2017 Typeface Design & TDC63 Competition Judges Choices

Every year, the eleven TDC competition judges choose their favorites from all the entries. These standouts will be highlighted in the Type Directors Club annual, The World’s Best Typography – Typography 38, which will be published later this year.

As a preview, here are the top choices from the 2017 Typeface Design and TDC63 competitions. Look for this work when you see the 2017 exhibition on its 2017-2018 international tour.



Judge’s Choice: Salvaje

Salvaje is a compelling typeface. What I like most about it is how it explores the boundaries of contrast (the relationship of thick vs. thin) and how this contrast works with its different styles as a family.

Salvaje was inspired by the “Birds of Paradise,” and its display styles use an unconventional letterform model to support its exuberant details. Its display styles are reverse-contrast, which means that the thicks and thins of its letterforms are switched— opposite to what you’d find in a traditional typeface. The way Salvaje pairs this model with swooping terminals and serifs is a skillful execution of concept and form. The display’s italics takes this model a step further by literally twisting its weight around itself, pushing it into new, unexpected territory.

As striking as Salvaje’s display styles are, what impressed me most about this typeface is its range as a family. Its display and
 text occupy opposite ends of a spectrum but maintain a consistent relationship to one another. In many typefaces, text styles can be easily overshadowed by their display counterparts, but in this case I find both to have an equal amount of character and charm.

Opposite to the display, Salvaje’s text styles have more of a conventional contrast. Despite this difference, Salvaje’s text and display still feel related, with its text referencing just the right amount of its display’s expressiveness. The text is interesting not so much 
in its individual details but more in its overall texture; nuanced, consistent in color, and distinct without being distracting to read.

Technical details aside, Salvaje is just a beautiful typeface. It shows what Peter Verheul, a former teacher of mine, would call “a love of form.” I could tell there was a lot of sketching, iteration, and tests. There are no wasted gestures but also no missed opportunities—an overall solid typeface from a practiced hand.

  • Design: Cristian Vargas
  • Foundry: Typozon
  • Client: TypeMedia project, Royal Academy of Art, The Hague
  • Members of the Typeface Family/System: Salvaje Display No. 1, Salvaje Display No. 2, Salvaje Text, and Salvaje Text Italic


Judge’s Choice: Nordvest

At the end of Pixar’s movie The Incredibles there’s a short called Boundin’ by Bud Luckey. While the lead actor is a naked, high-steppin’ lamb, the true stars are the banjo-plucking team of Bud Luckey
 and his animators. Bud and his team steal the show from the highly polished Incredibles -— not for the short’s storyline, characters, or cinematography, but for its pure simplicity…the evident love of their craft and the fresh, unbounded joy of what the team was making.

Nordvest stood out among a field of exacting and finely tuned Sans and Serif specimen sheets by figuratively bounding off the table, singing, and dancing with its shy and honest pluck. In a time of digital pretension, Nordvest is modest, unassuming,
and authentic. To this judge, it’s imperfect perfection and humor set it apart from a field of worthy competitors. In Nordvest’s roman form, one can see a hint of the Playbill tactile wood type of western newsprint and the comedic genius of Mr. Magoo. In the italic form, Nordvest has an Eastern European ’50s influence. And perhaps therein lies its appeal.

Nordest harkens back to an earlier era that is more “man” than machine and more wood than metal. Its creative roots lie in its soul, melody, and rhythm. From the serendipity and appreciation of its accidental flaws to its blue-collar mass appeal, Nordvest steps high but doesn’t take itself too seriously.

  • Design: Nina Stössinger, Brooklyn
  • Foundry: Monokrom Type Foundry, Oslo
  • Members of the Typeface Family/System: Nordvest Regular, Nordvest Regular Italic, Nordvest Medium, Nordvest Medium Italic, Nordvest Bold, Nordvest Bold Italic, Nordvest Black, Nordvest Black Italic


Judge’s Choice: Lingering Fonts

If life is divided into a binary of elements that are hard vs. soft, most everything in my quotidian experience fits in the former: all sounds, East Coast nature, West Coast nature, logic, architecture, and every typeface I’ve ever drawn. Weimin’s glyphs end up as a balance on the other side, amidst tactile visceral pleasure—a realm of soft nostalgia, melty Mickey t-shirts, skin, fur, gallium, and modeled virtual reality.

