Why #FontSunday may be just your type
Font Sunday is held every Sunday by the Design Museum on Twitter, and has become something of a tradition for type enthusiasts. For four hours from noon, Twitter becomes a storm of passionate typographers, designers and enthusiasts, from all around the world, tweeting about their favourite letterforms, images and typefaces. Each Sunday has a different guest host, who chooses a theme for the week. We caught up with Sophia Ghonim, Digital Communications Officer at the Design Museum, to ask her about the success of the forum.
When did #FontSunday begin?
#FontSunday began in 2012. It started as an experiment to see how audiences would react to a regular, semi-curated program in a digital space. Every Saturday, the Design Museum, a follower or partner, dictates the theme, and on Sunday from 12:00pm to 6:00pm, the feed begins to flood with letters. Past themes have included fonts on matchstick boxes and coffee cups – to the absurd, such as toilet fonts to mark World Toilet Day. No matter how wide the Design Museum casts the #FontSunday net, people still take part!
The Design Museum is now the third most followed museum in the world after the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Tate (Modern, Britain, St. Ives and Liverpool combined). It’s possible #FontSunday might have helped contribute to that ranking. For four consecutive weeks in January 2017, the event was featured on Twitter Moments. Since then it has continued to go from strength to strength, generating thousands of mentions each week, earning trending status and new participants from across the globe.
What do you think your most successful theme to date has been?
There have been so many! These past few weeks, the Design Museum has had a run of popular themes, which have all trended in the UK. On 21 January 2018, Pentagram hosted a #FontSunday, which was about ‘unexpected and unintentional outcomes’. This theme explored typography that had been affected by context: altered over time, had mistakes in its production or been viewed from the wrong perspective. It was a success because it was playful and gave followers the satisfaction of detecting typos in type.
Another successful #FontSunday was numerical fonts, hosted by Creative Entrepreneurs on 4 February 2018. There were over 2,000 mentions on the day from participants located right across the globe. It’s a vast topic, which means there are so many examples people can post and share. The top tweet for the entire month of February was from a #FontSunday contributor. Tom, known as @IllyaNKuryakin on Twitter, who posted ‘2’, ‘5’, and ‘6’ by Otto Rieger, which went on to earn over 1,000 likes. There was a realisation that the Design Museum’s community of type enthusiasts had particular interests, which included a love for Rieger’s graphics and colourful retro pop-art.
Other note-worthy themes that the Design Museum has hosted recently include: fast food fonts (4 March 2018), which tapped into nostalgic memories and guilty pleasures, and fragile fonts (11 March 2018), which was popular because it had many interpretations.
Over the years, the Design Museum has been lucky to have some very special hosts. Francis Quinn, who won Great British Bake Off, has hosted #FontSunday three times now. Design is everywhere, even in baking!
Others have included: world-renowned fashion designer, Anya Hindmarch (stickers), graphic designer Lucienne Roberts (sisters of type), House of Illustration (annotated fonts), The Royal Mint (coins), William Morris Gallery (Russian fonts), Present and Correct (stationery), Science Museum (cosmonauts), Museum of Brands (tea packaging), BFI (punk film posters), Royal Academy of Arts (Americana), Lucienne Day (fabrics), Dezeen (watches), It’s Nice That (matchstick boxes and business cards), University of the Arts (news fonts) and BBC Radio 6 (band t-shirts) to name a few.
Are there others among your hosts’ ideas for themes that have stood out for you?
Since I took over #FontSunday in January 2017, Pentagram’s theme (mentioned above) about unexpected and unintentional outcomes was a particular favourite, along with Creative Entrepreneur’s numerical choice. The Design Museum’s two major exhibitions, Hope to Nope: Politics and Graphics 2008-18 (28 March) and Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier (10 May), are about to launch. The two shows will open up many possibilities for #FontSunday from protest art to fashion. To kick off, Anthony Burrill, graphic artist, print-maker and designer, will be hosting a #FontSunday exploring type styles in protest posters in early April.
Do you have many regular followers of #fontsunday? What kind of jobs do they tend to have?
Yes, and the Design Museum can always count on them for some great entries.
Wayne Ford is a freelance graphic designer and creative director based in London. For him typography is meant to reflect the brand of his clients and showcase his own content. He enjoys #FontSunday because he feels more and more people are beginning to take notice of typography and are keeping examples of their copy because they feel they have a connection with it.
Jim Stokes who lives in Spring Lake, N.J., is a sales executive in the information technology sector. He has an impressive collection of 4,000 science-fiction books. He often uses his covers as submissions for #FontSunday and they are always striking, with great artwork from the 1940s and 1950s. He sees #FontSunday as a challenge, even when his books don’t fit the theme because it’s far too tricky or obscure – he’ll take photos from around his home or his surroundings on the day. He also enjoys seeing what other people are posting on the timeline, and has been known to scroll through the feed during mass! He has been following #FontSunday for five years.
Marie Dulin has been following the hashtag for three years and lives in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y and works in software development. She’s found some of her favourite people to follow on Twitter just by taking part in #FontSunday and loves how inclusive the event is. Anyone can take part, from designers to students.
There are other regular contributors such as: SHOW/TRIAL, an experimental design studio, and MHD / Graphic Design, an independent design practice specialising in brand building, identity creation and visual communication. Most recently, Dazar, Creative Director of the independent studio, Inhouse design, based in Ohio, has also joined the fold. They all have a wide and impressive archive of images, which means the Design Museum is spoiled for choice when it’s time to retweet favourites at 3:00 and 5:00pm.
