Eurostile. Modern?

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Richard Hards's picture
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Eurostile. Modern?
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I came across this on a client’s brand guidelines the other day.

“Our primary typeface is Eurostile, on which the wordmarque is based. Eurostile looks modern and feels clean and scientific. Eurostile should be used for all display use, headings, sub-heads, quotes and for key

Thomas Phinney's picture
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Well, in terms of the history of typography, the 1950s is pretty modern, so I’d let them off the hook on that one.

Of course I’m just an old fuddy-duddy, and I think Meta is *really* new. :-)

T

Chris's picture
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Joined: 23 Jun 2003 - 6:19pm
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The descriptions are close to the same.

Adobe’s description is that it is reminiscent of machinery and technology and the corporate description is that it feels clean and scientific.

Those seem to be going for the same goal to me.

Nick Shinn's picture
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Joined: 8 Jul 2003 - 11:00am
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>producing a look reminiscent of the machinery, technology, and interior design of the 1950s

No era is a monoculture, so while this is technically correct, it is only partly true. It’s interesting the way our cultural memory of the 1950s is changing. Presently, I would say that most people ignore the modernism of the 1950s, and think of it as a very retro, scripty era, or perhaps wonky (that’s for you, Tom) and beat-mod, as in the “Saul Bass” lettering style (done for him by lettering artists such as Art Goodman). Fontesque is usually described as “fifties style”, which really pisses me off — I guess I’ll have to wait a while for it to be called “90s style”.

>Eurostile looks modern

There is definitely something very space-age and futuristic about the CRT-derived “supercurve” (Zapf’s term?) that characterizes Novarese’s Eurostile — making it a favorite for data displays and signage in sci-fi movies.

Sans serif typefaces have been described as “modern” since the 1840s, so it’s a pretty meaningless term — particularly when one considers that the Didone class of types is also called “modern”!

However, Richard is right. We should encourage designers to not just fudge things by using typefaces that are merely “modern” in appearance, but to specify ones that are actually of the present day.

If not something more hard-core techno, Foundry Monoline or Paralucent should certainly be preferred over Eurostile, which has been used as the corporate style of a gazillion engineering firms over the past 40 years.

If EDF wants to position itself as a conservative, run-of-the-mill engineering company, Eurostile may be a good choice, but this is not the rationale proferred in the style guide.





Matha Stand�n's picture
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What I like about http://www.edfenergy.com is their determination not to let on that they’re part of a French group.

EDF Energy has three key stakeholders: our customers, our people and our shareholder, EDF Group. We

Nick Shinn's picture
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Why is the EDF logo a big e? (Saves on design fees I guess.) Perhaps the trend will spread. IBM will change its logo to a big i, Microsoft to a big m, only to be litigated by McDonald’s…

But seriously, how can that be trademarked or copyrighted?

And anyway, e doesn’t stand for Energy, it stands for Electronic and Ecstasy.

This is nothing but NewSpeak; with enough clout, giant corporations can annex meaning at will, no matter how absurd the logic.

Chris's picture
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“However, Richard is right. We should encourage designers to not just fudge things by using typefaces that are merely “modern” in appearance, but to specify ones that are actually of the present day.”

Why go out of your way to find something that was made now, when you have a perfectly good face that was made in the 50s that does the same thing?

Only people who KNOW Eurostile was made in the 50s will complain that it’s not “modern”.

Nick Shinn's picture
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>Why go out of your way to find something that was made now, when you have a perfectly good face that was made in the 50s that does the same thing?

Because it’s your job. A lazy, cheap designer (and by extension, design profession) ain’t worth ••••. What are clients going to pay you for if you add no value to your work, if your typography could be done by anyone with generic software?

The old stuff is not “perfectly good”. It doesn’t express the culture here and now. Or if it does, it’s all about a bland, generic, world dominated by corporations that have no use for local idiosyncracies.

As David Jury wrote in Eye, Summer 2001, “Total, independent control of typography has been dropped in the lap of every graphic designer, yet the same technology sits on desks in every business and commercial organisation. The question will be asked more and more: “Should I employ a graphic designer, or ‘design’ it myself?” Put another way; if the finer points of typography are not addressed, then what will be the difference between a graphic designer and an administratvie assistant, paid perhaps ten times as less for doing the same job just as badly?”

