Office Of Overview capture ‘Modern Americana’ in their variable reverse contrast typeface Pondo
Encapsulating London-based design agency Office Of Overview’s interpretation of ‘Modern Americanca’ – following a wild weekend in California’s small town backcountry – Pondo is a variable reserve contrast typeface, created in collaboration with type designer Tom Baber, working across the initial sketches and wider concept. Inspired by its namesake and inspiration, Ponderosa, Pondo embodies the studio’s obsession with the reverse contrast type genre and its association with the Wild West. Imbuing ‘the old voice’ of America with a contemporary edge is a feat that the team considers to have been the project’s greatest tribulation.
“The biggest challenge of the design process was the need to balance the old and the new, and the flair and functionality of the typeface,” Creative Director James Sedgwick-Taylor tells us, granting themselves the sizable task of illustrating the concept of ‘Modern Americana.’ “We needed something rooted in the old west, but with a modern kick,” he continues, “and of course, we needed something that was going to be actually useful.” This particular need manifested in Pondo’s variable version, whilst it is also available in three fixed weights. “The variable nature gives each letterform a tighter structure to work within,” Sedgwick-Taylor remarks, “and a place of stability overarching the character set.”
Beyond Pondo’s technical challenges, Office Of Overview also strove to respect the context of its creation. “I think the authenticity that comes with a piece of work based on a real experience and actual culture, is hard to beat,” Sedgwick-Taylor explains, “you can have a lot more fun when what you’re designing is based on something real,” as seen in the tone and energy of Pondo’s design, emitting a playful locality across its condensed forms.
“There are a lot of reverse contrast typography styles around that part of California,” he continues, discussing the direct American Frontier-style paraphernalia that inspired Pondo, notably an old Admiral Console Stereo found in the cabin they stayed in. “The 1’s, 4’s and 7’s were so strange and old, but somehow felt really contemporary,” Sedgwick-Taylor recalls, searching for similar typefaces but to no avail. “The radio ended up being the start of our process into building our own typeface,” he notes, “of course, we only had the numbers for reference,” favouring the 4’s, M’s and W’s as his favourite characters in the Pondo character set. “The idea that we could experience something and respond to it with a piece of work,” Sedgwick-Taylor concludes, “is really cool.”