Girls and Neutraface

I’m not afraid to say I like the show Girls. It took a couple of episodes to reel me in and I have a hard time understanding why the characters do the things they do– but whatever, I’m in and I like it.

This article popped up in my twitter feed today and now I just have to say something about it.

The production company behind the title card and end credits are claiming they created a custom typeface for the show’s creator/director/ star, Lena Dunham, while me and everyone else aware of typefaces assumed it was simply Neutraface– designed in 2004 by Christian Schwartz.

 

The company boasts process photos of their efforts, but all I saw in them are traces of other fonts! I apologize for name dropping here, but Gotham and Affair are all shown pretty prominently. I have a hard time understanding tracing as sole process when I’ve seen Underware  document their actual typeface creations through freehand sketches on grid paper.

A comparison of the logo type and original Neutraface Display

A comparison with the logotype with Gotham HTF

I’m not saying what this co. did wasn’t design work, creative, or even customized type– but it’s not a custom typeface. It feels more like a tweaked logotype, with Neutraface firmly used as a base and nudged to Gotham’s squat proportions ever so slightly.  They very much noodled the signature R that gives away that typeface every time, but it still maintains the original identity and strongly at that. Even when I thought the show was using Neutraface outright (and for the credits it still is. Neutraface Display Medium if you really want to know), the use of it fits extremely well.

The white background is typed out by yours truly, and the black is a screen shot of the episode end credits.

Regardless of it’s created intention, the font is assumed to be a feminine, art deco/modern and clean typeface. It’s used all over the greeting card, lifestyle and beauty industries, and about every feminine-based industry I can think of. The use of it for the show is kind of a no-brainer, and I treated it as such.

Reading the article, the definition and juxtaposition of Girls and Art Deco really rubbed me the wrong way.

“[Art Deco] . . . it is a setting up of new standards, not a perfecting or adapting of the old. It is a definite break with the past,” C’mon guys, this just screams hypocrisy.

None of these things are new. The typeface, ideas, even the mislabeling of mid-century modernism as art deco, but I can understand how people assume it’s art deco-ness. I have a hard time understanding the pretentiousness surrounding the customized logotype and the show it was made for.

Is re-adapting a typeface already designed in 2004 truly a definite break with the past– and not ‘adapting’ something old? Is Neutraface really art deco if it’s a direct correlation to mid-century modernism in architecture? Are the characters in Girls all about setting new standards and not just rehashed female archetypes simply re-contextualized into a hipster Bushwick Brooklyn as opposed to Sex in the City’s midtown fashionista Manhattan?

About jne

Creative Director/Partner of purée fantastico. A philosopher, dreamer, problem solver, curiosity chaser, mathematician, scientist, & always growing. A lover of life, baking, yoga, animals & laughing loudly

2 comments

  1. Very nice and enlightening article, especially the pictures you chose for the comparison of the typefaces.
    (Some days ago, I wrote something about the similarities, too, albeit in German: http://frauwallace.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/gut-geklaut-girls )
    I wonder, what Christian Schwartz thinks about his typeface being lifted …?

  2. Thank you for pointing this out, that article drove me absolutely insane when I read it. Pretentious crap.

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