Typography Parts 1&2 — Serifa

Jacky Lococo
12 min readSep 30, 2021

Adjectives

  • structured
  • sturdy
  • balanced
  • poised
  • industrious
  • minimal
  • subtle
  • versatile
  • bold
  • modern
  • inventive

Background Research

The font was created by Adrian Frutiger in Switzerland. It was a commissioned project by the Bauer Type Foundry, and Frutiger started development in 1964 and released the font in 1967. Frutiger’s previous font Univers was used as the foundation for Serifa.

Univers Connections

Serifa is very closely tied to the Univers which was also created by Adrian Frutiger. I coincidentally did this font (bold version) for the typography project in collab viz last year. This realization mainly happened when I thought about the similarities between both fonts. The curves on both tapered in, but the two posts of the letter would maintain their width. This is apparent also in the

PART 1 — Magazine Spread

Font Pairings

different font paring explorations

When diving into trying to find font pairings, I took a look at the fontsinuse.com website and found a few different fonts that were previously used with Serifa. To get a broad scope of fonts, I decided to take a look at a mixture of sans serif and serif body text. Something that I noticed early on about the font is that it works best as a header or subhead font. I think as a body text it can work, but it can be a bit difficult with the slab serifs. Thats mainly why I wanted to focus on sans serif pairings.

At first, I was leaning towards using Futura, but after talking with Vicki I agreed that Futura is a bit too quirky by itself to pair with Serifa. I then looked at one of Frutiger’s other creations, Avenir, to be a pairing and found that they worked very well together.

Typesetting ledding and font size exercises
column width exercises

In the typesetting exercises, my process was mainly trying many different options and seeing what worked. Above are the examples of this. I found that the type was most legible at the 5–6 column width, and at a 9/14 font sizing to ledding.

Thumbnails

Color

I found a few images with colors that I really enjoyed, and ended up using some of the colors from the bottom image. I really liked the arts and craft-y vibe I got from the combination of the grey, red, green, and blue, and thought these would work well with the structural quality of Serifa.

Frutiger’s Sketches

Link: https://magazines.iaddb.org/issue/GG/1968-06-01/edition/null/page/46

I found some of Frutiger’s sketches that were very interesting to take a look at!

Imagery and Graphics

To start brainstorming graphic ideas, I looked through the book Yoshi found for us during class. I found some interesting examples of graphics created in the same timeframe and movement of my font. There was a lot of sans serif font usage, bold colors and very flat, geometric graphic styles.

While looking at fontsinuse.com, there was a link to a design publication that included some of Frutiger’s sketches and characters up close. I found this very inspiring mainly in the fact that without knowing the font, the viewer could find it difficult to see some of these as letters. Because of that, I feel like they could make interesting design elements.

Up-close of Serifa

Process of Spread

Different Explorations

I landed on a composition where I would show a few different letters, extremely up close, to the point where you really don’t know they are letters. I thought that this mimics Frutiger’s sketches and showcases that structural quality of the font. The lines traveling around the page also help to give off this scaffolding like element to the page.

Spread for Final Critique

Spread for Final Crit

Crit Feedback:

  • Overall composition works → the colors help to guide through the page and the portion of the letters are unique
  • Left page text sits a bit too low on the page → creates a disconnect between the text
  • Baselines of the each page do not line up → further adds to the disconnect along the page
  • Green color is lost a bit with the black → maybe try a lighter green
  • For letter analysis, try separate captions under each letter showcase what is being pointed out

I agree with everything brought up in the critique and began mapping out the edits on the spread, just so I could keep track of what to do next as we move into the animation.

Applying Edits

I found it especially difficult to line up the text on a common baseline, and I got it as close as I could without creating a very strong gap between the paragraphs. Instead of working based off of what I thought looked right, I paid more attention to the numbers I was using and added on a bit more until it seemed aligned. I also folded it and found that the lines matched up a bit better than before.

Final

Final Spread

For the final, I mainly focused on correcting the items brought up from the critique. In addition, I added a more gray color to the back that I used in my animation. I found that it made the animation a bit less high contrast with black and white and thought that could work in the spread as well.

Reflection

Overall, I am very happy with how the spread turned out. I found it extremely helpful looking at Frutriger’s sketches and see a bit about how he intended for the font to look. I think in this exercise I learned a lot about implementing grid systems. A lot of what I would be flippant about before, I am much more cognizant of now.

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PART 2 — Motion and Pacing

I think right now at the beginning of the process, I am a little lost on where to start. I have a few ideas on how I want to incorporate motion a bit, but I still don’t really know where to start. To try and understand the process a bit more, I think I’m going to revisit my adjectives to try and figure out a style of my animation that I might go with.