The design judging process is an experience of observing elements fall apart under closer scrutiny. Was the full typeface shown? Did we spot a maladapted kern pair? Does the specimen wording pantomime the banal? Weimin’s constructions, however, refuse to stay within the constraints of established expectation. Instead, the typeface calls for our suspension of disbelief. The glyphs draw us into their reality—seducing toward a pop cultural pinprick of wrangling gesticulation, into a happy place of pure emotion and raw movement.

If you’re intending to purchase, this is not a font that’ll stay limited to the pages or posters it starts out on. Anticipate it to pivot at night, to finger-tut up the walls and across the ceiling of your bedroom, to swell to the size of a gallery before it leaps out its window, only to shrink back down to size and scatter about while giggling wildly.

  • Design: Zhang Weimin, Shenzhen, People’s Republic of China
  • Client: WESUN Culture Communication

ALICE SAVOIE, Lyon, France

Judge’s Choice: Qandus

This collaborative work is an ambitious and lively attempt at developing a typeface family covering three writing systems: Arabic (following the Maghribi calligraphic style), Tifinagh, and Latin. Although these three scripts feature very different structures and rhythm, the designers managed to inject a homogeneous feel to the family, while preserving each script’s speci cities and their respective identities.

The Maghribi style, which has rarely been adapted typographically, beautifully influenced the fluidity of the Latin and Tifinagh letterforms. The design brings out some audacious decisions and striking features, such as very recognizable lowercase letters 
“a” and “y” in the Latin. Whereas existing Tifinagh typefaces usually emphasize the geometric aspect of the script, Qandus proposes
a softer and refreshing alternative, which I am looking forward to seeing in use.

The progression from one weight to another is also remarkable: the text version leans toward a warm yet more restrained and functional design, while the darker weight is flamboyant and immediately recognizable. Achieving all this requires great mastery, and the result is a generous and highly recognizable design that is a pleasure for the eye.



Judge’s Choice: Trump Gold-Plated posters

The judging for this competition took place the weekend after the United States presidential inauguration, the same weekend the nation was dealing with the fallout from the immigration ban that had just been enacted. Because of this context, and because of the thoughtful execution of this poster, it provoked a conversation unlike any other entry in the competition. Additionally, it demonstrated that typography can (and should) extend beyond formal and aesthetic considerations and can very powerfully communicate the spirit of its content, even if that purpose is to agitate and make a political statement.

  • Design: Mark Fox and Angie Wang, San Francisco
  • Design Firm: Design is Play
  • Principal Type: Oblong
  • Concept: Trump 14K Gold-Plated and Trump 24K Gold-Plated are unauthorized presidential campaign posters designed for Donald J. Trump as an exercise in free speech.


Judge’s Choice: VICELAND, TV show motion titles

VICELAND emerged from a high-quality pool of TDC entries because of its anti-establishment, no-holds-barred approach to establishing and communicating a new TV network.

The work is so unique that it made my choice an easy one. It draws inspiration from brand identity approaches used in music, culture, and fashion but doesn’t mimic or imitate any of them. It feels completely new. The black-and-white, single-weight typography gives the design a rebellious, attitudinal feel. It’s got emotion, ironically, using a font that is considered boring. It is bold, dominant, and unforgiving, but never too much.

Though minimal, with an emphasis on white space, the design system is energetic and memorable. The simplicity of the typography, the copywriting, and the interaction of the elements always complement the content. The system moves effortlessly from print to animation.

This would have been so easy to get wrong, but they didn’t. It inspires. I really, really wish I’d done this myself.

