union Terminal, however. The Moerlein Lager House has some of it too. I noticed it in the Schoenling sign in yesterday’s post, and now I find out via 5chw4r7z’s post that it is the original sign from the Schoenling brewery that once stood on Central.
Still, there are other Cincinnati typefaces that one finds if they go snooping.
For example, this one from graphic designer Ellen Lytle:
Carew Tower uses a similarly Art Deco themed typeface:
The adjacent Hilton Netherland Plaza employs the same typeface, photo via kimsmithdesigns:
And here’s an older photo of the Netherland Plaza before it was a the Hilton Netherland Plaza via maggieblanck.com:
The prevalence of Art Deco typography in Cincinnati isn’t surprising considering its many striking buildings in that style. I’m not going to list them all, but there are several other fine examples beside Carew and Union Terminal.
An Art Deco typeface may not be the most suitable for letterhead and street signs and street lettering, but the question remains: Could Cincinnati benefit from its own typeface?