Bridging PRINT’s Past and Future With Morisawa’s Role

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Choosing a typeface for a project, whether it’s for a logo or a piece of packaging, is one of the most challenging decisions a designer can make. That typeface is a key element of your identity, it’s how you present yourself to the world, and it’s built into your reputation. So it’s only natural that landing on the right face can feel like a daunting process.

The same could be said when PRINT relaunched with a fresh website in June. Looking to revitalize the brand from soup to nuts, PRINT turned to Morisawa’s Role typeface, a family of 200 styles. Not only is it readable and has an air of authority, but there’s a timeless quality to it, and it lends itself easily to every part of PRINT’s branding. For the leading premier foundry in the Asian market, it was their first standalone Latin typeface family since their launch way back in 1924, and they collaborated with type legend Matthew Carter to imagine the letterforms.

Matthew Carter (second from left) collaborating with the Morisawa team

PRINT chief creative officer and Dieline founder Andrew Gibbs knows a thing or two about hunting down the right typeface for a media brand. When Dieline rebranded, they turned to Jones Knowles Ritchie for a bespoke proprietary typeface that would further their standing as the leading voice in packaging design and branding.

Gibbs recently shared some of his thoughts on why he selected Role for PRINT, and what it means for the future of the brand.

So, how hard is it to choose a typeface for a publication?

It's very hard to find a complete look and feel for a publication, but especially when it comes to something like PRINT because it has such a storied history. The typeface is the literal written word of the brand, and choosing the wrong one would be absolutely detrimental. But when you land on something that feels right, it can help those words live on the page, whether it's on a desktop, a mobile device or your laptop.

So, no pressure then?

Yeah, no pressure at all.

What kinds of typefaces do you gravitate toward?

I'm a designer, so I love sans typefaces. I think the simpler and cleaner, the better. I love Helvetica, and I think there’s something that’s so obviously beautiful about it, which is why it’s so widely used. But, you know, I think the sans serif Role and this typeface, specifically, looks very striking. In designing PRINT’s brand, it’s the right font for us because it gives us a lot of variety to work with.

What did you want the typeface to say about PRINT, especially since the plan was to resurrect this beloved steward of all things design?

We wanted to reflect the history of the oldest design publication in the United States. It started in 1940, and there is a very rich legacy and heritage there, which needed to be respected. A typeface like Role kind of looks back and forward at the same time, and the serif style looks very traditional, but in a fresh, new way. We used to have a PRINT logo that looks very similar to Role with the soft, rounded edges, so seeing the typeface and how it looked like a lot of the prior branding felt like we were onto something.

How did you ultimately land on Role?

We had to quickly figure out how to resurrect PRINT, but also quickly make decisions based on what we had in front of us. So, imagine having to make really solid design choices while relaunching this beloved thing in the design community.

When you select a font, a lot of it has to do with not only the longevity of it all but how you’re going to use it across every aspect of the brand. We use type everywhere for everything, and this one was so flexible.

I think for this typeface, specifically, because it’s Matthew Carter and Morisawa, we knew this would stand the test of time based on who designed it and what they’ve already contributed to the lexicon. The New Yorker called Matthew Carter the most read designer in the world, because look what he did—Georgia and Verdana, Tahoma for Windows, and the list goes on and on.

Morisawa is a foundry that is very much a champion of typography, and they often talk about the connection that it makes from the past to the present and into the future. How does the new typeface celebrate where PRINT has been and what lies ahead in the future?

This typeface really respected the magazine’s past. In trying to move forward and future-focus everything, there was still a sense of nostalgia, but it was also a bridge to now. That’s what’s unique about it; it has every single style you would need for web, print or display banners. It’s one of the most flexible typefaces that I’ve personally seen. We’ve been able to use it for all sorts of things, and I don’t think we’ll be getting bored of it anytime soon.

Morisawa is good at bridging the past and the future, and the typeface is so representative of that. With Role, there are versions of it that look very traditional and some that are very future-forward. So to have that level of timelessness in the same typeface is pretty remarkable.

Want to know more about Role? Click here to request the Role Specimen book!