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Outdoor Voices website (2021)

Contributed by Florian Hardwig on Nov 3rd, 2021. Artwork published in
circa 2021
.
    Outdoor Voices website (2021) 1
    Source: www.outdoorvoices.com License: All Rights Reserved.

    Outdoor Voices is a clothing company focused on the design and sale of athletic apparel. Founded in 2013 in New York City, it relocated to Austin, Texas in 2016. The current website design combines two typefaces, Merlo by Feliciano Type and the custom OV Gothic.

    Outdoor Voices website (2021) 3
    Source: www.outdoorvoices.com License: All Rights Reserved.

    The former is an oldstyle roman originally designed for book typography. Despite being a solid and charming alternative for this genre, Merlo (2004) remained a best kept secret, maybe because the family is limited to roman and italic styles (with small caps). Based on the types cut by Juan Manuel Merlo in Spain in the late 18th century, it belongs to Mário Feliciano’s series of Iberian historical revivals, see also Rongel (2001), Eudald News (2006), and Geronimo (2010). On the OV website, Merlo’s roman is mainly used for large-sized headings (with tightened letter spacing) and short product titles. It can also be found on the manifesto-like About page, here together with its Italic companion.

    The About page pairs Merlo and OV Gothic in the same line. Unfortunately, this isn’t done with great care: in the heading, the italic “are” almost crashes into “Outdoor”, eliminating the word space. This setting also reveals that the two fonts don’t adhere to a common baseline.
    Source: www.outdoorvoices.com License: All Rights Reserved.

    The About page pairs Merlo and OV Gothic in the same line. Unfortunately, this isn’t done with great care: in the heading, the italic “are” almost crashes into “Outdoor”, eliminating the word space. This setting also reveals that the two fonts don’t adhere to a common baseline.

    The sans serif is a proprietary design, and the result of a typographic telephone game: OV Gothic is Benjamin Critton’s customization of Larissa Kasper’s customization of Futura ND (Neufville Digital, 1998), originally conceived by Paul Renner in the 1920s. In her 2017 article about lifestyle brands for Vox, Eliza Brooke comments on the design’s background:

    OV Gothic is the signature typeface of Outdoor Voices, a laid-back activewear brand that launched in 2013 just as the concept of “athleisure” clothing was gaining momentum. According to Benjamin Critton, the typographer and graphic designer who created OV Gothic, it began as a tongue-in-cheek sendup of another classic American sportswear brand: Nike.

    Nike’s high-impact logo is a bold, italic, condensed, all-caps version of Futura. Critton riffed on Futura’s upright (not-italicized), regular weight over the course of three months, drawing inspiration from designer Larissa Kasper’s earlier experiments with the typeface. Eventually, he reworked it into something that represented the lighthearted approach to exercise that Outdoor Voices endorses.

    “It’s very clean and modern, but it’s a little offbeat. You can sense that there’s some humor in it,” says Outdoor Voices art director Alejandra Ferreyros of OV Gothic. She took over from Critton when, after a year and a half spent designing everything from garment labels and packaging to tote bags and advertising, he left the company to move to LA.

    Futura Medium (Neufville Digital, 1998; top) compared to OV Gothic Medium (customized by Larissa Kasper, 2011; further customized by Benjamin Critton, 2014; bottom). The latter has blunt apexes (A M N V W etc.), more vertically cut terminals (e g r s G J S 1 2 3 5 6 9; also in the two-story a and the tailed forms for j and t), shorter ascenders, and larger dots.
    Source: www.outdoorvoices.com License: All Rights Reserved.

    Futura Medium (Neufville Digital, 1998; top) compared to OV Gothic Medium (customized by Larissa Kasper, 2011; further customized by Benjamin Critton, 2014; bottom). The latter has blunt apexes (A M N V W etc.), more vertically cut terminals (e g r s G J S 1 2 3 5 6 9; also in the two-story a and the tailed forms for j and t), shorter ascenders, and larger dots.

    I can’t say I’m a fan of OV Gothic. While I’m sure it was fun to mess around with idolized Futura – the humor is evident especially in the numerals – the result looks kaput. There are better options that pair geometric construction with blunt or vertically cut terminals and a two-story a, In 2014, these included Azo Sans, Metric, ITC Johnston, and there are a lot more today. These may not have the same deviant appeal, but then again, OV Gothic’s quirks are lost on the viewer when used in sizes as small as on the website.

    Outdoor Voices website (2021) 4
    Source: www.outdoorvoices.com License: All Rights Reserved.
    Outdoor Voices website (2021) 5
    Source: www.outdoorvoices.com License: All Rights Reserved.
    Outdoor Voices website (2021) 7
    Source: www.outdoorvoices.com License: All Rights Reserved.
    Outdoor Voices website (2021) 8
    Source: www.outdoorvoices.com License: All Rights Reserved.
    Outdoor Voices website (2021) 9
    Source: www.outdoorvoices.com License: All Rights Reserved.

    Typefaces

    • Merlo
    • OV Gothic

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    3 Comments on “Outdoor Voices website (2021)”

    1. See also Nirvana and Aperçu Mono in use for the current campaign by Outdoor Voices:

    2. Nice write-up, Florian.

      Too bad that Merlo is set so tightly, and the apostrophe and ligatures are not working here.

    3. Thanks, Sasha.

      Right – Merlo is a great typeface, but it can’t really shine here. In principle, the impulse to tighten the spacing for big sizes is good, but there are limits to this approach, and this is too much. Instead of using a book (text) typeface for display and tinkering with its spacing in CSS, it’s generally better to go with a typeface that offers optical sizes. Variable fonts with OPSZ axis come in handy when file size/count is a concern.

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