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Typography of 2001: A Space Odyssey (2014) (typesetinthefuture.com)
189 points by sudobash1 13 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 75 comments

I was flying from LA to Sydney a few years ago and 2001: A Space Odyssey was available on the entertainment system. After a few hours and a couple of glasses of wine I put it on and fell straight asleep. I awoke groggily some time later to this[0] frame from the movie. The next second and a half I experienced pure terror until I realised I wasn't plunging to my death in the middle of the pacific ocean and how the pre-flight safety briefing really sugar coats the reality.

[0]: https://typesetinthefuture.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/2001_...

The subtext to the requirement that only strong and willing passengers sit in the emergency row is not their ability to open the door in the event of an emergency, but to block the aisle and stem the flood of panicking passengers in the rows behind while a staff member opens the door.

Are there people who have managed to watch this movie in one sitting without falling asleep?

Yes. I was captivated the first time I watched it, many years after watching 2010.

However, if I watched it on a plane, I'd probably fall asleep as well - because it would be on a plane and I tend to sleep while I travel :)

As with some other movies, this critically depends on how you watch it. Immersion is key here, so you must watch it on a large screen, in high resolution (and definitely in one sitting).

Typography, to me, is one of those things that’s simultaneously incredibly boring and completely fascinating. On the one hand, it’s something you experience (whether consciously or not) for a large part of your day, and each font you read in your day has been meticulously chosen for all the supposed qualities it gives off. But on the other hand - it’s just a bloody font.

> it’s just a bloody font.

Obligatory http://wondermark.com/650/

I am feeling really dumb for asking: the punchline of the comic is clearly that there is something terribly wrong with the typesetting of the business card, but what is it?

The typeface is Papyrus [1], which is… not exactly adored by people who care about such things.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papyrus_(typeface)

It does seem to stir up some strong emotions.

Years after Avatar's release, there's one thing Steven (Ryan Gosling) just can't get over.


For all the care that went into Avatar, it's amazing how uncaring he was with this and with the music: https://youtu.be/tL5sX8VmvB8

The font on the business card is Papyrus.

...which is a quite distinctive font that has shipped with Mac systems for years, so someone typeface-conscious is very likely to recognise it on sight.

Also the second-most-common typeface for people to complain about.

OK... what's the first?

Must be Comic Sans, surely.

It is not just the font it is how you use it.

Out of the box in PowerPoint or Illustrator, you will struggle to set large characters in print unless you manually change character spacing.

I look at the movie titles and think there are mistakes in the spacing and wonder what kind of machine they used to make it.

All the above software is supposed to have automated ‘Kerninq’ of characters but it does not work well enough.

If serif spacing is tight, the letters link together like cursive or Arabic calligraphy and form a meaningful composition. The default rules, however, avoid serifs crashing into each other at all costs, space letters too far apart, and create meaningless white spaces.

> I look at the movie titles and think there are mistakes in the spacing and wonder what kind of machine they used to make it.

They were probably done by hand, especially given the swapping of characters from different fonts.

I've forgotten the name of the company [flir reminds me in the comment below that it was Letraset], but it was common back then (yes, I'm an old fart, though was a kid when that film came out) to have a transparent sheet with adhesive vinyl (? or some other polymer) letters you could transfer over one by one to your workpiece. If you went into a an art supply house there would be racks of these things sorted by font and then size, down at least to 8 point.

Back in 1968 phototypesetting was not super common. It was probably used for some of the larger blocks (like the toilet instructions) although just as likely to have been done with hot lead which survived almost to the end of the 1970s.

It's hard to remember now (this mostly predated my working time since I started with laser printing in the 70s) but medium and large companies often had a lot of paper and data management departments with things like typing pools (completely retyping documents in order to incorporate edits was the state of the art) and print shops (photocopiers were expensive and uncommon into the 70s)

Somewhere in the late 1980s to early 1990s, business culture changed to expect everyone to be able to type and use a computer for that.

The last time I worked for a company where the upper management couldn't type, it was 1996. They all had computers, but the CEO had all email printed out and put in a physical in-tray on his desk; he would scribble comments in red ink or, if the reply was extensive, dictate into a tape recorder for his secretary to type back into an email.

Back in the 80s it was pretty "obvious" that computers wouldn't be used by execs because none of them would type.

