I am Vine!
Currently in development, Vine is a new typeface inspired by organic forms and gestures, as well as the beauty and craft of letterpress printing.
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Vine is a contemporary interpretation of the humanist sans serif. With a natural, friendly feel, an upright stance, and strong down strokes, Vine evokes the forgiving nature of the humanist form. Its distinctive flow and the flexibility of its strokes are reminiscent of a curve in a tree branch, a wave, or a calligrapher's dancing hand.
Vine’s semi-condensed proportions and soft contrast design delivers a sturdy, practical typeface with a charismatic and inviting personality. Originally designed for the artistry of letterpress printing and its often demanding conditions, Vine is flexible enough to translate just as beautifully in digital applications. Pushing the boundaries of expectations for this style, Vine maintains striking legibility even with caption-sized texts.
Maybe it was my visit to Washington State wine country and its rustic-looking tasting rooms while I was learning to print my first letterpress pieces, but something about these two worlds — winemaking and letterpress printing — connected in my mind.
From state-of-the-art books to postcards and broadsides, letterpress is a traditional technique in western history that is now associated with handmade sophistication and master craftsmanship. Similarly, the art of winemaking is an ancient craft whose traditions have evolved over time while remaining highly regarded for sophistication and artisanship.
Since this was my first typeface, I wanted to anchor Vine’s concept to the idea of origin — the first stage of a narrative or a process. Observing the grape trees in Washington vineyards, I was struck that they can also represent the beginning of what will land on a glass of wine.
As I watched the grape trees sway in the wind, I was drawn to the way the vines created beautiful silhouettes of black shapes against a white background. From that point forward, the stems, branches, and tails of vines became the inspiration for the details in my initial sketches.
In my experience designing books, I often found myself looking for elegant and economic semi-condensed fonts that, while functional, would also feel welcoming to the reader. Those were not very available back then, nor are they common nowadays.
Working in letterpress, I’ve often experienced and observed how sharp, digital fonts turn into darkish, cramped, irregular paragraphs when pressed hard on soft paper with photopolymer plates.
As a natural inquirer, the poor printing results of sharp digital fonts on letterpress intrigued me. I was compelled to find out why this was occurring. What, as a type designer, could I do to improve the results? Traditional advice like “use a lighter weight” or “use a different font” didn’t satisfy me. My goal was to solve the dilemma while also creating a versatile typeface for applications beyond letterpress printing.
Although traditional letterpress printers would prefer a “kiss impression” rather than the really deep impression that comes from a hard press polymer plate, most contemporary audiences — thirsty for the feel of real, tactile objects — are very enthusiastic about the renaissance of the three-dimensional effect created by letters embossed into the surface.
Defining the problem and conceptualizing my goal was the beginning of my quest to design Vine. Along the way, my journey has taken me through extensive research, experiments, testing, learning, and, most of all, incredible joy.
READABILITY AND EXPRESSION
Despite the organic nature of its stems, Vine looks upright and stable due to the heavier down strokes that transition into partially flat-bottom feet. Combined with semi-condensed proportions and the consistency of stem endings, Vine appears like it’s standing tall and firm on an invisible baseline guiding readers’ eyes through the text. These anchoring features help balance expressiveness with readability.
HIGHLIGHTS FOR LETTERPRESS
Vine has a big x-height, open counters, and thinning joints, leaving extra breathing room for maintaining clear white spaces and absorbing ink spreads in challenging printing conditions. Its slightly wavy stems and moderate contrast are also designed to be forgiving of the usual irregularities created by deep impressions while still showing personality even at small sizes.
VINE AS YOUR TEXT VOICE
Overall, Vine was conceived to work as an inviting text-size companion for script, calligraphic, and friendly display fonts. It provides humor without losing its footing, and it is expressive and legible — even in small sizes and daring printing conditions. From fine print stationary to fun books, editorials, and specialty labels and packaging, Vine will warm up your design with its soothing, friendly voice.
Broadside produced for the 2020 edition the Words of Courage Project. Click on the image to learn more.