Three FontFonts Win At ISTD International TypoGraphic Awards 2009

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News | Yves Peters | November 19, 2009

The weekend before last Petra Weitz, the managing director of FSI FontShop International, travelled to London for the International Society of Typographic Designers’ 2009 Awards ceremony. She was invited to pick up three awards on behalf of FontFont, FSI’s own font foundry created almost 20 years ago by Erik Spiekermann and Neville Brody (more about this soon ;). FF Mister K – Julia Sysmäläinen’s impressive rendition of Franz Kafka’s handwriting, available as feature-rich Opentype fonts – won a Premier Award. Certificates of Excellence were awarded to FF Netto and FF Pitu – designed by newcomer Daniel Utz and type & publication designer Łukasz Dziedzic respectively.

Petra Weitz proudly brandishing the ISTD certificates.
Photo © Benjamin Tomlinson

A spirited rendition of a lively calligraphic typeface, exhibiting a sense of fun with the accompanying ornaments, and the ‘cross-out’ version. One of the few typefaces entered that displayed its content to best effect, even to the extent of showing cartoon-like portraits entirely created from the typeface characters. It also shows appropriate use of OpenType format by fully exploiting the extended character set.

ISTD judge Freda Sack

I already Tweeted about this ages ago, but was waiting for more information about this year’s awards and the other winners. ISTD President Freda Sack explained on the phone yesterday that the not-for-profit organisation entirely runs on volunteers whose day jobs – understandably – have to take priority on occasion. She assured me the press release would be sent out in the coming days, and indeed – it arrived in my inbox around noon today.

As an aside, this reminds me that I have announced a couple of type design contests lately, but never received any post-awards results from the organisations. I might do some research and post about what other typefaces were deemed worthy of merit these past few months.

According to their general press release “International Society of Typographic Designers (ISTD) is the only international authoritative body for typography, aiming to inform and inspire typographers, graphic designers, writers and educators engaged in the field of visual communication.” It originated from the British Typographers Guild, and now with international reach, ISTD aims “to bring together in friendship and mutual help, all those with a love of the printed word.” The Society gives high priority to supporting graphic communication students at many levels, and since 1971 publishes TypoGraphic, a forum for constructive critical debate about typography and graphic communication, with features by leading designers and educators.

The ISTD International TypoGraphic Awards claim to be “the only international design awards that specifically recognise typographic excellence across a broad range of design disciplines. The quality of work entered, and the reputation of companies and individuals taking part, is an expression of the status of the ISTD Awards.” Freda Sack, ISTD President, adds that “[t]he Awards are unique, as the only international design awards where the entries are judged from the typographic viewpoint and as an assessment of current standards of design. They specifically recognise typographic excellence across a wide range of design disciplines. (…) ISTD jurors always comment on the high standards of entries, ‘competing with the best work around, combined with the rigorous judging procedure make an ISTD TypoGraphic Award a bit special, and the Awards vital in raising typographic standards’.”

This year work was submitted from seventeen countries, with thirteen nationalities involved in the winning work. The jury comprised of Gilmar Wendt, Katja Thielen, Markus Dreßen, and Malcolm Garrett, judged the entries, in each of sixteen categories, over three stages. During the first stage 63 entries were nominated to receive Certificates of Excellence. From these nominations, fifteen outstanding entries were selected for Premier Awards. The judges are not limited in the number of Awards they can give. Finally, from amongst the Premiers, the ISTD International TypoGraphic Award was chosen for outstanding typographic achievement – a unanimous decision. It was awarded to three posters for Châtelet – Théâtre Musical de Paris, designed by French design icon Philippe Apeloig.

Of this overall winning entry ISTD judge Freda Sack said:

Philippe Apeloig often creates special display typefaces for his work – this Châtelet poster series shows his skill with, and use of unique letterforms, combining them with a clean, sans serif, to great effect. Here Apeloig’s typography has a musicality that is in perfect harmony with the subject matter. With its tonal variation, rhythm and dramatic emphasis, the Opera poster is my favourite of the three. The scale and impact of these posters demand your attention. The information can be read and assimilated within seconds – an essential quality for a good poster.

Awards Jury Chair Gilmar Wendt comments:

Three posters. Black and white type on coloured backgrounds. I first saw them in situ on the metro in Paris where their sheer visual power cut through all the clutter of signage, ads and busy people jumping on and off the trains. I don’t remember any of the other ads but these posters stuck with me.

What is so wonderful about them is how they are at the same time clear information design, and beautiful graphics. Because the words drive the design, all three of them, whilst using the same principles, become unique pieces. And if the typography provides unity, the coloured backgrounds help differentiate.

Simple, beautiful, intriguing.

