Typeface Review


Reviewed by Eben Sorkin on July 5, 2017

Bungee is an overachiever.

An eye-catching, sturdy, and friendly display face for both horizontal and vertical settings, David Jonathan Ross’ tour de force strikes a balance between familiarity and fresh air. It also explores an unusually large group of type design and typographic variables at once.

I tend to think lists are ugly, but to appreciate Bungee in a manageably concise manner, we probably need one. Here goes!

  • Bungee optimizes the design of fonts for vertical settings in four interlocking styles, and even offers vertical kerning.
  • It includes nine styles for horizontal settings.
  • It’s available as a color font, even though there’s not enough application support for that—yet.
  • Complex multicolor settings are made possible through layering styles.
  • Bungee has backgrounds and frames for settings, too. These can either be continuous shapes with beginning and ending forms or they can go around individual glyphs.
  • It’s even available as automatically generated custom artwork in PDF, SVG, and PNG formats. DJR’s microsite has a tool for setting text and then generating images in these formats. The tool offers preset layers and color themes, but also allows you to choose colors, turn layers on and off, substitute alternative letters, and even use the full range of background shapes.
  • Bungee comes with a JavaScript file (bungee.js) to make the layout and coloring of layered fonts on the web easier. You can explore that tool on GitHub.
  • Special icons like arrows are included.

DJR has made it easy for anyone to learn from Bungee. Not only are the sources downloadable but, even more important, he has candidly laid his design process bare on Bungee’s minisite and on GitHub.

The typeface is also canny in terms of what it doesn’t try to do. There’s no lowercase, for example. There are no weights, no italics. Cleverly, DJR deliberately limited the scope of Bungee to make his exploration practical. This restraint is worth learning from.

When you look at the lettering that inspired Bungee, it becomes clear that this kind of arrangement is hard to design for. And yet DJR manages to finesse these difficulties with design choices that can seem somehow obvious or inevitable, but only in hindsight. This is masterful stuff.

Eben Sorkin is a type designer living in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. He designs fonts for Darden Studio, URW++, Google and his own foundry Sorkin Type. Eben is a member of the ATypI board.

One Comment

  1. In a multifaceted project, it can be easy for features to get lost in the shuffle. So thank you Eben for this kind and thorough review, and for listing features like the custom typesetter and background shapes in addition to the verticality and color.

    I just wanted to add that both the custom typesetter and bungee.js were the work of Chris Lewis, who collaborated with Nick Sherman and me on the Bungee minisite.

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