2012 New Visual Artist: Berton Hasebe

Cover lettering, Bloomberg Businessweek (creative director: Richard Turley), 2010

New typefaces emerge every day, but not many of them are notable; few qualify as genuinely innovative. But Alda, Berton Hasebe’s graduation project at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, broke new ground. Rather than treat different weights traditionally by adjusting the thickness of characters relative to their heights, Alda differentiates among its three weights by changing details of the letterforms, feathering curves in the light weight and filling in stocky heft for the bold. “When I first started type design,” Hasebe says, “I didn’t know what rules there were, if there were any, and Alda was a way to approach a typeface family by questioning these conventions.” It was selected by the Type Directors Club as one of 2009’s standout typefaces, and Hasebe has been busy ever since, especially with his work for Commercial Type, which released his sans-serif face Platform in 2010.

Age: 29
Type designer
From: Honolulu
Lives in: New York city
Website: www.bertonhasebe.com 

Renda Morton and Andy Pressman, of the firm Rumors, discovered Hasebe and Platform while working on Commercial Type’s website. “What first drew us to his work was his range and how he could give elegance to blunt forms,” Morton says. “As soon as we saw Platform, we wanted to use it—but large.” Its sturdy form practically dares users to hang an entire design from it. When designing the Sports issue of the magazine Bidoun, Rumors used Hasebe’s typeface extensively: for the titles, the numerals, the table of contents, the pull quotes, and the large, colorful type spreads.

Type design (in Hawaiian and English) for Hawaii state posters, 50 and 50 projects, 2011

Platform typeface for Commercial Type, 2010

Today, working as a full-time type designer, Hasebe focuses on how his faces will fit in with the work of others. He’s drawn to revered but unconventional typefaces like the French designer Roger Excoffon’s Antique Olive. “It is very expressive yet does not overpower the design it’s used in,” Hasebe says, “and its persistent use over time, along with its unique structure and character, is very inspiring to me.” As Morton observes, Hasebe understands the past, but he’s not a slave to it.

Alda typeface, graduation project, 2009

Lettering for Bloomberg Businessweek, 2011

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