Magnified: Sociotype Journal

Posted 6 months ago in Magazine

Sociotype Journal is a platform for thoughts on culture and society, that also happens to be a type specimen. Its co-founder Joe Leadbeater outlines its visual design.

Can you tell us a bit about Sociotype and how the Journal emerged as a platform to showcase your work as well as delve into culture?
Let’s be honest — The world of type design has become heavily saturated in recent years: So Sociotype Journal grew from an understanding that we’re naturally different from a lot of the market: We’ve evolved from a design practice has always been working in meticulous typographic detail, through type setting and the craft of logotypes, as oppose to a sole type design background. The Journal began with a love for editorial design, and also to create a product that matches the expectations and demands of the type families we produce: Often with extensive weights and optical sizes. It needed to express how we love our typefaces to be used. Conceptually we view it as a form of artistic expression that client projects don’t often allow.

As a design-led type foundry, how important is context for your creations? How has the Journal connected with clients and the wider public to date?

Real-world context of our typefaces was another reason for the Journal to exist, for sure. When working on our typefaces we use real-world contexts, so it makes complete sense that the end-product has purpose. We do still include glyph sets and diagrams in the technical specimen (more conventional type specimen material) at the back of each Journal.

Your first edition was built around the concept of ‘The Gesture’ and the current one, ‘Makeshift’. Is this a sort of moodboard for explorations and contributions?

As designers, we’re always coming across dream collaborators, which unfortunately sometimes isn’t realistic with client work. It’s with great joy that we commission writers, illustrators and photographers for each Journal. A personal favourite from the second issue was the permission to use Michael Wolf’s photography – which we dedicated a full section to.

Your current ‘Makeshift’ edition is eclectically fascinating in its subject matter ranging from hobby tunnelling to zoo design and murderabilia to misaligned manhole covers – how significant is the element of surprise and unconventional in your editorial process?

We work hard on getting title spreads right. This is the most straight forward way to show off the typeface. One element to consider is the copyrighting: Rework can often feel quite playful, so we’ve ensured that the titling and pull quotes (as well as layout, typesetting, etc.) reflect this. For future type releases, the copyrighting will also be considered to match the tone of the typeface.

Which magazines and platforms have inspired Sociotype?

MacGuffin’s mono-thematic approach showed us how much fun you can have when you restrict yourself with one concept, yet challenge yourself with diversity of content. Matt Willey’s work for INQUE magazine is also an incredible execution in layout and use of negative space.

Can you share any insights into your next issue and where it is at?

Sure. Our next issue will exclusively be typeset in Onsite – our most recent release. Originally designed as our own in-house grotesk, this issue will loosely be themed around ‘the home’. Previous type releases featured optical size sub families, whereas Onsite’s subfamilies are comprised of three widths: So a different challenge (particularly when it comes to typesetting body copy). We’re a few months off being ready for print still, but it’s well on the way.

As opposed to many new type foundries who are aggressively seeking new forms, your catalogue tends to very classically designed. Do you have a philosophy of type design? What do you look for in a new retail design?

I agree that Rework & Gestura both express themselves classically, but as final products they meet modern demands: and this is the ethos of the foundry. With every release, we never want the designer to feel like something is lacking. Each family has sufficient weights, appropriate sub-families, and the right glyph set and opentype features for the demands of the modern designer. Primarily, we work hard to test our works-in-progress basic character sets, to ensure they perform before we expand.

Creating the Journal is obviously a lavish way to promote a brand new-type foundry. Were there other motivations behind it too?

It certainly is. We’ve already mentioned our motivation creatively, and another aspect we enjoy is print and packaging. In the first two issues, we’ve included spot colours; metallic / fluoro inks (even within the imagery) and raised foils. We’ve also designed a bespoke mailer for each, as an incentive to order from us direct. After now having two issues in print, motivation has also manifest in what we’ve already achieved: international stockists globally. Nothing is more exciting than seeing our Journal’s in independent stockists as local as Hackney and Soho, but as far as China, USA and Australia.

Sociotype emerged from the creative studio Socio. Can you tell us about it and some of its current projects/clients?

We’ve been working on a large fully bespoke typeface for a client for the past year, soon to be announced. The benefit of Sociotype’s team working with Socio is that we’ve been able to develop the typeface amongst design work for the client – just like with our commercial releases: real-world contexts being developed simultaneously with the typeface has ensured the type works at appropriate scales, and tonally feels right. Inversely, characteristics of the typeface have also informed approaches taken to the typesetting.

Issue #1 & #2, £25 (limited edition of 1500)


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