Daniel Pelavin
January 2010
I shot the serif
This past Saturday I had the honor of judging the Type Directors Club annual typeface competition and the privilege of being immersed in typography of many nations from Japanese Hiragana and Katakana to Indian Devangari, Russian Cyrillic, Armenian, Arabic and a healthy share of Latin typefaces including one with characters shaped from a street map of London.

Though I felt like a neophyte among a room full of grown-up type designers, I took this opportunity to keep my mouth shut (as much as possible) and absorb as much as I could from this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Originally designed to brand and package products celebrating the charm and mystery of the Ancient East, the characters in Setsuko are intended to express admiration and respect, not the stereotyping and parody sometimes evident in fonts with a particular "foreign" flavor. Rather than trying to twist pictograms into Roman letterforms or effecting a recognizable but trite idiom, I chose a more ambiguous stylization, hoping to leave room for a designer's creativity and interpretation.
Wake up and smell the coffee
Much of my inspiration comes from imagery and style that technology has rendered obsolete. I treasure anachronistic artifacts of packaging and design which have somehow evaded obliteration by focus groups, and manage to still be a part of our visual landscape.
Before I was old enough to go into a supermarket alone, I was already a keen admirer and critical observer of products which found their way into our home. When my mother was finished at the checkout counter and wondered what had happened to her curious child, I would be lost among the aisles, intoxicated by the shapes and colors of post-war packaging; in particular, with products that had mercifully escape being redesigned and still had the feeling of a kinder, gentler time.

I was particularly taken with the packaging for A&P coffee brands Eight O'Clock, Red Circle and Bokar whose eccentric yet elegant typography harkened back to an earlier, less complicated era. The font Bokar is my nod of appreciation to those robust and full-bodied blends spared from the bland, tasteless scourge of corporate branding.

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