When we decided that we wanted to revamp our typeface, we turned to the best of the best. New York-based Benjamin Critton and his team specialize in art and design collaborations for brands in art, architecture, design, fashion, film, hospitality, and publishing. London-based Colophon Foundry are experts in digital type. Together, the two dream teams worked together to create Nasty Gal’s new typeface: NG Grotesque. Read on to hear about Benjamin’s process and to know what they all looked to for inspiration while creating our badass new font.
What other brands have you created typefaces for?
BC AD has been commissioned to draw typefaces for arts organizations Eyebeam, furniture company Matter-Made, apparel brand Outdoor Voices, publishers Bullett Magazine & Bullett Media, and online magazine Sight Unseen, among others; Colophon Foundry has had the pleasure of creating type programmes for Fulham Football Club, Grey Goose Vodka, Maaemo Restaurant, Rugby Football Union, and a host of other brands and commissioners. The studios work internationally and collaboratively, crossing paths in the name of shared sensibilities and resources, and when schedules and geographies allow.
Can you explain the process behind Nasty Gal’s new font?
A portion of our initial brainstorming document reads: “With one foot amidst the rational geometries of early- to mid-20th Century sans-serifs (think Renner & Futura), and the other in the idiosyncratic forms of the late 19th Century grotesks (think Berthold & Akzidenz), NG Grotesque posits itself as many things at once—simultaneously Contemporary and Historic, Rigorous and Gestural, Objective and Subjective, Well-Behaved and Misbehaved.”
We commonly begin any design process with research into the brand itself and a close look into existing precedents, both within and outside of the commissioner’s field. Our initial thoughts are collated via a series of mood boards, that are very purposefully devoid of typography: commonly photographic images that connote a certain set of gestures or behaviors. In this case, many of those images centered on the clothed human female figure, and often on the relationship between the clothing and the figure itself. Slowly, we introduce type precedents into the research process. The pairing of these gestural and typographic images commonly lends us a trajectory.
In the case of Nasty Gal, our explorations led us towards a type that, in its ideal state, manages to reference a vague past, capture a version of the present, and posit an amorphous timelessness.
How do you feel the type encapsulates Nasty Gal’s personality?
In the realm of simultaneity, mentioned above, the type has a certain duality to it that we’d like to think speaks to Nasty Gal’s customers and admirers: a concurrent youthfulness and sophistication. There is something very candid and unapologetic about the type, but it is also a bit sly or mischievous at times; it can be be quite bold or forthright in certain settings and also has these moments of almost sensitivity or delicacy in its drawing; it is somehow cultivated but imprecise—refined and coarse, all at once.
What’s the most challenging part of creating a typeface for a brand?
In a way, there is perhaps nothing that isn’t challenging about creating a typeface for a brand—it becomes the foundation of any given thing which that typography then adorns; the literal tool that represents any and all language put forth by the commissioner. That said, there is also nothing that isn’t decidedly rewarding and enjoyable about it all: the end-result is holistic and comprehensive, ultimately integrated throughout a given brand’s entire output—it’s an incredibly gratifying process, from rumination to rendering to rollout.