  • Design: Caleb Halter and Dylan Mulvaney, New York
  • Art Direction: Dylan Mulvaney
  • EP Head of Production: Dia Chang
  • Executive Creative Director: Greg Hagn
  • Creative Director: Ryan Moore
  • Producers: Haley Klatzkin and Penny Mailander
  • Lead Animator: Ken Tanabe
  • Animators: Daniel Clark, Brandon Kennedy, and Drake Miller
  • Editors: Eli Mavros and Bill Saunders
  • Branding Agency: Gretel, Brooklyn
  • Chief Creative Officer: Eddy Moretti
  • Creative Director: Spike Jonze
  • Art Direction: Annie Rosen
  • Client: VICE
  • Principal Type: Helvetica
  • Concept: VICELAND is a new television network by VICE, the most notorious and innovative youth-media brand in the world with content that is unstyled, unslick, and unadorned


Judge’s Choice: Essenza, identity

I am not going to lie—I love motorcycles, but I love type just a bit more. The moment I saw this ESSENZA identity and all of the elements that were created for this series of events, I knew it was my judge’s pick.

Every component is a distinct and considered mix of typography, information, and moto-culture. From the intentional black-and-white implementation of the identity to the impeccably shot and selected photography, we feel as if we are actually there.

They created three distinct and contrasting typefaces for the identity: Essenza Tuning—a melding of letterform and motorcycle parts; Essenza Asphalt Brush—a hand-painted, playfully appropriate, all-caps brush; and Essenza Speedlines—a multiline face that
the logo is made from with each line representing the number of participants in the race as well as the markup for the starting blocks.

The translation of these elements into the environmental design of the bike exhibition area, the letterpressed business cards, and the visually rich magazine are examples of how an identity should be done: an end-to-end, complete experience that considers every viewer touchpoint. All of this bundled together made me dream of attending an event that so beautifully combines a love for motorcycles and typography, executed to perfection.

This would have been so easy to get wrong, but they didn’t. It inspires. I really, really wish I’d done this myself.

  • Creative Direction: Katrin Oeding, Hamburg
  • Design Studio: Studio Oeding
  • Client: Essenza – The Essence of Motorcycles
  • Principal Type: Essenza Asphalt Brush, Essenza Speedlines, Essenza Tuning, and CA Oskar Condensed
  • Concept: Launched in 2016, the innovative motorcycle sprint series with its own design competition brings international motorcycle manufacturers and sixteen race teams onto the racetrack. The identity project included designing the logo, customized type, business equipment, bookazine, merchandise, exhibition, responsive interface design, and social media communication.

ALE PAUL, Buenos Aires

Judge’s Choice: Arabic Lettering Workshop Series posters

Good typography will often bridge languages; great typography can express and emote without the viewer even being able to understand the letterforms. These posters for the Arabic Lettering Workshop do just that.

Being from Argentina, I speak my native language and English.
I am constantly trying to work on this visual translation between languages in my design and when I create type for the global designer. I love these posters because they communicate a very clear meaning and emotion without the viewer having to know
the language.

The variety of styles and the unique voice of each of the posters in this series are impressive; to accomplish this with one spot color is remarkable. The expressive variety of visuals, clearly unique voice for each workshop, and incredible use of the page while keeping
the series contemporary and modern make this set of posters my judge’s choice.

These posters really do represent the best that typography has to offer.

  • Design: Khajag Apellian, Yara Khoury (Al Mohtaraf), Wael Morcos, and Cristyan Sarkis, a team working from Beirut, Lebanon, New York, and Amsterdam
  • Graphic Design: Lara Balaa
  • Educator: Yara Khoury
  • Concept: The Arabic Lettering Workshop series engages the participants in learning about the expressive potential of the Arabic script and in questioning the relationship between the shape of the word and its meaning. A different subject is introduced every time to keep it thematically focused. Most participants are pleasantly surprised by how much there is to learn about the script.

BEN SCHOTT, New York-London

Judge’s Choice: Salesforce Design Leadership Conference, online motion titles

So much typography on film follows generic formulae: from advertising text and production credits to the now ubiquitous video “explainers.” In contrast, this piece felt genuinely original, crisp, filmic, and atmospheric. Each letter had a distinct personality; each worked with the others; each told the story of disruptive design the piece intended to communicate. The work was given a synesthetic sparkle of excellence by a charming and imaginative soundscape, which, while not strictly typographic, suggests that the future of type on film may learn more from film than type.