I would say that carefully choosing a contemporary typeface, and working with it (learning how to “play” it), is one of those finer points that needs to be addressed.

And if a UK company accepts Eurostile (Italy, 1960s) for its typestyle, rather than the local, contemporary Paralucent or Foundry Monoline, that’s not representing for its own people, that’s an insult to the culture of its customers.

And with bland, generic design such as an ID that’s a big off-the-shelf “e” + Eurostile, used by a major corporation, hey, the message is clear, Who needs a designer, anybody can do that crap.

Chris's picture
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Joined: 23 Jun 2003 - 6:19pm
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If that’s the case, I trust that you never use any fonts older than, oh, say 10 years?

This particular usage of Eurostile is bland, I’ll grant you that, but that does not change the fact that Eurostile has a unique feel to it. One that would be far more appropriate in some instances than any other font, and one that, though it is getting on in years, is still quite relevant aesthetically.

I look at Foundry Monoline and see a typeface that imitates what Eurostyle was designed for. Paralucent has a unique look to it, but again, to me it looks like an imitation.

If a 50 year old font works for a specific project, use it. Just because it is getting on in years does not mean that it is not still useful. Especially considering that it is impossible to make a font today that does not have a “feeling” of a font from yesterday. Consider this Paralucent which says it was inspired by Univers Helvetica, fonts just as old as Monostyle.

Eurostyle is still a completely valid font despite it’s age. Using it does not mean the person who does so is a lazy or cheap designer. And when you consider that that logo is for a large corporation, you should take into account the fact that large corporations work through committee. Chances are the “designer” had barely any say in the final decision anyway.

Nick Shinn's picture
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>If that’s the case, I trust that you never use any fonts older than, oh, say 10 years?

Once in a while I use older fonts: when working in an historical genre, or when the corporate/house style is already in place and I have no say in the matter. Occasionally I use Shinn Sans (1985), my oldest face. But starting from scratch on something contemporary, I always use contemporary typefaces.

Chris, are you convinced by your own argument? Accordingly, you should be using nothing but the old chestnuts!

>it is impossible to make a font today that does not have a “feeling” of a font from yesterday

But I try. Which font from yesterday does Morphica “feel” like?


James Montalbano's picture
Joined: 18 Jun 2003 - 11:00am
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...

Daniel Weaver's picture
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The way I work is I establish the concept based on the marketing information, such as target audience, etc. Then I create designs that reflect the concept and then I look to photography, illustration and typography to support the idea. Its never the typeface, illustration or photography first. Dan

steve paxton's picture
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Joined: 7 Apr 2003 - 4:30pm
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To me, Eurostyle looks like a fifties attempt to look modern — I can picture it now on the front of a handbook for a fridge or a washing machine.
I’d like to use it when I need that fifties-attempt-to-look-modern look, but if I do, then the people I show it to think it looks too seventies for the fifties!

steve paxton's picture
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Calla,
Isn’t that FSOL cover in Microgramma, not Eurostile?

Chris's picture
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“Chris, are you convinced by your own argument? Accordingly, you should be using nothing but the old chestnuts!

>it is impossible to make a font today that does not have a “feeling” of a font from yesterday

But I try. Which font from yesterday does Morphica “feel” like? ”


I use whatever font I feel compliments the design I’m working on. Whether or not that font is old or new is irrelevant.

As far as Morphica goes, to me it feels sort of neo gothic/russian constructivist.


And Steve…Eurostile is Microgramma with a complimentary lowercase.

steve paxton's picture
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»Eurostile is Microgramma with a complimentary lowercase

Well that’s news to me!
I spent ages working for a firm who used Microgramma as part of their ID, and never realised — I guess that’s because they always wanted Microgramma extended, which was useful, because that’s all I have. Having not used Eurostyle extended, I never made the connection.

kris sowersby's picture
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On the subject of old faces (eurostile, heilvetica, univers
et al) being used in contemporary work, has anybody
read the emigre 65 q&a with experimental jetset
regarding their use of heilvetica? I have read it and I
can’t quite get my swede around their extravagent
philosophical justification for using it so much.
Something about graphic design self referencing itself
in order to be relevant. It would be wonderful if
someone could clarify this for me.