ISTD President Freda Sack (second from right) briefs the other members of the jury.
From left to right: Gilmar Wendt, Katja Thielen, Markus Dreßen, Freda Sack, Malcolm Garrett

Gilmar Wendt, Awards Chair, provides insight in the judging process:

Everyone who has judged in design awards knows that the beginning of the process is often the hardest part. Identifying the good and great from the inevitable sea of mediocrity can often be a dispiriting task.
In contrast, as all the judges remarked, what was striking about this year’s ISTD Awards was the overall quality of the submissions. There were no mumbled comments about declining standards, how this was not a very good year and so on. Instead, we were able to enter into lively, sometimes rigorous, but at all times fair debate, almost from the word go.
The scope for designers to use their typographic expertise has widened. The results are here to see. The book, it seems, has been liberated and there are more opportunities for the small-scale publisher. Exhibition design is thriving, and we saw some beautiful posters. The qualities that enable a designer to create great typographic design are sensitivity to detail, intelligent conceptual thinking, understanding of use of language and materials, together with the ability to communicate the idea appropriately to the end user. There were many examples of work entered that showed all these skills to great effect.

Katja Thielen and Markus Dreßen

Malcolm Garrett and Gilmar Wendt

The real arena of design evolution now is in the digital realm. There are continual developments that enable the designer to create more visually effective typography on screen, providing many possibilities to experiment in this area. With that in mind, the jury would have loved to see more submissions entered in the relevant “new media” categories. Surprisingly, some other ‘classic’ categories, such as annual reports, were under represented, particularly compared to previous years’ entries. The work is certainly out there and, as this selection shows, typography reaches well beyond print, and so does ISTD.
After two intense days of judging, we were more than satisfied with our choices, and we had a clear winner. The process of judging, with the discussion that took place, was inspiring and invigorating, and we left optimistic about design and feeling that on the whole, typography is in a good place.

The ISTD International TypoGraphic Awards jury at work.
From left to right: Malcolm Garrett, Katja Thielen, Markus Dreßen, Gilmar Wendt, Freda Sack

Premier Awards

  • Exhibition Design, Signage Systems
  • Newspapers & Magazines
    • Matt Willey / Studio8 Design / London
      FUTU magazine, issue 6 (bilingual (Polish, English) magazine, divided in to three sections; SELF, PEOPLE and SURROUND)
    • Hans Bockting FISTD & Sabine Bockting Reinhardt / Bockting ontwerpers / The Netherlands
      NAGONieuws (magazine issued by the Nederlands Archief Grafisch Ontwerpers (Dutch Archives of Graphic Designers))
  • Promotional Brochures, Catalogues
    • Hans Bockting FISTD & Sabine Bockting Reinhardt / Bockting ontwerpers / The Netherlands [in co-operation with Piet Gerards]
      Meet them at Nijhof & Lee (brochure released to mark the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Nijhof & Lee International Booksellers)
    • Matt Baxter / Kerry White / 300million / London
      And (promotional brochure for the copywriter Mike Reed)
    • Astrid Stavro MISTD / Studio Astrid Stavro / Barcelona, Spain
      Merce Rodoreda (Mirror of Languages) (catalogue for a recent exhibition at the Centro Cultural Blanquerna, Madrid)
  • Books
  • Corporate Identity, Logotypes, Brandmarks
  • Typeface design, Calligraphy, Hand Lettering
    • FSI FontShop International / Germany
      FF Mister K (typeface design by Julia Sysmäläinen)

ISTD have published a full colour 2009 Awards Catalogue which illustrates the final show, a diversity of media and approach providing an inspiring overview of international typographic design over the last two years. It promises to be a wonderful source book of typographic excellence, and can be ordered from the ISTD website.

Project / Print Management & Editorial  Peter Dawson
Freda Sack
Art Direction & Design for Catalogue Romin Mehdizadeh
Tom Mesquitta
Gilmar Wendt
Photography of Judging process Tom Mesquitta
Ben Tomlinson

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  1. What is the font used on the picture of istd International Typographic Award 2009 (On gold & silver squared metalic bloc) ‘engraved’ ?

    Posted by SaLoMoN CoHeN on Nov. 19, 2009
  2. That’s Foundry Sans Extra Bold by David Quay, available from The Foundry, the type foundry run by Freda Sack and David Quay.

    That’s a whole lot of “foundry” in one comment.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Nov. 19, 2009
  3. As I’m all new to type and fontfaces I hope you’ll forgive me if you find the answer to my question obvious… Which font is then used on the upper-right corner of the catalogue cover above?

    Posted by Claire on Nov. 22, 2009
  4. (…) forgive me if you find the answer to my question obvious

    No question is obvious. :)

    This is Futura, and I quite like how they used it. As it is a rather simple geometric sans it can be broken down into basic components. Which the designers did, and they arranged those components systematically in the left margin of the otherwise pristine white cover. Aesthetically I’m not exactly wild about the end result, but it is a fun concept.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Nov. 22, 2009

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