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. Round 1: Mark Simonson pumps up the jam!

    Posted by ivan on Feb. 26, 2010
  2. Mark’s first image: looks like demure little Coquette grew some balls!

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Feb. 26, 2010
  3. The balls perhaps a tennis metaphor?

    Custom alterations to a typeface get things off to a good start.

    Posted by Chris Hamamoto on Feb. 26, 2010
  4. First serve… Is that blurred out font in the background just the default glyph set of FontLab? I taste a bit of HR PufnStuf

    Posted by Nick Sherman on Feb. 26, 2010
  5. Peter Bruhn picks apart Mark Simonson’s serve keeping with the food theme.

    Posted by Chris Hamamoto on Feb. 26, 2010
  6. Quick work by Peter, and I’m happy to see that the purple was not an element he carried over. But now I’m trying to figure out what “jam your ham” means… is there a “That’s what she said!” joke around the corner?

    Posted by Ivan Bettger on Feb. 26, 2010
  7. Good call on the PufnStuf Nick. Trippy stuff. New nickname for Stephen though: HR PewfnStewf

    Posted by Ivan Bettger on Feb. 26, 2010
  8. Second serve… The page cites Photoshop as the software in use, but methinks FontLab deserves an icon as well.

    Glyph-wise, Bruhn went with some relatively safe follow-ups. I’d like to see a g or s

    Posted by Nick Sherman on Feb. 26, 2010
  9. This is such a perfect matchup. Both Bruhn and Simonson have a subtle but biting Scandinavian/Midwestern humor. A cold nordic chill warmed by round curves and funny words.

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Feb. 26, 2010
  10. *refresh*…*refresh*…*refresh*…

    Posted by Nick Sherman on Feb. 26, 2010
  11. Is layer 4 really just a checkered field, or is this an error?

    Posted by Nick Sherman on Feb. 26, 2010
  12. Is it a change of subject? Or is the ‘food more homey’

    Posted by Johnny Dib on Feb. 26, 2010
  13. I don’t hink layer 4 happened yet, but layer 3 just went live. ;) (And it IS looking good, to say the least.)

    Posted by Dav on Feb. 26, 2010
  14. Mayo by Peter Bruhn Bruhn definitely feels comfortable in that soft sans land seen in 1 & 2. His Mustardo/Ketchupa/Mayo are Fountain favorites, and he’s been working on a little secret called Plumpo for years. Let’s see what he comes up with to follow Simonson’s rounded “more homey”.

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Feb. 26, 2010
  15. Ah, an error. Simonson adds some contrast and models the bulbous terminals to more of an Oz Cooper / American showcard kind of feel. He’s smart to pull it toward that early-to-mid 20th century aesthetic in which he is so well-versed. Unless Bruhn returns with a decidedly European alteration, Simonson will maintain a cultural home-field advantage.

    Posted by Nick Sherman on Feb. 26, 2010
  16. Is it a change of subject? Or is the ‘food more homey’

    Well the home is certainly more homey than the cold confines of FontLab, though this coming from a non-type designer. Funny that Mark went with the classic ’50s American backdrop shortly after PewfnStewf references the Midwest.

    Posted by Ivan Bettger on Feb. 26, 2010
  17. So is the sponsor wishing they had a font editor in their product line for this match?

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Feb. 26, 2010
  18. Funny that Mark went with the classic ’50s American backdrop shortly after PewfnStewf references the Midwest.

    I’d like to think that MS has a FontFeed tab open on his second monitor.

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Feb. 26, 2010
  19. Don’t push the sponsor they’ll take it seriously and release a font editor!

    So I guess we’re going back in decades now. Maybe it’ll end with Art Nouveau? :D

    Posted by Johnny Dib on Feb. 26, 2010
  20. Layer 4: Bruhn went way back in time with that terminal e

    Posted by Johnny Dib on Feb. 26, 2010
  21. The totally flat, non-landscaped lawn makes me nostalgic for the Twin Cities.

    Posted by John Skelton on Feb. 26, 2010
  22. Peter Bruhn’s soft eyes are lulling me into complacency.

    Posted by Chris Hamamoto on Feb. 26, 2010
  23. Having spent time with him and his family in his summer cottage outside of Malmö, I can confirm that we are indeed looking at Mr. Bruhn’s forehead. And let me tell you, the béarnaise-lathered open-face meat sandwiches we ate there will lull you into complacency as well.

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Feb. 26, 2010
  24. I believe we’re already back to the 1700s, Johnny!

    Posted by Bryan Bedell on Feb. 26, 2010
  25. Bruhn succeeds in Euro-izing the game by adding the umlaut. Simonson might neutralize the affect by moving towards the language of heavy metal with some proper röck döts.

    Posted by Nick Sherman on Feb. 26, 2010
  26. What, are Peter Bruhn & Mark Simonson seriously wrangling actual Bézier curves on Layer Tennis? The madness! These two mean business! =-O
     
    I’m a bit bummed I missed the coin toss and start of the party, as we’re having my very pregnant sister-in-law over for dinner (Layer Tennis started at 9 pm our time, quite unfortunate). So far it’s looking cracking, and completely in tune with our evening here. In the first volley it seemed that Coquette had pregnant finials. The food theme works as well – the chicken tajine with tomatoes and sweet potato I made had no jam nor ham, but more “honey” than probably is good for you (I know, lame). :P

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 26, 2010
  27. Heavy Metal Umlauts, or maybe blackletter e-umlauts as an answer to the renaissance ‘e’

    Posted by Johnny Dib on Feb. 26, 2010
  28. Whoa! Didn’t see that one coming. I thought Peter was going to feel completely at home with Mark’s “Oz Cooper / American showcard kind of feel”, as Fountain recently released Heroine, a contemporary sans serif interpretation of the very similar Windsor. But no, he resolutely goes square serif, with a daring terminal “e”. Where will this lead to!?