I have to agree with Nick. To use an old face to present
a modern feel is a little to ironic for my taste. It reeks of
complacency and a lack of knowledge as to what else
is ‘out there’. This runs parallel with my opinion of
music. A friend asked me whether I was going to see
metallica in concert. I said no, explaining that for every
metallica there are plenty of musicians who are making
music that is just as good, if not better, but do not have
the luxury of mass exposure. When I discover a gem
‘unknown’ album it is far more rewarding. Metallica,
like the old typographic stalwarts, are indeed genre
defining. But I imagine they (band & type) were much
more exciting and relevant in their heyday. Unlike wine,
they do not get better with age.

Nick Shinn's picture
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That FSOL cover is absolutely pathetic. What’s the music like — note-for-note covers of 1960s Eurovision Song Competition winners?

>Avant Garde (Tom Carnase, 1970)

Prior to inventing the Avante Garde typeface, Herb Lubalin used Futura a lot. But it wouldn’t do everything he wanted, no matter how much he massaged it. So…

AG cover

Richard Hards's picture
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Joined: 14 Oct 2003 - 11:00am
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Hey people…I didn’t mean to start a war here.

Microgamma/Eurostile is a fine font and certainly has its uses. I can’t really explain, but it just doesn’t do “modern” in this situation for me.

Joseph, you’re right, I’m suitably chastened.

BTW for those wondering why the big “e”

“When designing our new logo we deliberately moved away from the traditional energy industry colours like black, red and dark blue. Our new blue is fresher, more modern, and evokes a more natural kind of energy.

Like ‘o’ for oxygen we want people to recognise that ‘e’ means energy, in all its forms. It’s the international symbol for energy in science, and the first letter of the word energy in lots of languages. It’ll tell the world that we’re the energy experts. And it should grow to represent who we are — a successful company, achieving the right balance. We hope that soon it’ll be known by people all over the country. They’ll see the ‘e’ and think of us.”

steve paxton's picture
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»it just doesn’t do “modern” in this situation
»Our new blue…evokes a more natural kind of energy

Maybe you could steer them away from Eurostile by pointing out that the period when it was was new was the same period that everyone was looking forward to the miracle leisure age, based on atomic power, and being told that putting a paper bag on your head would keep you safe from any unfortunate nuclear detonations.

»’e’ means energy, in all its forms. It’s the international symbol for energy in science

I’m no scientist, but isn’t it a capital E that means energy. That’s what you always see when you see Einstein’s famous equation.
Lower case e, especially in blue, just means ‘internet explorer’ to me.

Jacques Le Bailly's picture
Joined: 21 Dec 2001 - 2:09pm
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In other words, if a typeface gives an appropriate look and is used properly, it’ll work regardless of when it was produced.

Or why.

J

Nick Shinn's picture
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>I bet you hated Richard Hamilton’s Beatles sleeve too.

Sgt. Pepper was the last Beatles album I bought, and I thought the Peter Blake sleeve was groovy. By the time of the White Album I was more into guitar psychedelia, and George didn’t cut it any more: Hendrix, Cream, Pink Floyd (Hipgnosis covers), and not yet a typophile. So I never noticed the White Album enough to hate it!

I’m not against minimalism, only when it’s an excuse for not having ideas.The Designer’s Republic sleeves for Warp, such as the Autechre Peel Sessions, with the track names in 5 pt Helvetica printed reverse out of clear varnish, are pretty sharp! Ooops, did I just endorse Helvetica?….





Héctor Muñoz Huerta's picture
Joined: 21 Feb 2003 - 11:00am
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Most of the signification of a desing work using type is in the USE of it, the shapes on type are too abstract and deceptive to give a full speech by themselves. Perhaps we, the type maniacs have much more meaning associations to type than the mortals do.

I think eurostile fits the work for wich it was USED.

Nick Shinn's picture
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>USE

Let’s expand the context.

Certainly, in performing its immediate function in the job, type has meaning (in different degrees) to the client, the end-user, and the designer.

