Nameplate set in Sutro Deluxe and Initials from Parkinson. Your typeface could be next. Learn more.
Ads via The Deck
Commentary

Plazm Hands “Victory” to Nike

John Baichtal on August 14, 2004

Excerpts from a Plazm press release:

In 2002, Nike commissioned Plazm to design an entire alphabet called Victory, a comprehensive and proprietary typographic family to be used exclusively in its own communications, collateral and advertising.


Victory recollects attributes of Avenir, Geometric 706 and Futura, whose origins in the industrial era pervade their flawless geometry. The addition of certain curvaceous details, such as seen in the lower case l and y, suggest a preoccupation with things organic, and echo this generation’s obsession with the body, a perfect evocation of the Nike ethos. “The Nike brand was built around the concept of performance. To inject the concept of victory is a logical next step,” says Pete McCracken, project lead on the development of Victory, and director of Plazm Fonts.

Particular attention was also paid to the uppercase U, featuring the addition of the terminal, and the uppercase N and K. These letterforms were important not only because of the name of the company, but because they offered an opportunity to customize letterforms that are normally unnoticed.

(P.S.: sorry if this is old news, it was news to me)

29 Comments

  1. A pity that the mentioned ‘U’, ‘N’, or ‘K’ aren’t shown.

  2. H.Ullelah says:

    Isn’t Geometric 706 just Bitstream’s rebranding of W.Pischner’s stalwart Neuzeit Grotesk?

  3. marc oxborrow says:

    It seems that the less original the work, the more overblown and pretentious the description.

    “…whose origins in the industrial era pervade their flawless geometry.”

    Huh?

    And how does one “inject the concept of Victory” into a typeface, anyway?

  4. David says:

    And how does one “inject the concept of Victory” into a typeface, anyway?

    Italics. The more italic, the more victorious.

  5. Down10 says:

    Brilliant typeface. Too bad Nike is so uncool right now.

  6. Mark wrote “It seems that the less original the work, the more overblown and pretentious the description.”

    It’s not always the case but I agree, here. It’s particularly nonsense when you describe a face you designed for corporate use, which is hardly personal in terms of concept, but generally follows the client’s requirements.

  7. Don Buie says:

    From what little you can see in the specimen, it doesn’t look like the letterfitting is worked out too well. Plazm seems to fall down most often in that department. Do you see what I’m getting at? I know Hoefler/Frere-Jones or Spiekermann don’t really qualify as punk rock, but their faces look done. Plazm’s often don’t, which wouldn’t be as much of a problem without the self-aggrandizing preamble (and the explicitly corporate function).

  8. Terry says:

    If Nike wanted a face to reflect their corporate ideal, then they should have hired a 3rd world child to work on their fonts.

  9. Stefan Hattenbach says:

    I do like the comment by “Terry”. And regarding the Victoy font, it’s way to lame for my taste… Why does everything have to be “Sort-of-stiff-boring-Helvetica-look-alike” these days? Agencies and designfirms aren’t always as hip as they pretend to be if you ask me! Far too many “safe” middle of the road solutions?

  10. Hrant says:

    Terry, too funny – although you’d be using the term “hire” loosely.

    > Why does everything have to be “Sort-of-stiff-boring-Helvetica-look-alike” these days?

    Because Capitalism is?

    hhp

  11. The face didn’t blow me away either. And the description was overblown to the point of comedy.

  12. Rune Dřli says:

    wow … I’m amazed. Was this really made in 2003? Contemporary? I don’t think so.
    It’s some sort of futura-DIN fusion with wierd looking Interstate a’s. And the letterfitting looks unfinished.

  13. My compliments to Don Buie. He expressed what I would have said very impolitely and arrogantly in a plain, objective and respectful way. I have a lot to learn from him.

