Donald Beekman Picks His Favourite Club Fonts
Every parent will confirm this – picking favourites is murder. Fortunately choosing your favourite fonts is less emotionally laden, yet it still proves to be a difficult thing to do. I should know; I have been asked quite often what are my favourite and least favourite typefaces – just recently in this interview on Communications Hell, the blog by “perpetually curious communications professional” Paul McIvor of Rosetta PR.
By asking experts, celebrities, and other authority figures in the type community for their preferred typefaces we hope to learn from them. Their selections can be pointers to either established classics or fresh and lesser-known designs that otherwise may have eluded us. This is what brought me to ask Donald Beekman last month at Typo Berlin what his favourite club faces are. The reason to specifically ask Donald is quite straightforward. The Amsterdam-based interviewer for Typeradio, musician, DJ/producer, and head of an underground record label also designs under the monicker DBXL branding and packaging for his colleagues in the music industry. Donald intimately knows club culture and is immersed in the dance-oriented music scene. All his type designs but one originated in letters he drew for logos, record sleeves, posters, and flyers – Brak is the only design he started “just for fun”.
This is a list with my ten favourite club faces. However… favourite? While compiling this list I realised that this is but a snapshot, and about half of my choices could be different in a month’s time. There are definitely a number of regulars included. Some of them are my own type creations because – what did you expect – this is exactly what I design them for, to use them in my own work.
Two times nice ‘n’ fat, and two times nice ‘n’ light, Breakz is the ideal on-the-job snack font. One of my own designs, I used this geometric grid-based techno face a lot, and as a matter of fact I still do. Breakz is widely applicable, from hip hop over progressive tech-house to drum&bass. It even ended up on a series of R&B CDs I designed. Originally a single heavy extended design, I subsequently added condensed and light weights, simply because I needed them. Breakz is now published through VetteLetters.nl.
FF Soul was originally designed in 2001 for Dutch club/house label Hardsoul, and still is in heavy rotation. A brash, meaty face, Hardsoul has hard edges and a rock-and-roll feel. Softsoul’s rounded corners show the softer side of this family, mixing the spirit of the 1970s-80s disco and new wave music scenes with a modern tone. I mostly use FF Hardsoul for the “harder” music styles, and FF Softsoul rather for clubby house. It has become the signature face for the Housequake organisation, and can be seen on flyers, posters, websites, and CD covers.
A true classic, Compacta was designed by Fred Lambert in 1963. The past few months I’ve warmed up to this old stalwart again. I used Compacta regularly in the olden days of Letraset rub-down letters, because it is so nice and bold and… compact, perfect for big titles and poster headlines. For the Amsterdamse Popprijs 2009 flyer I devised a tabloid-like set-up which Compacta suited to a tee. I also used the face for the logo and website of Drop Die Beat, a hip hop producers’ competition. In this instance the sixties feel of Compacta was a nice bonus, as it strengthens the concept that contemporary music too is reused and re-appropriated through samples.
Another vintage typeface I rediscovered is Clarendon, designed by Hermann Eidenbenz for the Haas foundry in 1954. I specified it for the logo and CD covers for the Wicked Jazz Sounds collective. Clarendon is a rather cliché typeface when it comes to jazz: it graces many a Blue Note and Verve sleeve from the 50s and 60s. But I assume the young music consumer couldn’t care less, which is why I don’t let this familiarity influence me too much. Plus I like to give it a personal twist, however without losing track of its heritage.
Through a Japanese acquaintance I serendipitously stumbled upon the work of Japanese designer Yeppie Yamaoka. His type designs have their own recognisable aura, and I use them quite often. I specified Crematec as the “house face” for the Hardsoul label a while ago. It is a peculiar mix of lowercase and capitals which exudes a distinct atmosphere.
I once found Gogobig, designed by Bill Bogusky in 1995, on a free- and shareware font site – like with anything free you can find good stuff if you look hard and long enough. It is a contemporary design reminiscent of vintage skyline faces like Empire or Radiant. I applied it in a variety of different designs and it always seems to fit well. Like Music For Cocktails, a lounge/chill-out compilation series, for which I was searching a somewhat posh Art Deco-style design that didn’t look too retro. And in the logo and artwork for house label Captivating Sounds it has a very modern look, as in the design for Sage Extract. A truly flexible font!
Epoch, a 2003 design by Paul Davidson, was released by the now defunct type foundry Unionfonts. This bizarre, slightly awkward modern sans serif comes in capitals only. I specified it as a corporate face for DJ booking agency Beyond Bookings, and used it for logo, website, corporate identity, flyers, posters and CD artwork. Armchair Modern is a good alternative.
Another one of mine. I designed Brokken specifically for party magazine APE, for which I change the headline face every three issues. Besides that I have used it really intensively for all kinds of flyers, posters en mailings. The characters are superfat and angular, and more or less monospaced – which is why it stacks so nicely! Brokken is released through the VetteLetters foundry.
Chimes – also known as China – is an oldie but a goldie, a design issued by VGC (Visual Graphics Corporation) in 1975. An all caps typeface with a limited character set and only one weight, it radiates a tight sci-fi atmosphere perfectly in tune with the techno designs I produced a couple of years ago. This style is making a comeback, just like funk and soul from the 70s is reappearing in today’s house and hip hop. Mark Simonson revived and expanded China/Chimes in 2004 and released it on the market as Changeling.
ITC Quorum, designed by Ray Baker uit 1977, is another one of those 70s typefaces that managed to cross over to the now. It resembles a serif face, but is in fact a sans serif with flared stroke endings. The Light weight looks particularly stylish to me. I used ITC Quorum for the logo and all the artwork of lounge/chill music act Bardo State.
The FontFeed is a daily dispatch of recommended fonts, typography techniques, and inspirational examples of digital type at work in the real world. Eat up.
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