I remember in 1982 as a favor for a secretary I wrote a little script that printed out the CEO's email. Before that he would have her type it on letterhead; he would read it and dictate the response. Just being able to print it out in a way he would read (suppress most of the headers, put the date on the right hand edge, etc) saved her an enormous amount of time and effort.


Yes, that was it! Thanks so much.

That business card should have been in comic sans.

Heh, first time I’ve seen this. I’m of the opinion that as long as you’re not using something wildly out of place like papyrus or comic sans in a professional setting, it’s not hugely impactful what font you choose. You can spend hours comparing the subtle differences between helvetica and ariel but does it really make a difference?

Also unrelated but the shocked dude in the last pane looks way too much like Elon Musk for my liking.

When someone leaves their computer unlocked in my presence, I don't give them new wallpaper. Okay sometimes I still do, but mostly I've moved beyond that.

I change their Outlook signature to Comic Sans.

Someday I will get my comeuppance.

> Someday I will get my comeuppance.

May they throw the CFAA at you, villain.

I think fonts can make a difference where readability or accessibility is important. One example of a bad font choice in the UK is on the signs placed on roads after fatal accidents which ask witnesses to provide information. The contact number is written in a font that looks like a seven-segment display and that is virtually unreadable when you are driving past. The designer must have thought it looked good but it is unreadable.

(Elon Musk lol)

Just a bloody font, the choice of which can greatly enhance your experience (or detract from it).

I would recommend https://practicaltypography.com/

EDIT: mind you, typography is much more than 'just fonts'.

I've started reading it. I'll finish it.

But it's subjectively the worst font (or layout, or kerning, or aliasing, or something - I'm extremely not an expert:) I've seen since... mid-90's? I don't know HOW they made it look that bad; I checked if they were accidentally-enlarged images, but nope.

In addition to letters looking (subjectively) bad, it also looks strange. Kernings looks slightly off, and the "Small but necessary interruption" feels like it has another 3 fonts in there. Perhaps They're just lighter or narrow variations (again, not an expert), and then the user-added ALL CAPS with different spacing yet... it feels I'm reading 19th century print. Which is quaint, might be precisely what author is looking for (I once spent an hour trying to get letters on a CD look JUST the right amount of offset and wobbly :P ), but feels a bit... old school.


Yeah it's strange, the content is about typography, but something about it is really hard to look at, at least on Mozilla Firefox. On some pages e.g. the typography-in-ten-minutes page it looks like the first paragraph is slightly, but not obviously, larger than the subsequent paragraphs.

Everything seems stretched vertically, and the stuff in all-caps is borderline A E S T H E T I C with the horizontal spacing.

It's not ALL CAPS but sᴍᴀʟʟ ᴄᴀᴘs[0]. The author uses them as links, perhaps to illustrate this very difference. See also 14, 15 from "Summary of key rules"[1].

Sorry for the nitpick, but at the end that's actually what 90% of typography is all about, tiny details.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_caps

[1]: https://practicaltypography.com/summary-of-key-rules.html

Interesting, it does look different on Firefox (vs Chrome-based browsers).

No problems with kerning on my device, that I can see.

The fonts used, just like in books, each have their purpose - https://practicaltypography.com/how-to-use.html

Also, you can change the body text font by clicking the font name at the bottom.

I've tried it on iPhone and chrome and looks ok.

Firefox in 27" still looks significantly off

Any suggestions on good reading to learn?

The sheer breadth of typography experimentation in latin alphbet is also astounding. Also personal impressed by how much Japanese typographers managed to keep up with trends and culture. Not many scripts out there with good steam / cyberpunk options. Chinese pretty close. Korean seems to be lagging despite hangul being alphabet. Arabic + Hindi... very disappointing (though default beautiful). But that's just cursory exploration.

A designer friend explained it to me with this image: https://i.redd.it/38jjcgaqu1g11.jpg

Yes, the font you use to communicate with others matters. It's like the tone of your voice and your body language in a personal conversation.

Being trained in typography is like a curse. You will suddenly see all the mistakes and amateurish design decisions everywhere, and you will hate them.

On the other hand you can create something that looks good in 5 minutes.

Would you be able to recommend resources on learning towards becoming somewhat trained in typography? Beyond blogs and coursera courses, where might one start?