  • Art Direction: Shirleen Lavalais, San Francisco
  • Creative Direction: Michael Manning
  • Chief Creative Officer: John Zissimos
  • Executive Creative Director: Jason Luster
  • Director, Executive Producer, Broadcast and Film: Katie Rinki
  • VP, GM Creative and Digital: J.D. Swartz
  • Lead Designer: Mike Mazza
  • Producer: Marc Hochman
  • Business Manager, Salesforce Brand: Taylor Hilficker
  • Design Firm: Salesforce Brand Innovation
  • Design Agency: Bonfire Labs
  • Design and Animaation: Chris Carmichael and Devin Earthman
  • Creative Direction: Phil Spitler
  • Producer: Sheila Smith
  • Editor: Robbie Proctor
  • Sound Design: Conner Jonesk
  • Executive Producer: Mary Mathaisell
  • Client: Salesforce
  • Principal Type: Salesforce Sans and custom
  • Concept: The second annual Salesforce Design Leadership Conference is a daylong forum at the de Young Museum in San Francisco that focuses on design disruption – a day that features talks by a wide range of design innovators. This year’s theme was “World Interrupted: The Remarkable Effects of Disruptive Design.”


Judge’s Choice: NTUST Architecture Annual Design Portfolio, book jacket

Annual Design Portfolio is a book designed by Yan-Ting Chen for National Taiwan University of Science and Technology of Architecture in Taiwan. Readers can design their own “Rubber Alphabets” to represent a new idea and concept.

Yan-Ting Chen’s playful book design is very engaging; we all wanted to pick it up and start arranging our own rubber alphabets! The bright and multi-toned elastics are a playful contrast to the stark-black peg and boards. The design is visually dynamic as
well as tactile. It’s a clever and unusual solution for a university of architecture—one assumes that the students are being taught creative exploration and design thinking and are immersed in a world of possibility and discovery. A hefty, sculptural cover with minimal printing seems all the more appropriate for a readership dedicated to the technology of building and the construction of ideas.

  • Design: YanTing Chen, Taiwan
  • Design Studio: YanTing Chen Design
  • Client: NTUST Architecture
  • Principal Type: Original
  • Concept: Readers can design their own Rubber Alphabets to represent new ideas and concepts.

DEB WOOD, Brooklyn

Judge’s Choice: Commotion magazine, communication design

Every page of Commotion is typographically thrilling. It was impossible for me to just casually flip through this magazine. (I did try—I was even prodded to “move on” and judge the next piece!) 
I was compelled to look at every single page. Within each page, there is something new. Whether it be a bold, illustrated text, a slightly vibrating pattern, or an adventurous color choice, every detail was completely mesmerizing.

I can only imagine how intimidating it must be for a designer to represent such a rich, visual community like MICA, but this design is anything but timid. Commotion is aptly named for its riot of color and typography that erupts page after page in this refreshingly authentic printed piece. It was impressive to see how different each issue was and how many ways type and image could be displayed. It sounds chaotic, but it’s not. It’s vibrant and energetic, surprising and risky.
It would have been easy to develop a predictable framework and suitable style sheets and call it a day. What Design Army does 
is invite us to get excited about art and design and experience something in an unexpected way. If you don’t know MICA, your curiosity will be piqued. If you are already a part of the MICA family, you will be proud to see them keeping up a legacy of creating something beautiful and sharing inspiring stories.

Commotion confirms what I’ve always suspected—that MICA believes in exceptional typography and communication.

  • Art Direction: Mariela Hsu, Washington, D.C.
  • Senior Designer: Lillian Ling
  • Chief Creative Officer/Creative Director: Pum Lefebure
  • CEO: Jake Lefebure
  • Design Agency: Design Army
  • Client: Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), Baltimore
  • Principal Type: Tiempo Headline, Tomica, Tiempos, and custom
  • Concept: The interactive magazine is designed to connect twenty graduate programs and unite students, alumni, faculty, and prospective students through news, ideas, and art. Featuring visually compelling layouts with bright colors, bold typography, and custom illustration, Commotion takes readers on a creative journey..

All the TDC2017 and TDC63 winners are showcased in upcoming annual, The World’s Best Typography – Typography 38, which is sent TDC members as part of their membership and which will be available for sale on our website in the TDC Shop later this year.