Beastly began as a simple suggestion from Alexander Tochilovsky while working on the Lubalin 100 logotype. While it imbues many of the qualities of Lubalin’s team of lettering artists’ signature styles, it’s a completely new design. Alexander and I agreed it was simply too expected to ape an existing typeface, so we tried to create something new.
The year prior, I had done some lettering for the Typographics conference, that slowly snowballed into several other ideas of typefaces. The most basic of those was something generically titled Ohno Fatface.
Without much of a reason why, I started drawing out the rest of the capitals. My thinking at the time was that it might be useful to have a full alphabet for various collateral for the project. Also, numbers were needed in a smaller optical size so I took a crack at those as well.
Around this time, DJR’s Rhody came out, so I had a good reference for how a slab treatment could be applied to numerals. This was not the first time and will not be the last time I rip off DJR.
I had nothing driving this project except for my own curiosity. I wondered what a lowercase for this super slab design might look like, so I played around with making the slabs absurdly enormous.
In all of my classes, I like to talk about the “Counterspace Equals Letterspace” technique for achieving consistent spacing in type or lettering. Basically, this approach involves a blackletter-esque concept, where there is no difference between the space inside an n, and between two n’s.
Picking Up Speed
This project moved a lot faster than most of my typical original designs go. Usually, due to a lack of deadline, those projects can sprawl on for months and years with no end in sight. This design however was just too much fun to work on, and I couldn’t deny myself the indulgence!
For a brief moment, I explored a width change. I can’t quite pinpoint what exactly felt wrong about this, but after a few unenthusiastic hours of pulling points around, I simply lost interest. My gut was telling me this was a waste of time. Perhaps I could approach this again in the future, but also, just because something is starting out slightly wide, doesn’t mean it should get narrow. Maybe Beastly in the future will be a wide typeface that only gets wider!
The pinching was a tricky thing to navigate, and there aren’t really obvious conventions to follow for many glyphs. The 2 and N proved to be especially problematic, and I persistently banged my head against the wall until the correct forms were discovered. This part of the process requires a lot of patience and some brutal honesty. I’m still not sure about the final form of the J, but at some point, you have to move on!
I wasn’t quite sure how to handle the punctuation, but taking some notes from Tânia Raposo’s beautiful work on Coryn Didot, I utilized the hairline punctuation technique. Sometimes I wonder if I should include two sets of punctuation in an example like this, but eventually I settled on simply making it part of the design. At their worst, alternates are a way of saying “I’m sorry” or “This might be a mistake so here you go.” Beastly has no alternates, and makes no apologies!
It was fun to see the type in use as I was designing it. During the time that type legend Jim Parkinson was working in-house at the San Francisco Chronicle, he used to test his typefaces daily in print when each day a new paper was printed. That sort of stress testing is amazing, but I had to settle for new versions of webfonts being loaded and used (in this case) on Lubalin100.com.
Why “Beastly”? Well, what else was I supposed to call it? Just like many of my contemporaries in font marketing, I lament the process of naming typefaces perhaps even more than the arduous task of kerning.
In 2011, the best band in the world released its first EP. “Mit Peck” by Vulfpeck was the delicately named culmination of six tracks, four insanely talented musicians, and just enough 2 inch tape. I can’t say why, but all songs were named after movies released that year. The first track, Beastly (named after a film with a 20% Rotten Tomatoes score), features one of Vulfpeck’s most recognizable grooves, and a mind blowing bass solo that single-handedly garnered the band their first wave of major attention.
7 years later, Beastly holds up as one of the funkiest things Vulfpeck has ever done, and it is my belief that Beastly (the song) will cauterize a permanent place of honor in the history of funk. It is with the utmost respect for the band that I humbly name this riff on Lubalin-era typography in homage to their tune.
Let’s wrap this up
Like all of the retail typefaces I release at Ohno, I am not sure how many people are going to pony up the greenbacks to license these fonts. But for those that do, I hope they do not think of my continuous sequence of failures that brought this design into existence. I hope the optical sizes make it useful, and I hope that interesting brands and organization want to align themselves with Beastly’s warm and aggressive tone. I hope it’s not simply nostalgic, but that it brings something new to the conversation. Lastly, I hope you like Vulfpeck as much as I do.