The search for a distinct "Australian" typographic form?

RossTinney's picture

Call me ignorant, but WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Lets just place the whole competition not commission debate aside for a second and I might just revive a few notes from DankRealms' post from a few years ago http://typophile.com/node/58352#comment-form.
Surely we're not going to splatter our national paperwork with the loose and relaxed works of the Australian Type Foundry, yet when we're not surfy, not british and not European or American mirrors, what are we?

http://www.canberra.edu.au/typeface

hrant's picture

I myself would be totally OK with it if they didn't charge for entry. That's a bit much.

As for being able to convey a specific locale with a typeface, there are of course severe limits, but just like you can choose a font that says "London" for example more than some other font, you can certainly make a font that says Canberra to some degree. When you see it, you feel it, or you don't. The main problem with Canberra here is that very few non-Australians (and possibly not even a huge proportions of Australians) have any identifiable feeling of it.

Related - my old review of Lisboa here:
http://typographica.org/on-typography/our-favorite-typefaces-of-2005/

hhp

findthomas's picture

FYI Canberra is a "bureaucrat's" city -- lots of government offices, like a mini version of Washington DC. The Australian parliament is there, so is the National Library (awesome library). The defense department is there, so is the prestigious Australian military college (used to be called Duntroon). The Australian National University (ANU) is there, plus a couple of other smaller universities. The city itself is beautifully designed from ground-up by Burley Griffin (Chicago architects).

I guess if one can devise a typeface that says "government efficiency", then you could apply it to Canberra. However, Canberra is *not* a representative of Australia. Sydney and Melbourne have a totally different feel.

Is there a typeface for Brussels or Washington DC ?

hrant's picture

Not those two (yet) but there is this:
http://typophile.com/node/89329

I guess if one can devise a typeface that says "government efficiency"

I suspect they instead would want to shed that image. An identity isn't just about what something is, but what something wants to be.

BTW when I first heard about the resistance to so-called "spec work" among design organizations, my instincts smelled a rat. Eventually, I caught the rat: they don't like the idea because it costs the established elite (who mutually-validate such organizations) client projects = money. The elite want to continue charging half a million dollars for putting two Helvetica letters next to each other... And if they can get paid for only delivering a proposal that gets rejected (nevermind because it sucked) that's nice too. Basically, they want to be the ones usurping/repressing young talent instead of clients usurping/promoting it... So letting talented newborn designers get a foot in the door (without having to slave for years for large design studios, sometimes thereby losing their fruitful individuality) is a positive side. Why do some upcoming talents also oppose spec work? Maybe because they want to be among the elite eventually... I guess it's a matter of how one approaches life: work menially for years and eventually land in a cushy establishment position, versus become culturally significant quickly and hopefully keep innovation at the heart of your work. Some people start planning for their retirement when they're 18, others never do. To me something in between is best. Ergo: spec work can be problematic (like when an organization charges for people to compete) but it's still a natural part of human competitiveness.

An even nicer positive side is that cities wanting a bespoke typeface is awesome news for us. There's like thousands of them! :-)

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

Brasília, Islamabad, Ottawa, St Petersburg, Washington … and no doubt many more “artificial” capital cities.

**

My brother-in-law had a nice take on Ottawa: When drivers in other parts of the country see the traffic lights up ahead turn orange, they speed up—in Ottawa they slow down when the lights are green.

JamesM's picture

> An identity isn't just about what something is,
> but what something wants to be.

Yep, and they probably want it for marketing purposes too. Maybe the tourism sites for that area would be a better indication of what features they want to promote.

Chris Dean's picture

[to follow]

5star's picture

, yet when we're not surfy, not british and not European or American mirrors, what are we?

Robust, confident, resiliant, and slightly quirky in that conservative conventions which give way / develop into expressiveness (for instance the Aussie term ' outback ').

So, to subjugate, and hence diminish, those awesome characteristics (amongst others) to spec work seems rather lame / inadequate.

n.

5star's picture

Brasília, Islamabad, Ottawa, St Petersburg, Washington … and no doubt many more “artificial” capital cities.

