We Moderns still crave decoration, but have lost touch with its practical tradition. Our ability to integrate it into letter forms has waned considerably.
Certainly, we can recreate historical models with great discretion, apply dropshadows, outlines and filter effects, and embellish with swooshes and swashes. However, these are add-ons, not ideas of pattern and motif which inform a type’s basic topology to any great extent.
Naga is one face that addresses the issue. Decorative, but not overly retro, it has some of the attributes of a stencil font, representing an investigation into the way that letter forms may be patterned into discrete components. Here, the major theme of octagonal angles consolidates letter with pattern, operating at two different optical scales.
Ostensibly a type in the art deco genre, Naga nonetheless demonstrates a contemporary vibe in the reductive simplicity of its basic letter shapes and the suggestion of circuit board tracks.
So much for what it looks like and what it means … now how does it work? How can its formal qualities be leveraged in a typographic layout? I had a go in the specimen here, matching the thinness of letter spacing to the width of the type’s inlines, and toning glyph parts independently. One thing I didn’t try was accompanying the type with matching rules, which could be quite effective.
Canadian type designer Nick Shinn, R.G.D. grew up in Barton-le-Clay, England, and now lives in Orangeville, Ontario. He went into the font business full time in 1998 with Shinntype. He has written for magazines such as Eye and Codex, and spoken at the ATypI, TypeCon, TYPO Berlin and TYPO San Francisco conferences.