The Typeface: Newman

Published:  April 1, 2012
Stephen Banham
The Typeface: Newman

Designer: Stuart Geddes and Tristan Main
Category: Thin lineal display

A creative typographic revival can often involve an odd set of ingredients – take an old Letraset face from 1974, sprinkle a bit of Doctor Strangelove and place carefully in a book about fitting a lot of things into small spaces. Before you know it you have Newman – a spindly display face appearing in a book store near you.

What is the reason for Newman?
We were commissioned to work on an architecture book by Stuart Harrison for Thames and Hudson that was looking at subdivisions, small blocks, apartments and generally clever, but constrained use of space. Making Newman was one of the strategies for the book, alongside things like starting the projects on the front cover (rather than after end papers, title pages, colophon, contents page, introductory essay etc). Along these lines, the first sentence from the first article became the title: Forty-six square metres of land doesn’t normally become a house.

Forty-six square metres of land doesn’t normally become a house - the book that prompted the creation of Newman.

The idea of the book, and some of the particular considerations of architectural publishing, led us to the idea of making a face that was tall and condensed, but also thin enough to seem almost transparent – so that it could be used large over photographs without rendering those photographs illegible. We decided to make our own because none of the condensed type we looked at seemed to quite fit these considerations and the majority tended to be display-only faces, whereas this needed to be used for titles that were full sentences, as well as quotes from the architects. It seemed ambitious time-wise to attempt a lower case (and we thought about generating three different set widths), but we ended up with all caps in the one width, but in two sizes with a consistent stroke weight.

What inspired its design?
We looked at various super condensed letterforms including the titles from Dr Strangelove and the three60 designed K.W. Doggett Knight Book, but the one that really formed the basis of Newman was the Letraset font Penny Farthing, released in 1974 by the little known British type designer Bob Newman. Something about the alternate character widths and the architectural obviousness of the arched ‘A’ and stacked letterforms carried the sub-division theme nicely.

The titles of the film Dr Strangelove also inspired Newman's conception.

Did you use any precedents?
Penny Farthing provided a skeleton to work from, since it is a single weight and suitably
condensed. The heaviness of Penny Farthing was something we wanted to get away from, however, considering the typesetting applications we had in mind for it – being paired with Founders Grotesk Condensed by Kris Sowersby of Klim foundry.

What do you ultimately intend to do with the typeface?
At this stage, it feels like a one-off use for the Forty-six book, but there’s a brush version that we’re tinkering with.

Newman is named after type designer Bob Newman.

What particular problems did you experience?
Getting the character widths working together took quite a bit of revision and tweaking. They’re still not quite right, but, since all uses of the type are justified in the book, this became less important. We implemented a consistent stroke across the two point sizes we were working with (110pt and 50pt), the smaller based on fitting two lines and lead into the cap-height of the larger letter-forms.

What inspired the name Newman?

It seemed only right to give credit to the designer of Penny Farthing, Bob Newman, who also designed other rub-down favourites Frankfurter and Data 70. Thanks Bob.

‘Forty-six square metres of land doesn’t normally become a house’ by Stuart Harrison (published by Thames and Hudson) is available at all good bookstores.

From desktop magazine.

One Response

  1. Where can I get my hands on this font? I can’t find anywhere to buy it online?

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