Saatchi & Saatchi Pro commissioned an all cap condensed headline letter for their rebrand of Avolon, a leader in aircraft leasing. Their starting point was the Medium Condensed cut of Akzidenz Grotesk (also known as Standard) by the Berthold Type Foundry and first released at the end of the 19th century [figs 2 & 3].
Visually, Saatchi’s branding was heading toward a clean modernist style, which Akzidenz Grotesk is historically associated with. However, the coolness of Akzidenz Grotesk is a little lost in the Medium Condensed cut, with its rather stiff, square and static letter shapes. A more energetic and rounder look was needed. We first started work on building the condensed letter proportions whilst at the same time simplifying several of their structures [figs 4–8]. One troublesome area in condensed monoline types is the visual bulking up where diagonals meet. Once spotted this visual error just grates and annoys and requires a vast amount of juggling with the line weights to reduce the problem and visually balance all the letters together [figs 9 & 10].
A variety of trials were made to add cuts to several letters which were developed from the company logo detail. Some different letter shapes were tried, such as matching the K and R legs, a simpler G with no spur, a J with a flat curve [figs 4 & 6]. Ultimately many of these weren’t needed, but had to be seen in order to be dismissed.
Half way through developing the design it was felt that the overall proportion of the typeface was too wide. So it was decided that the type needed to be more of a compressed style than a condensed one. Ultimately aiming for a tight visual texture. There were concerns over legibility but as the type was intended for short headline use, these didn’t limit or direct the design greatly.
Compressing the type allowed for a greater play with the vertical and horizontal line weights as well as incorporating more exaggerated ink traps to reduce the visual bulking of strokes. The modifications required to define complex letter shapes, and to trick the eye and mind into perceiving the shape correctly, also have the potential to be developed more formally as part of the type’s visual style [fig 12]. The deep cuts and variety of stroke weight across a letter’s shape help to create sparkle and interest. All of which needed to be reflected evenly across the whole character set in order to maintain a visual texture [figs 13–15].
Avolon Headline is a single weight font with 119 glyphs