A particularly astute observer may have noticed that the new signs identifying campus buildings feature writing in a unique typeface. Named “Yale,” the typeface was created specially for the University by Matthew Carter, a senior critic in graphic design at the School of Art and was made available to the Yale community in January.
Though the University has used certain typefaces in the past, this is the first time one has been specifically developed for its use, and those involved with the design said Yale may be the first college to have its own face.
University Printer John Gambell said the typeface is intended to become associated with Yale and to give the University’s various offices and departments a common graphic tool.
“I see it as being a kind of core element of Yale’s identity,” Gambell said. “It’s a kind of incentive to use good things, and it’s a high quality piece of graphic material.”
In designing the face, Carter said he took inspiration from the first days of Roman type — the late-15th-century Roman type was a fusion of capital letters based on Ancient Roman inscriptions and lowercase letters that were an adaptation of medieval bookhands.
The face actually comprises three distinct faces suited to various uses: Yale Administrative is intended for general use, Yale Design is meant for professionally produced external publications, and Yale Street is used on signs, Gambell said.
So far, the face has been used with success in a variety of projects on campus, said Peter Johnson, head designer at Reprographic & Imaging Services, who said RIS has already used the typeface in bulletins and posters.
“We’re implementing it slowly with lots of good luck,” Johnson said.
Some students applauded the University’s effort to develop a unique graphic identity.
“It’s great that Yale is trying to be different and is trying to stand out,” Alan Kennedy-Shaffer ’06 said.
But many said that though they liked the typeface, they saw no need for the University to invest resources in creating it.
“I think it’s silly,” April Mohr ’04 said. “I am aesthetically in favor of the font; however, I think it’s unnecessary.”
Many students also said they saw no major differences between the Yale typeface and those commonly used like Times New Roman.
“I think it needs more personality,” Elizabeth Foglesong ’07 said. “It looks like every other font I’ve seen.”
But Carter said the typeface is intentionally similar to fonts that have been used by Yale in the past.
“One hopes that people, as they become familiar with this face, will sort of recognize it as the Yale face, but by the same token if it’s going to be really useful, it can’t be a sort of eccentric or really outstanding design,” Carter said. “It’s a general purpose typeface, so that sort of militated against the idea that it should be anything very fancy.”
Johnson said he appreciated the new design because it was unique but not ostentatious.
“I have a great fondness for such classical faces,” Johnson said. “An interesting thing about typefaces as well as graphic design is that to be successful it’s got to become almost invisible. If you make it too different, it will be intimidating.”
Students can find the typeface online at http://www.yale.edu/universityprinter/typeface/. It can be downloaded from the site and used for all Yale-related purposes, including class assignments.
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