I received a lengthy response to the original post from Jeff Knowles of Research Studios and it seems only fair to give him the same space I used for the original rant. I even included an image so it looks just like a blog post. Take it away, Jeff –
Thanks for the critique David. As they say, everyone is entitled to their opinion, the font has gone down very well, but nice to see its made a big enough reaction to make someone research and write a piece on it.
As with a lot of design when it gets in the public domain people can only see the tip of the iceberg, and thats all that can be reviewed and commented on, you don’t see the 80/90% of blood sweat and tears and frustration.
First off, the Typeface is called “New Deal” from the economic program started in the depression in 1933. To give a bit of background, Michael Mann, the director, was very involved in the process, he reviewed and commented on everything single thing. Reason for using Neville, Michael Mann is a fan of his work, thats why we also did some of his previous films, Heat and The Insider. We had a few days to come up with ideas, Michael’s first reference was the London Underground font – Johnston, yes we were puzzled too, and I hope this sheds light on the processes we were instantly involved with. We worked on Johnston, and also offered a multitude of other typefaces which were relevant, and yes we even showed Kabel. Michael next informed us, and asked us to research, New Deal and WPA and sent WPA posters he liked, in particular the San Francisco world fair poster (which I think was even after the WPA, its at that point we designed the custom font, seen as he wanted to see stuff that evening, we had 5 hours. Michael liked the font, so we proceeded, next he wanted to see a more compressed version, deadline – one hour to redesign and e-mail new title cards so Michael could view it on screen in the Avid that afternoon. Next day, next change, a lighter version of the new compressed font, deadline – 20mins for redesign and new title cards. From first round of designs to final custom font their were probably 300 options, the director just wanted to see things, not be questioned, reasoned with or convinced of something, he just wanted to see things and make a decision, he had a million things on the film to deal with, the film is his baby not ours, we have to respect the client.
In terms of the posters, and even the new cover for the original book, we didn’t design them, we saw them at the same time as the rest of the public, they just used what ever bits we had sent for the titles, thus we didn’t apply drop shadows or textures, or use Impact or what ever it is, where they didn’t have the New Deal typeface. We would of loved to design all the applications and make a real tight consistent job, but it never works like that. i.e. the UK posters are different to the US ones, and the titles are different again.
If we had been designing a in house personal project for a WPA/New Deal typeface it would of been completely different, but it wasn’t a personal project, it was a client project with tight deadlines, calls at home from my sleep at 3am to get me out of bed to make changes right there and then etc etc, i.e. there are far more variables behinds the scenes to all projects, and the success of outcomes aren’t always whether it looks nice or cool.