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 26, 2010
  29. Interesting to note that Bruhn kept the giant bulbous terminal on the r, which retains a hint of the cartoonish feel from round 1.

    Posted by Nick Sherman on Feb. 26, 2010
  30. I’m hoping that Simonson runs with the finial swash and evolves the style more toward a calligraphic italic or script.

    Posted by Nick Sherman on Feb. 26, 2010
  31. No heavy metal. As a Minnesotan, Mark’s gotta see that renaissance ‘e’ as a Prince reference/invite.

    Posted by John Skelton on Feb. 26, 2010
  32. WATCH this! I love this Typographic Layer Tennis Match gone ‘Vintage’.

    Posted by Dav on Feb. 26, 2010
  33. ‘major surgery’ in deed!

    Posted by Johnny Dib on Feb. 26, 2010
  34. Mark clocks Peter right upside the head! I’m hoping Peter riffs off those funky inline numerals

    Posted by Ivan Bettger on Feb. 26, 2010
  35. Interesting to note that Bruhn kept the giant bulbous terminal on the r, which retains a hint of the cartoonish feel from round 1.

    Oh, but Peter does sure likes extravagant terminals, giant bulbous or not! ;)

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 26, 2010
  36. Back to the terminal of the r: it appears as though Simonson has reduced the radius. The dot on the j still carries some weight though. Layer 5 adds some flavorful glyphs, but the changes aren’t as drastic as in previous rounds.

    When do we get to see some capitals?

    Posted by Nick Sherman on Feb. 26, 2010
  37. Grant mentioned Peter’s Swedish heritage in the fourth volley, but keep in mind that his lineage originates in Germany, höme tö nümëröus ümlauts!

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 26, 2010
  38. By the way, props to Simonson for taking on the s. Anyone who has ever tried to draw one knows how tricky it can be to get it to balance correctly. From where I’m standing, Simonson’s has good posture.

    Posted by Nick Sherman on Feb. 26, 2010
  39. I must say I’m quite impressed with Mark’s “a”, “g”, and “y”. Very quick thinking, and clever repurposing of similar character shapes.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 26, 2010
  40. Oh, and I totally agree on the “s”, that’s one mother of a character to get right and balanced correctly in such a short amount of time.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 26, 2010
  41. There’s people on Twitter complaining about the lack of capitals so far, but come one, be serious! :D You have no idea what they are achieving here.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 26, 2010
  42. Don’t know why all these type foundries need to charge so much $$ for fonts when Peter & Mark show how quickly and easily they are made.

    Posted by John Skelton on Feb. 26, 2010
  43. BTW Go Grant go, you’re doing a terrific job! :)

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 26, 2010
  44. John, thou art jesting I suppose. :D

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 26, 2010
  45. The subtle nature of type design is hard to appreciate in breakneck world of Layer Tennis. I’m guessing the popular vote will lean towards whichever opponent makes a huge all-out stylistic caricature assault.

    Posted by Nick Sherman on Feb. 26, 2010
  46. I’m impressed by some of the Twitter commentaries. Many really get what goes into designing these character shapes on the fly and are picking up serendipitous references, like echoes of Miles Newlyn‘s Democratica and the Emigre vibe in Mark’s fifth volley.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Feb. 26, 2010
  47. Serifs begone! That i dot is growing to mammoth proportions; thankfully it’s balanced a bit by the o. I like the introduction of the flat horizontal terminal on that s

    Posted by Ivan Bettger on Feb. 26, 2010
  48. Bruhn makes another reference to Simonson’s Coquette in with that curious dot-dabbled ‘o’. I’m seeing a lot of jabs at the other fella’s style in this match. It’s a joy for anyone who has been watching these guys work for the last 10 years.

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Feb. 26, 2010
  49. One has to wonder exactly how much Photoshop really needs to be used here. This is mostly a battle of béziers.

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Feb. 26, 2010
  50. The latest incarnation reminds me of Meadow with some more alternates.
    Posted by Chris Hamamoto on Feb. 26, 2010
  51. 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
  52. 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
  53. 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
  54. 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
  55. 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
  56. 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
  57. 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
  58. 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
  59. A nicely-colored sign painter’s drop shade would be a sure-fire crowd pleaser.

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

    Posted by Ivan Bettger on Feb. 26, 2010
  61. 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
  62. 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
  63. 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
  64. 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
  65. I was waiting for it — finally some smack talk on Type Design Layer Tennis.

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

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

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

    Posted by Delve Withrington on Feb. 26, 2010
  69. 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
  70. 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
  71. thumbs up from Malmö

    Posted by Stephen Coles on Feb. 26, 2010
  72. 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
  73. 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
  74. 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
  75. 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
  76. 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
  77. 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
  78. 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
  79. 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
  80. 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
  81. 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
  82. I love the exclamation mark!
    And where do we get to vote?

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

    Posted by Nan Mellem on Feb. 26, 2010
  84. 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
  85. 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
  86. 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
  87. 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
  88. 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
  89. 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
  90. Duh. I forgot to mention Grant. Simply the best commentary.

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

    Posted by Peter on Feb. 26, 2010
  92. 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
  93. 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
  94. 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
  95. 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
  96. 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
  97. 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
  98. 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
  99. 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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