Linked: Comic book lettering

The evolution of a lettering style

My friend Kris Black posted the video below from Vox on Comic Book lettering. I love lettering and comic books so this was right up my alley. It’s a really smart piece that clearly explains the difference between lettering and fonts, shows how lettering design is connected to production limitations and best of all, doesn’t mention Comic Sans a single time. If you are interested in lettering and/or comics, check out this video:

Side note: The creator of the video, Phil Edwards, has done a bunch of awesome videos for Vox on a wide range of topics. I really enjoyed his history of Wingdings and his video on the origins of the Oxford comma.

Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. In his spare time, he tries to explain the difference between type and lettering. Follow Bob on Twitter and Instagram.

The Eric Gill Collection

I’ve long been a fan of the Eric Gill’s designs.* I worked at a company for a few years were Gill Sans was one of the typefaces in the corporate identity. And I later designed an annual report entirely in Joanna. His book, An Essay on Typography, is an interesting look at typography during the industrial revolution and is a great read if you are interested in historical models for typesetting.

Monotype has released new, expanded versions of Gill’s most well known designs. More weights and versions make these designs better fits for modern identity systems.

Gill Sans Nova adds a number of weights and widths without losing the charm of Gill Sans. And it keeps the wackiness of the heavier weights – which I think is a good thing despite the fact that I still hate the lower case, ultra bold i. New alternate characters are a great addition and display versions add inline, shadow and deco versions that look sharp and playful.

But Joanna Nova  gets the most attention and is the most impressive part of this release.** Previously limited to three weights — light, roman and bold, Joanna now boasts 10 weights. The italic versions are beautiful, too. And add to that a new sans serif — Joanna Sans  — to serve as a companion. 

With all this depth and complexity, I think it’s a matter of time before we start to see Joanna used in new identity systems everywhere. Each of the families is $99 for limited time, or you can spend $199 for the entire Eric Gill Collection.

Monotype has a site for the release that lets you look at everything in detail.

* I’ve long been a fan of Eric Gill’s designs, but not a fan of Eric Gill himself. We wasn’t a good man at all.

** I might be biased. Joanna has always been one of my favorite fonts and most people don’t know about it. Joanna has always been my favorite "best typeface you've never heard of" recommendation to young designers.

Introducing Intermodal

I’ve been fascinated by stenciled type for a while. Stencils started as a practical necessity – an easy and utilitarian way to reproduce type. But the use of stencils has evolved and is now visually representative of industry and military.

A few weeks ago, I quietly rolled out my latest stencil typeface on Creative Market: Intermodal.

Intermodal started as an experiment. I wanted to create a design that had only vertical stencil cuts. I didn’t like how the cuts on other stencil designs didn’t line up cleanly. By only using vertical cuts, I didn’t have to worry about the horizontal alignment.* 

Intermodal is an all cap design, but includes a wide range of foreign language characters, a set of Opentype tabular numerals and an alternate “9.” Intermodal doesn’t have traditional weights. Instead, there are five widths, from A to E. A is more narrow and E is wider. The different versions can be used together to create a utilitarian look. I’ve also got an oblique version of each width for a total of 10 fonts in the family.

For now, the entire Intermodal family — 10 fonts in all — is available exclusively at Creative Market for $29.

Intermodal is one of my favorite creations. I hope you like it.

* After my first set of sketches, I noticed that it was structurally very similar to Power Grid. So I added a stencil version to Power Grid 2.0 and I continued to refine Intermodal. Different look, but similar design approach.

Typekit integration

At the top of the Type menu in Adobe InDesign CC is a new addition: Add Fonts from Typekit...

Selecting it will open Typekit in a browser window and you can choose typefaces that you would like to install.

Pick which versions and weights you want to use and sync them to your computer. There are lots of tools to help you discover new type, allowing you to search for type styles, thicknesses and weights. Creative Cloud automatically downloads and installs the fonts for you. 

A large selection of type, including Mark Simonson's excellent Proxima Nova, are available as part of your Creative Cloud subscription. I'm surprised at how many folks have no idea that this is part of your monthly subscription cost. And the type can be used in any app.

Every Wednesday, I post a tip on an Adobe product.

Sketchbook B now on Creative Market

So far, I've only offered my fonts for sale at MyFonts. Today, I've added another distribution channel. You can now buy Valdes Clarendon at my shop on Creative Market.

Creative Market is a new marketplace that sells fonts, images, templates, themes and more. I'm excited to be a part of it. I also like the idea that I can sell more than just type. (As for what those products will be... well... I've got some ideas...)