  • structured
  • sturdy
  • balanced
  • poised
  • industrious
  • minimal
  • subtle
  • versatile
  • bold
  • inventive

Storyboard

storyboard

For my initial storyboard, I wanted to maintain a similar style to my spread. I really liked the building lines that worked with the letter portions that referenced the structural nature of the font. I have found though that I won’t have a fully developed idea until I start working in After Effects. Because of this, I think that a lot of my ideas may be subject to change a bit.

asset making, illustrator workspace

Music

I am finding the music process very difficult at the moment. It’s a bit hard to work on the music and storyboard simultaneously since I don’t really have a clear idea of the “vibe” I’m trying to create and how I want to represent my font. Some of the things I’ve tried:

Green Onions Starting Point:

For this song, I thought it had a good beat and was also released in the same year as my font. This makes it of the time which I thought might be nice. But, after talking to Yoshi and some classmates I was soon told that this is the font of insurance commercials. Because of that there is already an association which I think would be very difficult to work with.

Remix version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fi9QgDPHDcI

Spotify Playlist:

Most of the songs I looked at on Spotify have very strong beats that I think would be nice to work with. I am a little apprehensive about using a strong beat though because I don’t know if that is modernizing the font a bit too much.

Top Contenders:

I Heard it Through the Grapevine (Kareoke Verison) — The Slits

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0ii2rdlbFA

Rhymes of a Bandit — Lbandy Music

I ended up picking Rhymes of a Bandit which I think would work as the background music. It is also very repetitive, so if I need to cut up the song and remix it (which I am hoping I wont have to do) it would be a bit easier. The 1 minute mark of the song though is a good stopping point I’ve found Something that Yoshi brought up is that it is very much background music-y. I think this is a good point since it isn’t very strong by itself. Because of this, I am hoping that my graphics and transitions make up for the fact that the music isn’t as dynamic.

Colors

initial color palette

For the colors, I want to keep them very similar to how I created my spread. I want to include the orange-y burnt red that I used, and then maybe add a lighter gray for the background. Initially, I was also going to use the blue, but after a while, it became hard to juggle two secondary colors since having two meant I had to come up with reasons why I would use one rather than another.

Final color palette

Animation Progression

It was a bit hard to document the process since it is easy to just keep adding and working in After Effects. Something I really struggled with in the process was coming up with a set script. I found that throughout the process, the script really helped guide transitions and graphics, but I found it very challenging to pick the right words to use.

I decided to start with the intro segment of the animation since I think the beginning of the song works really as an introduction to the animation. I wanted to show portions of the letters like I did for the spread. At first, I only had them show up with the beat, but then I thought it might be interesting if it looked like they were being drawn onto the page. I was a bit stuck on how

introduction

I started at the part with the Switzerland flag just to get a sense of how I would like the movement to work in my video. Vicki also said that starting in the middle would also be a good place to work out from, so I though this might work well. I really like the bold motion created by this and the

starting point of the animation

A big roadblock I ran into was trying to keep the momentum up throughout the entire video. The first half of the animation is more dynamic with zooming in transitions and zooming out, and as I moved into the sections where I would be analyzing the type, I was a bit worried there would be less opportunity for dynamic motion. I also had a lot of difficulty trying to fill in some of the space left at the end of the animation. The song changed its repetitive beat structure and created faster, natural transition points that were a bit difficult to match with the story board.

One of the ways I made sure that there would be similar dynamic energy between the two halves was by looking at the negative and positive space in the characters. This was something that I noticed when looking at the “Typography” page, and I thought it was a major part of what makes the font so unique. So, I decided to create a transition similar to the location origin section of the video, that showed an arrow coming out from the X as you zoom into the X.

x transition for second half

The ending was also something that I struggled with trying to get it to end on a more impressive note rather than just stopping. The music had a very natural ending for the 1 minute mark which definitely helped to leave more of an impression. I ended up doing the zoom in effect another time

Feedback (continuously updated since start of project)

Grid Usage

To be honest, I didn’t really stick to a predetermined grid setup in my process. I think I mainly wanted to focus on getting everything done and coming up with concepts that I got caught up in the process and never set one out to start. But, I was guided a lot by centering and aligning elements on the page throughout the animation. When I added a grid to the animation after, I found that most of the elements worked together on the grid system. I think that this is something I really want to improve on moving forward with projects. I think starting from a foundational grid before all else would be best moving forward.

Final

Google Drive link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/14UKZL57mLjW0RGsRS6dl0e_VIynHN5Zj/view?usp=sharing

Reflection

I really really enjoyed this project. At the beginning, I was a bit lost on how I was going to go about personifying and representing Serifa, but I think I got across the main attributes I saw in the font. I think in terms of the animation, I found that working I also learned a lot about time management and work process during this project and the past two as well. The mini was fast paced, but I think it taught me a lot about being able to work under tighter deadlines. Thank you very much for a very fun and productive mini!

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