When typefaces tackle a lifetime of their very own
We talk to Jonathan Hill at type foundry Northern Block about the pleasant surprises – and uncomfortable associations – that arise when releasing a typeface into the world
It was a former colleague who alerted Jonathan Hill that one of his foundry’s typefaces had been featured in Peter Jackson’s latest marathon project, The Beatles: Get Back. Released in 2013 by Northern Block, Corbert Wide had been used on the title designs to introduce each instalment of Jackson’s fly-on-the-wall docuseries from 2021.
It was a natural fit for the Bauhaus-inspired typeface, which Hill felt belonged on the big screen. “We try to map out a user group that would potentially be interested in a particular typeface. It helps us focus on the purpose of the typeface,” Hill says. Oftentimes, though, a designer “flips that on its head and uses it in a completely unexpected way that you would never have in your vision really”.
Typeface designs can lie in wait for years before they realise their fullest potential. It might be a game of patience, but for Hill, seeing a typeface go out into the world and take on a new spirit in the hands of a graphic designer or typographer is one of the gifts of the job. This unpredictability makes for a rare dynamic that’s comparable perhaps only to stock imagery: once licensed via online libraries, it’s all but impossible to dictate how a type design is used.
Corbert Wide designed by Jonathan Hill, released by Northern Block
An unusual marriage between design inspiration and actual context occurred with the foundry’s typeface called Eund, also released in 2013. Initially inspired by Nordic noir, it made an unexpected appearance in the Star Wars universe, when it featured on merchandise packaging – a far cry from the Scandinavian crime fiction genre that shaped it to begin with.