For now, Powerlane will remain a MyFonts exclusive. I'm not sure it's right for Creative Market. But my plan going forward is to offer all my fonts through Creative Market and MyFonts.

Dad strikes again

A small Hamilton type case

A small Hamilton type case

I've mentioned before that my dad is always on the lookout for type and printing antiques for me. Recently he found a small Hamilton type case. I'm familiar with large cabinets, but this case is much smaller. It's about 17 inches high, 9 inches wide and 12 inches deep.

I did a quick google search and couldn't find any other cases this size. I'm guessing this case was intended for a hobbyist. It would only fit a few small fonts of type. Hopefully I can find out some more about it...

UPDATE!  My friend Nikki Villagomez happened to run into some folks from Hamilton at HOW and asked about the case. The last two digits of the serial number indicates that it was made in 1929. Also, it probably wasn't intended for type and was instead made to hold metal spaces used in typesetting. But they hadn't actually seen a case like this before so they were just speculating. If you know more about this amazing find, post in the comments below.

Made in the USA by Hamilton.

Made in the USA by Hamilton.

Each try has 25 divisions. Y and Z shared a spot.

Each try has 25 divisions. Y and Z shared a spot.

You can still see the pencil marks denoting where the individual letters should go.

You can still see the pencil marks denoting where the individual letters should go.


Powerlane is now released and while I’m still working on marketing and promotion, I really want to take a second and thank a lot of people that inspired me and helped me along with Powerlane.

My Wife

When I sat down to do the interview with The State, one of the first questions Cassie asked was something along the lines of “You have a full time job, you teach, you have three kids and you design type in your spare time. How does your wife feel about all of this?” I chuckled and simply responded that my wife is awesome.

My wife, Liz, is an artist, too. And a teacher. She understands why I want to design my own type. And why I couldn’t say no to the opportunity to work with a great group of students this semester.

Is it crazy? Sometimes, yes. We have to work really hard to coordinate schedules and find time for everything. But we do. Sometimes, I’m up really, really late. But without the support from Liz, I couldn’t accomplish any of this.

Marius Valdes

Marius and I get try to get together for lunch semi-regularly to brainstorm and bounce ideas off of each other. It’s always inspirational to sit down for a little while and throw ideas around.

I love working on projects with Marius. A while back, I created a custom variation of one of my typefaces for his Secret Species project. Power Grid, was upper case only and he needed a lower case. So I cranked out a version for him to use. I intended to polish it later, but never got around to it.

Fast forward to this year, when Marius and his awesome Secret Species project was featured in HOW magazine. As a type designer, it’s energizing to see your typefaces in use. After seeing Power Grid on the pages of HOW, I started working on it again. The result is Powerlane.

AIGA South Carolina

I owe a lot to AIGA South Carolina. It’s the chapter I helped start 7 years ago and it’s been a major influence on my career. Over the last few years, I’ve had the joy of seeing and interacting with creatives like Alex Isley, Michael Bierut, Jill Bell, Seymour Chwast, Chip Kidd, James Victore, Chris Bilheimer, Sean Adams, Stefan Sagmeister and more.

But in Spring of this year, AIGA SC brought in designer/illustrator Jude Landry and then a couple weeks later, designer/all-around-awesome-guy Aaron Draplin. And the combination was exactly the inspiration I needed. They are both amazing creatives with an entrepreneurial streak. And listening to them got me completely motivated to tackle the typeface and make it available commercially. And then a few months later, Rich Roat from House Industries came in to speak about all of their typographic successes.

It was the perfect line up of speakers for me at the perfect time.

Fontstruct and the Fonstruct Community

Sometime in 2009, I was home — sick in bed. Having given up on awful daytime TV, I was surfing the internet and stumbled upon Fontstruct and started experimenting. Powerlane started life as Power Grid, a Fontstruction. It was one of my early modular constructions, but I was very happy with it. But the modular structure made it difficult to expand Power Grid into the family I had in my head and I eventually chose to start from scratch.

But Fontstruct’s influence goes far beyond prototyping. The community at Fontstruct was encouraging and inspirational. They gave solid feedback on character designs. They kept me motivated when I was discouraged and challenged me to improve my designs.

I’ve gotten so busy lately, I haven’t been able to get back over to Fontstruct. But maybe I should enter the new stencil contest…


Finally, thanks to Georg Seifert for developing an awesome type design tool in Glyphs. It’s powerful and easy to use.

Recently, they’ve started blogging about how to get the most out of Glyphs. And many of their tips and tricks were very helpful in building Powerlane.

Don’t forget that through October 23, Powerlane Complete is available for $59 ($140 off normal price) at