Type-sensitive location cards in Quantum of Solace
A little over a month ago I received an e-mail from fellow Typophile Robert Farrelly. He alerted me to the fact that the new James Bond movie Quantum of Solace had some interesting typography – specifically the location cards that designated where the action was taking place. The choice of typography was adapted to the geographical location. When asking MK12 about those pieces, they told me they had been created by the British art collective Tomato. Read more on the opening titles created by MK12 for Quantum of Solace on The FontFeed.
I had already noticed the movie logo uses Neutraface with a customised Q. Christian Schwartz’s geometric sans is an interpretation and extrapolation of the signage found on architect Richard Neutra’s buildings. It comes in two versions: the original with the Art Deco inspired low crossbar and the more conventional Neutraface No. 2. Now the problem with discussing movies while they are still playing in theatres is that usually there is not much quality imagery to be found online, mostly due to copyright issues and so on. Finally the location cards surfaced on Flickr and on the Tomato website.
Tomato’s cover art for Dubnobasswithmyheadman, the seminal album by Underworld which converted me to house and techno. Tomato is a collective of artists, designers, musicians and writers which was founded in 1991. I first became aware of them through their breathtaking visuals for one of their most visible projects: Underworld, the successful musical collaboration of Rick Smith and Karl Hyde. Each one of the creatives involved in Tomato is essentially independent, choosing to work and collaborate with the wider group whenever appropriate. Currently there are eight active members in the collective but many others have played important roles during the ongoing development of Tomato.
For the past seventeen years Tomato has recorded successes with hosting workshops, publishing, exhibiting, live performances and public speaking as well as working with clients in the areas of advertising, architecture, fashion, public installations, music, tv & film and graphic design. As I mentioned above one of their recent film projects were the location cards for Quantum of Solace.
The location card for Bregenz, Austria features one of the original designs for Futura by Paul Renner. As you can see below the initial drawings for the Bauhaus typeface were far more experimental in their exploration of geometrical forms, and the Futura we all know is in fact “watered down” on a conceptual level.
The location card for La Paz, Bolivia looks like genuine commercial lettering found on walls and shop fronts in Latin America. The slightly irregular shapes lend the otherwise neutral grotesque a certain humanity and warmth. Enric Jardí’s Wilma with its myriads of variations includes some shaded styles which come really close. Vintage Gothic and P22 Bayer Shadow are similarly vintage looking; even more irregular are FF Bokka Shadow and Emigre’s Blockhead.
The location card for Port Au Prince, Haiti – the only one not created by Tomato – is the work of MK12, who are responsible for the opening titles sequence of Quantum of Solace. The rough painted letters immediately reminded me of Mogadishu, Cornel Windlin’s submission for FUSE 7. It isn’t available anymore, but Dirty FacesFF Innercity Brixton & Camberwell share the same derelict, broken down atmosphere.
The location card for Kazach, Russia uses a square constructivist stencil face. Constructivism is the preferred style most designers fall back uon when they need to express Russian style. Not very original but it works.
The location card for Siena, Italy features tasteful serif caps, specifically Caslon No. 540 Italic with an initial swash S. This choice is a bit bizarre as Caslon is a typically British face. Bodoni would have been more appropriate, and there are a number of digitisations that feature similar swash caps.
Finally the location card for Talamone, Italy has a geometric sans which is not unlike Dino dos Santos’s wonderful Art Deco-ish Estilo, the main difference being the rounded stroke endings.
All in all I quite like what Tomato did with the location cards. Instead or relying on one unified typographic style for the whole movie, they tried to match geographical location and mood. This adds some variation, and nicely enhances the cinematographic experience.