However, in choosing a particular typeface, the designer impacts the culture at large not just by the appearance of the work, but by supporting the foundry which sells (licenses) that typeface.

Now, one little font usage is no big deal, but not shopping locally is the norm, and not just with type, but also for stock photography and illustration, software, hardware, and even paper.

The end result is that most places in the world do not produce the tools and materials of their graphic design culture locally. It is imported, usually bought from multi-nationals who have driven down the fee that (all but a few) creatives can charge.

Walmart-ization.

Now you may say, even with generic materials, designers can create work of unique personality. Sometimes, but the trend towards homogenous global culture would suggest otherwise.

This way of working with generic tools and materials commodifies design. People (ie the Client) see that what we do is not very special: we choose pictures (they can do that too at gettyone.com), we set type on computers (they do that too), we use old familiar fonts. This kind of work isn’t worth much, and will soon be replaced by expensive software operated by low-paid drones.

Erik Spiekermann commented on the use of DIN for highway signage in South Africa. He found it disconcerting. Now you may say, if DIN and Highway Gothic are the best typefaces for the job, why not use them? But do we really want to live in a world where everywhere looks the same, for ever?

Héctor Muñoz Huerta's picture
Joined: 21 Feb 2003 - 11:00am
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You have a point on identity and visual culture development, but still the responsability of the designer with the client is being satisfied with this solution.

Part of hte problem is that type culture is so much model centered, maybe because it was not so easy to find a new type for every work (and still isn

Anonymous's picture
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Joined: 6 Mar 2002 - 1:06pm
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Chris I couldn’t agree more, Eurostyle is a beautiful font and still very contemporary as can be witnessed in how often its used in for example dance/techno artists sleeves.

One that springs to mind is the acclaimed English group, The Future Sound of London. They released two albums with just this type set alone against a black and white background respectively.

FSOL

The idea that fonts cannot transcend the era they were designed, or somehow only retain characteristics of for use of a better phrase, ‘the zeitgeist’ of their period, is something I find peculiar to say the least.

Haven’t geometric sans serifs become synonymous with a sense of the here and now, no matter which decade the latest batch are deployed in.

Joe Pemberton's picture
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Joined: 8 Apr 2002 - 3:36pm
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Eurostile (Aldo Novarese, 1950s) is more modern (yes an
empty term nowadays) in that it doesn’t show its age nearly
as much as, say Avant Garde (Tom Carnase, 1970).

By the way, Richard, it’s usually customary to mock your
client only after the project is over. (Even if they are French.)

Anonymous's picture
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Joined: 6 Mar 2002 - 1:06pm
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>That FSOL cover is absolutely pathetic. What’s the music like — note-for-note covers of 1960s Eurovision Song Competition winners?

“Unlike today’s innocuous chill-out producers, FSOL always laced their melodic, rhythmically deft electronica with arsenic. They were the first act to use digital imaging to create futuristic photo-collages for magazine covers. When they first appeared in 1992, techno was primarily a hard-nosed, turbo-powered noise that was designed for raves and given apocalyptic titles such as Dominator. FSOL were at the vanguard of a movement that stretched techno beyond the dancefloor, employing a rich diversity of voices, samples and influences to create landscapes of sound that had more to do with John Cage and Brian Eno than with raving”.

Nick think of the Aphex Twin meets Arvo Part and your not even close!

I bet you hated Richard Hamilton’s Beatles sleeve too.

Anonymous's picture
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I don’t see using old typefaces as a problem at all, frankly. There are many new typefaces coming out all the time, and some of them are absolutely wonderful, but that doesn’t mean that they made older designs obsolete. I think that this discussion boils down to the associative connotations a typeface might have. For example, to me, the use of Didot immediately takes me back to french class, reading Moliere. But that is a subjective judgement.
Typefaces only have connotations if they have somehow entered the public consciousness. For example, Eurostile, despite what adobe might say or whoever else for that matter, to most people just means FCUK.
In other words, if a typeface gives an appropriate look and is used properly, it’ll work regardless of when it was produced.

H

Stefan Miklos's picture
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••• Take a look at a late 1960's sci-fi series called UFO.
Watch it at 03:20 •••
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50OaWgDTe8g