Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Halloween Typography Fun

Making a poster for a gig I'm going to be playing later this month—live improvised music to accompany the silent horror film, Nosferatu (1922)—I went looking for free clip art and fonts. I'm not quite done with the poster yet, but in my search I found several Halloween-themed free fonts available for download. So, here's a preview of fun fonts just in time for the season.

Halloween Fonts is the best themed site for these materials that I found in my search. Also useful, and with additional free fonts is Acid Font's Halloween fonts.

Here is the titling sampler chart I made up while working on the poster. It shows a few of the fonts I found potentially useful for this project. When you set out on a project, it's sometimes helpful to make a font display like this. It lets you see the fonts together, gives you options, and lets you see might work well together, and what won't:

When I go out on the Web looking for specific materials, I usually search using Dogpile, a better meta-search engine. I find Dogpile far more useful than other search engines.

There are a million typefaces out there on the Web. Not all are freeware or shareware—all of the big font foundries have a Web presence—but you can often discover something very useful to you, for any given special-topic graphic design project, that is either very reasonable or cheap. And I keep my eye open for the unusual and useful typeface.

Some of my favorites are:

The Tarmsaft Collection

Chank Diesel's Type Foundry

Planet Typography

Among the very best high-end independent font foundries for excellent fonts are P22, who specialize also in historical and artist's handwriting typefaces, and Emigre, which has often been on the bleeding edge of design and typography, and whose founding members are interesting writers about design theory and history. Emigre used to publish a tabloid-sized print magazine which was full of articles, graphics, and font showings; I still have a collection of back issues in my basement.

An essential resource is the online Elements of Typographic Style. And here are Twenty Useful Typographic Tools.

And some of my own original typefaces can be found at White Dragon Type Foundry.


Here's the finished poster:

(Click on image for larger version.)

Normally I would never use this many fonts for any graphic design project. To create a clean, classic design, usually you should never use more than two or three fonts, and those should be complementary, fitting well together, supporting each other. I rarely use more than two fonts for any given project, unless they are a set meant to work together as a unit.

But sometimes you have to throw out the rules and guidelines.

This poster is to advertise a fun Halloween music gig. At the gig a group of improvising jazz musicians will perform original music to accompany a classic silent horror film, in this case Nosferatu.

So I went to town, and picked several fonts from the Halloween-themed sets linked to above. Even the bats are from a dingbat font, called, humorously, BatBats; I converted these into clip art and manipulated them a bit. Sometimes you just have to overdo it, and have fun. And this was fun to do. Actually, I think these fonts do work well as a group, because they're all variations on the Halloween theme. The font I used for the majority of the informational text is called Burton's NIghtmare, modeled on the titling font for Tim Burton's animated film The NIghtmare Before Christmas. Using one font like this for the main body type, with pull-outs in the other fonts, is what holds the overall design together, when using so many individual fonts.

I will be one of the musicians playing this gig. When I lived in San Francisco, I played in a band that played live music to silent films once a month at a café downtown. It was always tremendous fun, and our Halloween gigs always drew a big crowd. So this won't be my first time playing music to Nosferatu, which is even now a genuinely creepy masterpiece of horror. For this gig, I'll be playing Chapman Stick, probably bass guitar, and probably making sound effects on my laptop, as well as my usual looping gear. I look forward to the gig; it ought to be loads of creepy fun.

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Blogger Elisabeth said...

i did not realise there was so much to the business of fonts, Art, until I met my son in law a graphic designer who collects them as loved treasures, so precious and valuable. They are part of his life's work after all.

Enjoy the gig, and play well. Have heaps of creepy fun.

Halloween is not something we celebrate here, though we know it well.

3:57 AM  
Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

The thing about that poster is that it shouldn't work and yet it does. Mixing so many fonts should be a mess and yet you've pulled it off. I'm impressed.

4:37 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Typography is one of those things I can geek out about, Elizabeth. Fonts are tremendously important, not to mention fun, and I collect them, too. I've also designed a few.

Thanks, Jim. By my count I've used 8 distinct fonts in this poster, if you count the bats as originally from a font, 7 if you don't. I let my taste and my eye decide what to do where for this poster, and how much to use each font.

It's wonderful that folks out there made and distributed these fonts. That's a lot of design time and energy invested, of which we're gratefully enjoying the benefits.

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you are interested and looking for some great collection of free fonts, here you can explore and Download Free Fonts for Windows and Mac OS.

8:52 AM  

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