Layer Tennis: Peter Bruhn & Mark Simonson

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News | Stephen Coles | February 26, 2010

Welcome to the offices of FontShop San Francisco. I’m Stephen Coles, here with designer Chris Hamamoto and font support expert Ivan Bettger. Our friend Nick Sherman joins us from Brooklyn. Nick is a designer, writer, skateboarder, musician, teacher, pizza fanatic, printer, classic horror film buff, and monster wrestler living in New York City. Yes, really.

Two of our favorite type designers, Peter Bruhn and Mark Simonson, are about to begin a match of Layer Tennis and we’ll be providing commentary. Feel free to join in!

Simonson won the always amusing coin toss and serves the first volley.

99 Comments:

  1. Love the nod to various contemporary type designs in the diagonally cut off bulbous terminals on the “s” and “y”.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 26, 2010
  2. True Stewf, but then it wouldn’t be quite as sexy. The Photoshop-ery is fairly minimal, so far. They are spending most of the time re/drawing glyphs it seems.

    Posted by Delve Withrington on Feb. 26, 2010
  3. The serif evolution thus far has gone from Pufnstuf bulbousness to Cooper-y some-serif-ness to an un-bracketed Didone to, now, a total sans-serif with hints of contemporary angular modeling on the s and y

    Posted by Nick Sherman on Feb. 26, 2010
  4. Whoa, Mark is packing some (horse) power with that fiery red race car. Well, kiddy power is more like it. :P

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 26, 2010
  5. Simonson goes oblique with shadows. Bold move. May not play well with the typorati or the photoshoppers. Now the big question: are those optically corrected obliques?

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Feb. 26, 2010
  6. Grant does not disappoint, no siree. Top-notch commentary. As if we’d expect any less from him.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 26, 2010
  7. An attempt to win over the crowd that’s asking for more Photoshop work? Plus, our first punctuation mark has been introduced

    Posted by Ivan Bettger on Feb. 26, 2010
  8. I would have liked to see him pull out an interrobang instead of just an exclamation point. Now that would have been dramatic‽

    Posted by Zach on Feb. 26, 2010
  9. A nicely-colored sign painter’s drop shade would be a sure-fire crowd pleaser.

    Posted by Nick Sherman on Feb. 26, 2010
  10. Zach: we can only hope that Peter thought the same thing…

    Posted by Ivan Bettger on Feb. 26, 2010
  11. Peter Bruhn responds rather viciously. However, I’m not sure if he’s stating anything beyond criticism.

    Posted by Chris Hamamoto on Feb. 26, 2010
  12. Ouch! Bruhn marks up Simonson’s volley 5 with penciled design notes, just the way he does with his junior designers at Fountain.

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Feb. 26, 2010
  13. Oh, the humanity! Volley 8 offers rare look inside the mind of a type designer. God is in the details, and he is a fan of type design. The mix of despair and vindication is almost tangible.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 26, 2010
  14. I think this round is going to give me seizures. Simonson would be smart to drop the Photoshoppery and focus on some highly exaggerated modifications to the letterforms. Trying to improve the details of what exists won’t wow the crowd.

    By the way, how the heck does Bruhn have time to print out and mark up test sheets?

    Posted by Nick Sherman on Feb. 26, 2010
  15. I was waiting for it — finally some smack talk on Type Design Layer Tennis.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 26, 2010
  16. Surprisingly few experimentations with the weight thus far.

    Posted by Nick Sherman on Feb. 26, 2010
  17. Perhaps both players are saving their serious swashbuckling for the last round.

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Feb. 26, 2010
  18. Still no caps, what gives? Gimme an R!

    Posted by Delve Withrington on Feb. 26, 2010
  19. I think the effort and the frantic pace are taking their toll. This is no mere Photoshop trickery, this is type design we’re talking here.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 26, 2010
  20. FYI, This is what the Simonson end of the court looks like:

    Anyone have photos of Bruhn’s office?

    Posted by Nick Sherman on Feb. 26, 2010
  21. thumbs up from Malmö

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Feb. 26, 2010
  22. I wonder if they’ll shoot for a full 26 character lowercase by the end of the match?

    Posted by John Skelton on Feb. 26, 2010
  23. In his last volley, Mark Simonson proves how skilled a type designer he is. Despite the time crunch, he goes bolder and pulls off a legit Clarendonesque ‘s’ while maintaining much of the letterforms’ existing character. This took some serious effort despite the rush, folks. Try simply slapping on slabs and adding weight without doing some major redrawing. It just doesn’t work.

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Feb. 26, 2010
  24. Whoa, Mark is back in full force, strong and self-assured in Volley 9. The suspense is killing me!

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 26, 2010
  25. I’m starting to feel like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now, slowly losing my sanity while switching between Layer Tennis, Twitter, and the comments here.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 26, 2010
  26. Note how in #5, #7 and #9, Mark Simonson continually changed his ‘s’–even dared to display it full scale on the last volley. It’s really hard to make this glyph looks right, and I’m impressed by the fact that he managed to design, respond and refine in all three attempts. This is real skills, folks.

