Rock’n’roll. Typography. Rock That Font.

It’s always nice to meet kindred spirits, people who are doing similar things, who speak the same language, who are passionate about the same subjects. Last week I discovered through some random tweets a new blog that combines two of my passions – music and graphic design/typography. Rock That Font professes to be

Your intermittent dose of rock album cover typography in all its semi-verified glory.

The website celebrates the union of rock’n’roll and typography, both old and new. It invites the readers to join the authors, as they share their journey of discovery and dig a little deeper into the origin of particular fonts used on some of their favourite album covers.

Rock That Font is the brainchild of three people.

  • Shawn Michael O’Keefe has played in various Austin bands that you’ve likely never heard of before. He works full-time as a producer for the SXSW Interactive Festival. And when given the chance, he loves racing his bicycle around the block.
  • Eric Hurtgen is an artist and designer who grew up listening to his father’s careening record collection and developed a broad taste for any style of music done well. Currently, he’s into shoegaze, 20th century photography and a decent Cab Sav. He is a co-founder of the Adah Design Collective.
  • Les Jacobs sometimes DJs, occasionally writes, sparingly designs, obsessively reads, and frequently wanders. He runs a music blog called –=(] buhbOmp  [)=– and spends most of his free time listening to music, loafing in parks and drifting in and out of book stores. Born in the Caribbean, but raised in Texas, he now lives in Sunnyside, Queens and loves it. A lot.

Elevated Fiction by Halfdark
ƒStop 540.028, from Elevated Fiction. Photographer: Halfdark
Consider me officially intrigued. I believe a short interview with the trio is in order.

You write on the About page “Rock’n'roll. Typography. Two subjects that many believe shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath. We beg to differ.” How did the idea germinate to combine the topics rock’n'roll and typography in one blog?

S H A W N | Well, as part of my job working on the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, I had the honor of seeing an early version of Gary Hustwit’s Helvetica before its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in 2007. As with so many designers and non-designers alike, the film re-ignited my passion for typography and how information is communicated in the world around us. I started tweeting the fonts used on a few of my favorite records just for fun, as part of sharing my learning process. Of course the interesting tidbits and history of these fonts go well beyond 140 characters, so I thought the focus would make for a great blog. And when a few of my musician friends starting making fun of my tweets about fonts and rock’n'roll, I knew I was onto something.

Where do you, Eric and Les know each other from?

S H A W N | Eric and I met at the HOW Design Conference in Boston a few years back and hit it off instantly, particularly with our “shoegeezer” taste in music. Les grew up with my spouse actually, and we’ve been fortunate to have become close friends. The three of us have very complimentary strengths: Eric and I with our design experience; Les and I with our backgrounds in music creation and performance; Eric and Les with their diverse knowledge of music and sub-cultural trends. My instinct was that the three of us would have the right chemistry and balance together.


It’s interesting Eric Hurtgen designed the extreme extra bold “Oh, Mercy!” font that is used for the blog; conceptually it clicks. Do you have any plans with it beyond Rock That Font?

E R I C | Thanks! Yeah, I actually don’t have any current plans for it. I consider myself more of an armchair typographer, so I don’t know that it would stand up to much scrutiny. I built it with that specific kind of stacking in mind. That and I wanted it to look cool because, you know … we’re talking about rock’n'roll here.

How do you select which albums you are discussing?

L E S | Mostly by flipping through records and CDs that we’ve picked up over the years. We all come from a pre-MP3 era where album art was an essential part of the music experience. And since we all love design, we absorbed these records with our eyes as well as our ears.

Will your selection primarily be rock’n'roll albums, or are you planning to tackle a more varied range of musical styles?

L E S | Funny, we were just discussing this issue last week. We’re definitely looking beyond just rock. We love all kinds of music, but rock is a common thread for us, so it works as a nice starting point. Plus, we just love the play on words that “rock” gives us. Interestingly enough, the phrase “rock that” comes more from Hip-Hop slang, so there’s some subtle genre-crossing built in. And we definitely plan to go there.

Are you not worried that many noteworthy album covers use the same few typefaces (Helvetica/Univers, Futura, etc.); that you may have to mention the same fonts over and over, and run out of fonts so to speak?

S H A W N | Sure – at this moment we’re more concerned with how we’ll appropriately catalog and showcase all the records that don’t use any standard fonts whatsoever, such as all the amazing handwritten works out there. However, even though many popular records do use the same fonts… there is plenty to talk about in terms of how the typography works with the other visual elements at play, as well as exploring typographic trends throughout the years. A big part of why we are doing this is to eventually build a fun archive and database, where the community can not only reference their favorite records, fonts and sleeve designers – but contribute to the project as well. At the end of the day, Rock That Font is really about everyone sharing the process of discovery … wherever that may take us.

Will Rock That Font be just the three of you?

S H A W N | Well, every so often we’d like to feature a special guest contributor. We’ve just started reaching out to potential participants (who will write one post about their favorite record and its typography), so keep your eyes and ears open for a few other voices as well.

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1 Comment:

  1. Great tip and a nice intro interview. Thanks!

    Posted by Julio on May. 5, 2010

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