David Berlow on the Making of California
The following article was written for FontShop by David Berlow, founder of Font Bureau.
California magazine hired Roger Black to propose a redesign in 1987. The technology of the publishing industry at the time was proprietary hardware and software, and was not particularly open to typographic innovation as we know it today. But with the recent arrival of the PostScript PDL and Mac-to-Typesetter output, Black believed that custom fonts were possible within the time constraints of the redesign. He convinced the client that a unique look and feel, partially achieved through typography, would be a valuable addition to the redesign. Black felt that Frederic Goudy's Californian and the bold Clarendons of the Nebiolo foundry, heretofore unavailable as digital fonts, would give the magazine that California ambiance with style and "punch." He found that Carol Twombly of Adobe had experimentally digitized portions of Californian. But Adobe was busy with the development of other faces so Black received Adobe's permission to continue development of Californian on his own. Meanwhile, the client agreed on the revival of Californian, and also to a bold serif that became Belizio, and a "go ahead" was given for design development of custom typefaces.
In consulting California magazine on their redesign, Roger Black engaged me to become responsible for the completion of the Californian family of typefaces. It was agreed to quickly complete the typeface for the exclusive use of the magazine for a two year period after which the Font Bureau, my company, owned the rights to the faces. I noted from Roger's enthusiasm that a faithful revival of the face and conciencious addition of characters and styles was required.
As Goudy proudly never used a straight line in the face, I had to decipher and emulate Goudy's intent to carefully blend non-geometric letter features into a face. I also needed to letterspace according to hot metal specimens of Californian, and complete the roman character set. The seemingly erratic though brilliant italic, and a complimentary Bold Roman, were drawn to the same character set as the roman. Black, I and others soon realized that many text faces, including Californian, seem "clunky" at sizes over 12 or 14 point. So I drew versions of Roman and Italic designed specifically for display use.
To date, the Californian family includes Roman, Italic, Bold, Black, and Expert for text, midrange use, and display. The Display versions were designed over the period 1991–1996 to suit particular client needs, and thus, the Display Italic is regularized and more steeply angled as compared to the Text version. As mentioned above, Californian is also the first Font Bureau family to include an expert set. This Expert font contains old style figures, monetary signs, math symbols, roman small caps and punctuation to match the Roman. The old style figures are suggested for use in text, a practice now common after an absence in the early decades of the digital era.
Header photograph © 2007 Eben Sorkin