    Posted by Bram Pitoyo on Feb. 26, 2010
  27. I wonder if they’ll shoot for a full 26 character lowercase by the end of the match?

    I wonder which one of them will have an entire character set done by end of day.

    Posted by Zara Evens on Feb. 26, 2010
  28. The s in Simonson’s last volley is the cherry on the top of an authoritative serve. Now the question is if Bruhn can follow through with a worthy response.

    Posted by Nick Sherman on Feb. 26, 2010
  29. I wonder which one of them will have an entire character set done by end of day.

    I wonder if they’ll collaborate to fully realize the glyphs created at this match, due to be released in a year? We have here a sans, slab, serif and italic: the making of a superfamily.

    Posted by Bram Pitoyo on Feb. 26, 2010
  30. I wonder which one of them will have an entire character set done by end of day.

    Well, there’s barely eleven minutes left of the day for Peter. ;)

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 26, 2010
  31. A sweet shoutout to his wife and son in Peter’s closing shot. Looks like he tried to incorporate in the word “bye!” every letter style we experienced during the match. It’s admirable, if not entirely successful. Still, there’s a lot of soul in these shapes. Like a lot of Bruhn’s work, I’d put this on my wall.

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Feb. 26, 2010
  32. I love the exclamation mark!
    And where do we get to vote?

    Posted by Johnny Dib on Feb. 26, 2010
  33. Thanks for the additional commentary…it added a whole new layer of enjoyment!

    Posted by Nan Mellem on Feb. 26, 2010
  34. Stewf was right in guessing that the most exaggerated changes were being saved till last. The descender on Bruhn’s y feels a bit odd, and the weight is all over the place, but it’s hard to ignore the interior ball on the b and that rubbery exclamation point. I’m predicting popular vote will swing to Bruhn because of this last move.

    Posted by Nick Sherman on Feb. 26, 2010
  35. I agree with Nick regarding the popular vote. The last volley I think will be a crowd pleaser.

    A really impressive showing from both sides!

    Posted by Chris Hamamoto on Feb. 26, 2010
  36. What a moving conclusion, with Peter’s love of his life walking towards the setting sun with one of their sons. What? Not at all, just some dust that got in my eyes.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 26, 2010
  37. Layer 10 is a great finish by PB. It was fantastic to see how quickly the typeface evolved. At first I thought it might be interesting to see a completed typeface come from this. However, after giving it some thought, it is more just an exercise (no pun intended, really) in type design. Impressive, and fast work by both Simonson and Bruhn. Kudos to them for a good show.

    Posted by Delve Withrington on Feb. 26, 2010
  38. I agree with Nick regarding the popular vote.

    Which is a bit unfair to Mark, who did some proper detail work. And that’s what type design is all about. Great match.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 26, 2010
  39. Well played by all. I keep going back to layer 3. I love the soft serif. It’s like a warm comforting arm around your shoulder at the end of a long day. Pairs nicely with Peter’s closing layer.

    Posted by John Skelton on Feb. 26, 2010
  40. Duh. I forgot to mention Grant. Simply the best commentary.

    Posted by Delve Withrington on Feb. 26, 2010
  41. Mark did some great work, and so fast. Hard to keep up with him.

    Posted by Peter on Feb. 26, 2010
  42. Tip of the hat to Grant for keeping up with it all! Great job by Mark, Peter, and all involved.

    Posted by Nick Sherman on Feb. 26, 2010
  43. Mark did some great work, and so fast. Hard to keep up with him.

    Layer Tennis designing type!? Are you guys freaking nuts? : D

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 26, 2010
  44. Thanks for the kind words, fellas. Very glad I was able to entertain and still sound like I knew what I was jibbering about. Gadzooks, I’m exhausted.

    Posted by Grant Hutchinson on Feb. 26, 2010
  45. I was the one to suggest doing Layer Tennis with a font. It was an insane idea on hindsight to make a font at this speed. As some have noticed, Photoshop took a back seat. Thanks to Peter and Grant, Jim and Bryan at Coudal. What an afternoon!

    Posted by Mark Simonson on Feb. 26, 2010
  46. Mark, your idea paid off very well. What an excellent match! Now we all know that the type design process, too, can be fast :)

    Posted by Bram Pitoyo on Feb. 26, 2010
  47. I should clarify: It wasn’t my idea to do something with letters being passed back and forth (that came from Coudal), but the idea of building an actual font in FontLab and passing a FontLab file back and forth.

    Posted by Mark Simonson on Feb. 26, 2010
  48. Cheers guys – fantastic match. Wish I’d seen this commentary feed during the match as well; great insights here.

    Jason

    Posted by Jason Pamental on Feb. 28, 2010
  49. An absolute post-match must-read: Mark Simonson analyses the fonts created during last Friday’s Layer Tennis. To you who were a bit puzzled now it all will make sense.
     
    Beneath The Volley Of The Fonts

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 28, 2010

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