    And Terry rocks big time! Until I hear Nike has hired (at least) South African designer Brode Vosloo (or his i-Jusi friends) for design, or Johnny Clegg & Savuka for their advertising music, I will hardly buy a Nike product (considered they seem to have lost almost all their taste in designing shoes). I’m sure there’s black market work and child abuse employment behind many manufacturer’s gilded “identity”, but I stick to my All Star Converse.

    Besides, Don, should I deduce Plazm qualify as punk-rock? They always qualified as simply uninspired to me, but there’s the glad exception of Marcus Burlile, whose typographically “wrong” and beautifully “awkward” faces always lighten up my heart (with the exception of Lilyn).

    But it would not be an annoying thing at all, if all this “emphasis” could be avoided.

  14. Don Buie says:

    I dunno if they’re punk-rock or not, but my taste tends to run toward what a lot of folks might consider square, anyway. I guess I was concerned about coming off as a player-hater, as Plazm’s stuff has never really turned me on, even though I have to respect that what they’ve been able to do for themselves. I live in Portland, and so I’ve gotten to see a pile of it. Acknowledging than H/F-J and Plazm are following different aesthetic agendas, my gripe with Plazm –as in this case — has always been about craftsmanship. Their stuff always seems about two-thirds done to me. But that’s more important to some fellas (say jazz musicians) than to others (punk musicians). The medication helps.

  15. Don, your comment is very interesting:
    “my gripe with Plazm —as in this case — has always been about craftsmanship. Their stuff always seems about two-thirds done to me”.

    I’ve came to a point I like almost any aesthetic venue and effort, assumed it’s well crafted and motivated, and I find you are going to the source of the discussion.

    While, for example, in literature I may appreciate a book but disagree in ideologies, in a typeface the thing is not going to get in the way.
    So, as you said (and Bodoni a few years before you :) ), in type design all lies in accuracy, craftmanship, care, motivation. And in the end experience should give you a lot of growth. Whatever gives a product a definite form.

    Plazm as a “unity” has always seemed to “happen by chance”, and they really seem to care just about getting exposed. I don’t know…

  16. Marc Oxborrow says:

    Hey Claudio, you do know that Nike bought Converse, right? There may be 13-year-old Laotians making Chuck Taylors even as we speak.

  17. John Butler says:

    My shoes are no-mane Merrill knockoffs that cost me $20 at Target. But I have no idea whether the people who made them work in conditions any better than Nike’s workers, and wouldn’t know where to find out. I suspect most any shoes other than $200 Allen Edmonds or Church’s-type dress shoes are made with the same process. And I do own some snazzier shoes too, including some hella cool Fluevogs.

    People seem to rag on Nike based purely on their brand recognition, which ties to their advertising expenditures, which in turn provide jobs to graphic designers. So in effect I may well be doing worse by not buying my no-name Target shoes from a shoe company that provides lots of designer-types with employment. So which is worse? Must I now audit my whole closet?

    My point is that when you sit down and do the math, your decision not to buy Nike may well be canceled out by something else you decide to do with the money you save. And I don’t turn around and spend $180 on planting trees every time I save money by only spending $20 on a pair of shoes, and neither do any of you, I’ll bet. That’s why I think all this Adbusteresque idle sentiment is going to backfire.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to start buying $200 Nikes. The people who do deserve to be relieved of at least that much money–for any number of reasons no matter what your ideology, if any.

    re Victory: hey, the client WANTS a sans just different enough to be distinct and otherwise subservient to the usual Swiss modernist broken record taught as Gospel in every standard graphic design curriculum today. What other choices did they have? Oy.

  18. Hrant says:

    > the client WANTS

    So “the customer is always right”, eh?
    Why do you think little kids are being enslaved?

    hhp

  19. John Butler says:

    Why do you think little kids are being enslaved?

    It must be to keep the serifs down!

  20. jlt says:

    oh that was bad. BAD i tell you.