Nick, tru dat. But isn't every modern day typeface a simple matter of contrivance?

Prudent ingenuity :)

n.

hrant's picture

Since the other thread* has taken on the mainstream aspects of this topic, it might be worthwhile to earnestly address what seems to be Rosetta's (great name for a type designer BTW :-) original intent in this thread: what is Australian typography?

* http://typophile.com/node/101651

I'm not Australian, but I'm deeply fascinated with conveying ethnicity in type design. Anybody who thinks it's pretty limited -especially in text face design- is totally right; anybody who thinks is totally irrelevant is dead wrong.

Something small I've written addressing this issue is my review of Lisboa here:
http://typographica.org/on-typography/our-favorite-typefaces-of-2005/

I think of Australia and Canada as the "suburbs" of the core Anglo cultures; it's almost like they're US states - in fact to make a point I often refer to Canada as the Hockey State... This means it's easier for them to import culture than to generate it. But if we can get them to generate more of their own culture the world would be a richer place. So how can Australia be motivated in this way? Maybe this competition could help, but of course there must be much more.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Hrant, you don't seem to know much about Canada.

hrant's picture

You're right. But the point is: is that mostly my fault? It's not like nothing else is vying for my attention. And if I don't know much about Canada, what are the chances for most other people? I care about other countries (I have lived in four and visited 30), know five languages, I've been to Canada twice, there are large Armenian communities in Quebec and Toronto that I associate with, and so on... I'm not saying the peoples of the world don't need to be more educated about Canada - what I'm saying is that it's mainly Canada that needs to take on that responsibility.

And what about Australia? Why am I more motivated to visit Thailand -again- rather than Australia for the first time?

And, of course: How does type fit in?

hhp

quadibloc's picture

At first, when I saw the topic of this thread, comparing it to a thread about the Greek typographical situation, also added, my initial attitude was derisive. But it didn't take too long for me to realize my mistake.

British typography is distinct from American typography, despite the two countries having the same language; and the typography of other Latin-alphabet nations is also even more distinctive; for example, that of Germany and that of France.

Australian typography is already distinctive - although similar to British typography, it admits some admixture of American elements. Canadian typography, on the other hand, at least superficially, might be viewed as essentially identical to American typography.

That's not quite true; there are Canadian typefounders - some of whom participate in this very forum - and every country's typography is the product of the finite number of individuals who are its typographers. But the difference isn't obvious.

In the 1960's, a Canadian "Sunday supplement" - it actually appeared in the Saturday editions of newspapers, as our blue laws were stricter than those in much of the U.S. at the time - Weekend magazine - was set in Optima. That may have been a bit more adventurous than common in the U.S. at the time.

@hrant:
I think of Australia and Canada as the "suburbs" of the core Anglo cultures; it's almost like they're US states - in fact to make a point I often refer to Canada as the Hockey State... This means it's easier for them to import culture than to generate it. But if we can get them to generate more of their own culture the world would be a richer place.

One can't argue with that. But one can argue with some of the means used to achieve this goal. I lost access to two of my favorite TV shows - Mission: Impossible and The Beverly Hillbillies - in my youth thanks to Trudeau's "Canadian Content" policies.

Economic factors do mean that with a market a tenth the size, production values will suffer for movies - and the current state of the movie market is such that even Hollywood is suffering. Because going to the theatre is so expensive, audiences demand blockbusters like Star Wars or Avatar for their money.

Chris Dean's picture

The Hockey State.” Damn straight.

John Hudson's picture

Hrant, in your original comment about Canada, you spoke in terms of Canada importing culture rather than generating it. In your response to my comment, you shifted to talking about failure to export culture (such that you might learn something about it). There's a big difference between accusing a country of not generating a distinctive culture and not exporting it. It's not as if we're dependent on external opinion to validate our culture.

hrant's picture

There's a big difference between accusing a country of not generating a distinctive culture and not exporting it.

But I would contend that worthwhile original contributions do end up getting exported, without anybody even really trying. So if Americans aren't importing a given element of Canadian culture, it's either because they already have it, or they don't think it's a big enough deal.

BTW, FWIW: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22213218

hhp

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