You’ve released limited edition prints to supporters in collaboration with Studio Sparrowhill. Have you gone so far as to create an exhibition or event around them? And how far afield have these prints gone?
This was before my time as I took over #FontSunday in January 2017. In November 2015, the Design Museum was approached by Studio Sparrowhill to host the event. Their theme was stencils and to make their #FontSunday more exciting, the graphic design studio designed a stencil themed poster, based on Milton Glaser’s ‘Glaser Stencil’ typeface, to award to the best contributors. They partnered with London based screen-printer Dan Mather, who printed the poster in red fluorescent ink on Mohawk Superfine paper by GF Smith. This #FontSunday saw one of the highest number of tweets. The limited edition poster was sent out to supporters from the UK to overseas and even Milton Glaser himself received one! Poster recipients included, National Theatre (stencil) logo designer, Ian Dennis, as well as many followers and supporters of the studio, both in the UK and overseas, including America and Australia.
You can look back at some of the entries in this Pinterest board here.
Do you have a favourite typography artist, living or dead?
Although her work is mainly images over typography, a particular favourite artist of mine is Lauren DiCioccio. DiCioccio embroiders items such as sheet music, plastic bags and 35mm slides as well as newspapers and magazines, removing the ordinary from these objects. In her hands, they become highly compelling memorials to everyday artefacts and provoke a sense of nostalgia. For her “sewnnews” series, she uses cotton muslin to wrap around newspapers and then threads around and inside the contours of the images, headlines and mastheads. The result is something intricately beautiful and detailed.
Other typography artists I admire include: Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert, the design duo behind one of the most ambitious and effective design projects ever executed in Britain, the road and motorway signage system. Through their carefully coordinated lettering, colours, shapes and symbols – they created a wayfinding system and design classic, which serves millions of people every day, is instantly recognisable and has become a template for other signage systems around the world.
Finally, a particular favourite of mine is Sister Corita’s ‘Power-Up’. Sister Corita was a highly influential nun, activist and artist who gained international fame in the 1960s. Her screen-prints were known for being vibrant, arresting and thought-provoking. She grew up in California and embraced Los Angeles as a source of inspiration. The theme of food and nourishment run throughout much of her work, including her 1965 series “Power Up,” which appropriates the slogan of Richfield Oil gasoline in combination with smaller texts from a sermon on spiritual fulfilment by activist priest Dan Berrigan. “Power-Up” was one of the pieces on display in the Design Museum’s exhibition on California and designing freedom last summer.
Do you find you are discovering new designers all the time? If so, who has been your most unexpected discovery?
Recently the Design Museum has been very excited about Michael Bierut joining #FontSunday. Bierut is an American graphic designer and a partner at Pentagram. He is well known for designing Hillary Clinton’s US presidential campaign logo. His submissions on the Sunday are some of the highest-performing posts.
Has running #FontSunday helped you predict where typography may head in the future?
It has allowed the Design Museum to be more aware of trends, which #FontSunday can take advantage of. For example, the hype around millennial pink on Instagram, led New Designers to host a #FontSunday dedicated entirely to this theme. In January, ultra-violet was Pantone colour of the year, whilst GF Smith proclaimed Marrs Green as the world’s favourite colour voted by the public. So naturally #FontSunday was planned around these two announcements.
Is there a font that you find offends your followers most?
#FontSunday is seen as a supportive and friendly space. There’s no room for negativity. Everyone can get involved, no matter your background in typography. You can be a student, a graphic designer or just someone who appreciates design. There’s an acceptance for all types of fonts and someone’s taste might be different to another. Even with Comic Sans, it might be experiencing a backlash at the moment, but there are signs that the font is enjoying some kind of tongue-in-cheek revival with the rise of retro-chic. It has even become highly regarded by those who work with dyslexic children – one of the better uses for which it was never intended.
What are your thoughts on the public’s general awareness of type? Do you think people notice the differences, consciously or unconsciously?
#FontSunday is an online community for type enthusiasts to share their love of an aspect of design that often goes unnoticed. That’s why many of the chosen themes tend to be on ephemeral objects: such as fonts on biscuit tins, bottles or labels, or found in everyday life – such as on elevators and manhole covers. #FontSunday allows us to step back from our busy lives and explore the finer details around us, which we often miss. Marie Dulin, one of #FontSunday’s regular contributors, has mentioned that even with her work in software development, she’s becoming much more aware of the role typefaces can play, even down to the type of font that someone chooses to construct their email at work. Apparently, what font you choose to use in your email, can say a lot about your character!
Is there another area of design that you think might work just as well as a regular theme for a twitter hashtag?
Every Friday on Instagram, the Design Museum invites an architect, studio, magazine or follower to guest-curate for a whole month and choose an architectural theme of their choice. Past hosts have included David Chipperfield, Wallpaper*, Adam Nathaniel Furman, Dezeen, RIBA, John Pawson and Design Boom to name a few. The hashtag is always #ArchitectureFriday and it has had lots of success with generating engagement and cultivating a strong online design community. It is a relatively new project, only set up last November, so time will tell whether it matches #FontSunday’s success. Why #FontSunday has lasted so long is probably down to its simple formula and the fact that typography has limitless possibilities.
1 – Hong Kong, photo by Tom Bonaventure on Getty Images
2 – From their Font Sunday themed around Russia propaganda to mark last year’s Imagine Moscow exhibition, hosted by Calvert 22.