Typography is one of those ancient skills that's so well covered you can't go wrong anywhere you start. The only problem would be if you needed a class room environment or a one on one instruction. If you're a self starter then (as cliche as it sounds) launch off the wikipedia page : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typography

There'll be tons of instructional websites too. This is a 600 year old art that hasn't fundamentally changed its terminology. Anything on the nerdy to practical spectrum of knowledge is out there for you to grasp.

Grid Systems in Graphic Design: A Visual Communication Manual for Graphic Designers, Typographers and Three Dimensional Designers


Josef Müller-Brockmann


This is a good one and has been discussed on HN before: https://practicaltypography.com/

Keep an eye on what AIGA features, beware of, mhm, "opinions", but it's a good source, if it's not your only source.


And a good website for jumping in is Design Observer.


The Elements Of Typographic Style, Robert Bringhurst. Just enough to be dangerous, and a great read to boot.

It's a beautiful book just to have around to flip through! I have to admit I only bought it to look at and not read through.

This is more than just enough to be dangerous, this is more or less the bible of using typography and typesetting, but not type design.

If OP is still reading, this comment is correct. The book I recommended is great, but doesn't fit your needs.

Look at open source fonts, study how they are created, and which components are frequently updated, and create one of your own. It's much harder than it seems. But definitely do-able.

I learned it from an typographer who himself still learned how to craft typefaces by hand, so there is not much in current material I can recommend.

Typesetting is related and has a similar effect. Being able to spot every document authored in Microsoft Word and its, frankly, ugly decisions is not that fun.

Relevant xkcd: https://xkcd.com/1015/

That's true of any field though.

Sort of like doing your own drywall.

John Carpenter apparently also liked that Albertus font used here in the "Dawn of Man" title card.

It shows up in opening credits for Escape from New York, The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, Prince of Darkness, and They Live.

Also Christine, Starman, and Escape From L.A. https://fontsinuse.com/uses/19085/directed-by-john-carpenter

Wow. This is the answer to a prayer I didn't even realize I had. I have been in love with those 50s/60s-era computer-industry fonts for the longest time but never thought I'd know the names of these gems. Eurostile Bold Extended, I'm in heaven.

To this day, HAL 9000 "Logic Memory Center" room is one of my favorite scenes from cinema, not only because being one of the more tense parts of the movie but the art direction.

It's amazing how modern and cleans looks even today, and the execution of graphic/industrial design (including typography) it's still one of the best out there.

I mean, I would love a NAS where you eject a caddy with a front glass glowing ID. Would be more expensive, but HDD industry it's full of "pretty hardware" that could be cheaper, but looks cool.

The author has a series of these by the way, including a rather wonderful one on Moon: https://typesetinthefuture.com/2014/02/11/moon/

> UPDATE: Heather, in the comments to this post, has correctly identified this font as Manifold from the DSG IBM Selectric Type Element Catalog. Thank you Heather – a fantastic spot!

I don't think its quite the same. Atleast the character for ZERO (0) used in the movie seems to be egg-shaped unlike Manifold typeface.

It’s this very blog post that inspired me to start using Eurostile Bold Extended in my user interfaces.

On a related note, I just could not stand how Witcher 3 chose to use DIN font for the UI. Sure, it's hyper-legible, but detracts from the "medievalesque" setting. There must have been better alternatives to choose from, even if only lightly stylized. Hell, just any humanist font like Optima, Gill Sans would better blend in. Or something similar to Chiaro (admittedly Japanese-first font) used in the Ocarina of Time.

Oh, maybe even go for something resembling "Antykwa Półtawskiego" if we embrace the Polishness of the source material (sure, as-is it'd need legibility adjustments, but it's a text font nonetheless)

Awesome as always, but unfortunately from January 2014, not a new post by Dave Addey.

Seeing as the 4K re-scan/refurbished version of 2001 is now out on disc, it might be worth a re-visit to nail down those inconclusive typefaces?

2001 is in it's own class. Nothing compares to it. It set a standard in futurism that is very hard to match.

Needs a (2014)

2OO1 not 2001


more recent discussion / popular one a year ago about Star Trek The Motion Picture:


reminder: you can enjoy the content/link without upvoting it.

yes, but when you really enjoyed it, why not upvote it when you come back?

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