  21. Dan Reynolds says:

    Oh come on. The customer is always right is just smart business. If you commisioned someone to do something, and then they tried to convince that they should give you something else instead (in pursuit of their own idealogies and not yours), you’d be rather pissed.

    If Nike’s brief to Plazm (who I admitantly know nothing about) said something like: design us a new corporate typeface that looks just like Futura, but isn’t, what sholuld they do? Designing another geometric modern sans serif isn’t immoral… it isn’t like little children in sweatshops were forming those bezier curves. If Plazm had made this font for Nike, I bet that they would have gotten a nearly identical face somewhere else.

    An in this case, I don’t see what would have been wrong with that.

    (Of course I wish that Nike would have agreed to/commisioned something else, better, or newer… but I think that the conversation here is getting about silly… Nike’s labor practices don’t have anything to do with their typographic style)

  22. Dan Reynolds says:

    I’m sorry about my terrible grammar… above I meant to say

    If Plazm hadn’t made this font for Nike, I bet that they would have gotten a nearly identical face somewhere else.

    also

    And in this case, I don’t see what would have been wrong with that.

    (I’ll shut up now…)

  23. To answer Eccentrifugal John (that’s to distinguish him from John Hudson), I paid my All Star Converse about 30 Euros (discounted), and while I may spend a lot to buy a silver-age comic book, I can do the same to send offers which actually reach the poor (since I know HOW and WHERE they will travel).

    At the same time, I tend to avoid Nestlč, but there’s an additional good reason for that: they bought Motta, an historical Italian brand which produced our most famous ice creams and “panettone”, and the Motta products (at least the ice creams) now actually are bad. And I mean bad.

    So, it’s clear we can’t always be so aware to avoid mechanics of now auto-matic corporate greed, but irregular behavior sometimes often helps to off-balance marketing strategies.

    And while I always appreciate Hrant’s raw but life-based humour, I don’t get the (supposedly) dark-humored comment by John: “It must be to keep the serifs down!” What does it mean?

    For Dan: it seems quite clear to me that myself and Don Buie (“Their stuff always seems about two-thirds done to me.”) were criticizing mostly the type quality/craft of Plazm productions.

    I keep being sad to know Converse is Nike’s property now, anyway… :-(

  24. marc oxborrow says:

    Claudio, it’s a play on words — serif vs. serf (a peasant, exploited by greedy, all-powerful landowners).

  25. Thanks, Mark. I guess “serf” relates to the italian word “servo” (servant), which derives from the common verb “servire” (“to serve”) and which, of course, could have positive as well as negative usage. Everyday you improve my English, guys… thank you!

  26. John Butler says:

    Actually the serf/serif pun was unintentional. I was making reference to Hrant’s distaste for modernist design. Which, ironically, I share.

  27. Bringer of Bad News says:

    I don’t know if anyone has said this already (big pardon if so), but Nike owns Converse…You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

  28. I can always walk around barefoot.

  29. Jacques Le Bailly says:

    I can send you a pair of wooden shoes from Holland !

    You can get them in yellow, blue, red or even with cow-pattern.

    ;-)

    —Jacques

Post a Comment

Comments at Typographica are moderated and copyedited, just like a “Letter to the Editor” in a newspaper. Abusive or off-topic comments will not be published. Compliments are appreciated, but will not be published unless they add to the conversation. Thank you!

Recently Commented
Colophon

Typographica is a review of typefaces and type books, with occasional commentary on fonts and typographic design. Edited by Stephen Coles and designed by Chris Hamamoto. Founded in 2002 by Joshua Lurie-Terrell. Relaunched in 2009 by Coles and Hamamoto.

Set in Bureau Grot by Font Bureau, Nocturno Display by Nikola Djurek, Fern (unreleased) by David Jonathan Ross, and JAF Bernini Sans by Tim Ahrens.

Brought to you by this month’s nameplate sponsor, FontShop, MyFonts, FontFont, Wordpress, Fused, and the letter B. Read our editorial policy.

Elsewhere