An independent archive of typography.
to participate.




Charlie Rose

One of the strongest talk shows on television finally has a typographic identity that carries as much weight.

Contributed by Stephen Coles on Apr 13th, 2016. Artwork published in .
    Source: License: All Rights Reserved.

    I don’t find him as effective an interviewer as Terry Gross, but talk show host Charlie Rose has been duly recognized as one of the only people to conduct in-depth, honest conversations on TV. The identity for his PBS series has always been underwhelming, not representative of the unique show that it is. In a 1998 interview (start at 35:00), the great Tibor Kalman offered to redesign the opening titles for Rose, but that work never materialized. To me, this powerful new look by Pentagram is the next best thing.

    “The new identity reflects the iconic and simple stage that Charlie Rose has used since the show started in 1991. Guests sit at a wood, circle table across from Charlie, all set against a stark black background. For the new identity, we digitized Schmalfette [Walter Haettenschweiler, 1954], which subtly references the typography of print journalism, especially as the show strengthens its digital presence. The logo functions as part of a larger toolkit, which includes various squares and circles that abstractly reference the two shapes on the stage, as well as quotation marks that can emphasize the in-depth interviewing and conversation.” — Jessica Svendsen

    A new title sequence associated with the identity has yet to air, but the overall look lends itself to animated type, perhaps channeling the titles from a 1967 series, The 21st Century.

    The job was done under the direction of Michael Bierut at Pentagram, just before Svendsen left New York for San Francisco and a job with Apple. It wraps up two years of typographically-rich collaboration between the two designers. Fittingly, Svendsen describes it as her “favorite project yet”.

    Source: License: All Rights Reserved.

    A graphic demonstrating the square, modular elements that make up the identity.

    Source: License: All Rights Reserved.

    “Schmalfettee” is Jeremy Mickel’s revival of Haettenschweiler’s Schmalfette Grotesk, a design that was originally published as a simple alphabet in Lettera, Vol. 1, 1954. In the 1950s–80s, designers often used the Lettera series as type sourcebooks, photostatting the showings for display lettering. This interpretation of Schmalfette (one of many) simplifies some of the shapes, most notably the curved leg of the original ‘R’.

    Source: License: All Rights Reserved.

    Schmalfettee is supported by very heavy weights of Balto. This kind of Schmalfette / American Gothic combo has worked well before: see the 1969 jacket for 13 Days.

    Source: License: All Rights Reserved.
    Source: License: All Rights Reserved.
    Source: License: All Rights Reserved.
    Source: License: All Rights Reserved.

    An early proposal for lower third titles. The final on-air graphics have yet to launch.

    Source: License: All Rights Reserved.

    An early proposal for closing credits. The final on-air graphics have yet to launch.

    Source: License: All Rights Reserved.

    The new Charlie Rose website, developed by AREA 17, is a clean and nimble archive of the show’s 25 years.

    Source: License: All Rights Reserved.

    The type retains the tight-not-touching spacing commonly associated with mid-century modern headlines. It works when the setting is large, which is most of the time, but when is seen on a phone, a smaller Schmalfettee has stright-sided pairs (e.g. OH, UL, IN) that do touch, which begs for a little tracking.

    Source: License: All Rights Reserved.

    Social media graphics. All the parts in the kit fit nicely in a square.

    Source: License: All Rights Reserved.

    A very effective banner ad as it appears on The New York Times website.

    Source: License: All Rights Reserved.
    Source: License: All Rights Reserved.

    3 Comments on “Charlie Rose

    1. Blythwood says:
      Apr 13th, 2016  11:28 pm

      I wonder if this style isn’t about to start making a comeback – did it get killed off by Impact and Haettenschweiler being default fonts in Office? I saw 10 Cloverfield Lane a few weeks back and it had this or Compacta or something like it as the font in the opening credits. (I can’t find any pictures online – it’s not what they used in the posters.)

    2. Cave Grove says:
      Apr 14th, 2016  3:44 am

      Beautiful update for Charlie Rose!

      Just realized that Swiss Interlock is based on Schmalfette Grotesk.

    3. Luke Dorny says:
      Apr 18th, 2016  7:11 pm

      This was an awesome post, Stephen. Thanks for sharing.

    Post a comment