In 2008 I saw that letter for the first time in a music documentary entitled One More Song: Hooligan Disco. Made by French filmmaker Jean-Baptiste de Laubier – also known as an electronic music producer: Para One – the film focuses on the US tour of Surkin, Curses! and Para One himself.
Gotham Black is used throughout the movie because it makes the chapter titles huge, bold and in your face. They are as unapologetic as are three producers are on their US tour. It blew my mind!
From that point on, I did my best to hunt down that font until I got its name. Gotham. A font named after the imaginary city of Batman was amazing to me. Actually, it still is! This is why knowing its name filled me with great joy! I needed that font!
However, as a student, I couldn’t spare – nor justify – hundreds of dollars on a font family. Thankfully I managed to acquire it through a friend’s friend who bought it for a specific project.
I remember cycling back to my tiny studio apartment with the font on my hard drive. While my computer was booting up, I cooked myself some tortellini pasta. Once booted, I plugged in my hard drive and installed the whole Gotham family. That didn’t take long and soon after I found myself sitting in front of my computer with a bowl of tortellini pasta covered in pesto sauce, grated cheese and black pepper.
While enjoying my not so healthy meal, I was designing with my new favourite font. I was careful enough not to spill any sauce onto my keyboard while typing the words Gotham and City in Gotham Black. After numerous tests, I reworked the kerning – space in between letters – and found what I was looking for. I finished eating my pasta while staring at my screen. I was mesmerized and amazed by what I had just learned: fonts are made to be messed with!
I remember one of my teachers saying that you are not supposed to alter a font. He would compare fonts to chef-cooked meals and say that you wouldn’t alter the taste of it. Unfortunately for him, I love my food spicy and will always alter the taste. Of course, I would always have a few bites straight from the chef’s mind. However, I often end up adding some heat to the dish. I do that not out of disrespect, but rather because I am curious and want to enjoy the food the way I would.
The same goes for typography. I play with fonts because I can and because I want them to fit my personality. Meg Lewis and Aaron Draplin are both bosses at it and pushing us to try it ourselves. It builds character and doesn’t hurt! So stop being afraid and have fun! Even if the result isn’t mind-blowing. At least you would have enjoyed yourself and life is all about enjoying! I digress. Let’s get back to Gotham Black.
Ever since that night after school I got even more obsessed with Gotham and have been using it in a lot of school projects. Unfortunately, I’ve lost most of them and haven’t used Gotham since 2011. As much as I love it, I still can’t justify its price and won’t use it in any commercial work as I do not own a legitimate license. But as I said, the most important thing is to have fun and experiment. That is the best way to learn and improve your work. That is the lesson I have learned that night. To have fun with fonts and have fun in general.