The Broadcast, a digital magazine that covers culture, music and science, was launched with an identity inspired by the print media of the 1970s.
It was put together by a creative team led by Daniel Kent at Pioneer Works (PW), an interdisciplinary non-profit organization in Brooklyn, New York, in collaboration with designer Andrew LeClair, also based in Brooklyn.
PW “encourages radical thinking across disciplines,” says the organization, providing a workspace for practitioners and a platform for discussion. The Broadcast is an “eclectic extension” of his work.
Kent and LeClair started the project by examining how PW works. “The organization is created to encourage a lot of different people to come through the door,” they say, which includes artists, scientists and students.
“A visual patchwork of distinct character styles”
The physical building is also a space where “all of these different people can intersect,” according to Kent and LeClair.
“We wanted to create a digital platform that would take inspiration from the physical ‘thing’ of PW and the experience of being there,” the designers explain. This included the many books, paper samples, printers and binding machines on site.
A visual reference in particular was crucial in getting the project started, according to Kent and LeClair. A book of type specimens from a typographer in Ridgewood, Queens New York, reminded them of the history of Letraset type makers.
“Letraset transformed the look of DIY publishing by making stylized title fonts accessible to the average person as a more expressive and affordable alternative to commercial typesetting,” the team explains.
This has been reflected in recent years by “the increasing accessibility of type design,” they add.
“A visual patchwork of distinct character styles struck us as an apt metaphor for PW as an institution,” Kent and LeClair state.
The magazine was organized into a system of over 50 fonts spread across its four disciplines; arts, music, science and technology. The designers believe the system is the first of its kind for an online multimedia platform.
“A kaleidoscope of reference points”
The first challenge was to license all fonts from individual designers and foundries, according to the designers. The second was to create a cohesive and flexible identity for the system.
“It was important to us that the font selection was focused and based on consistent rules, while being flexible as The Broadcast grows and changes over time,” they add.
Working with a custom tool that allows for font adjustments – developed by Nimrod Barshad and Tyler Yin – the team then assigned fonts to a particular series or discipline. When an article is published, it chooses the “appropriate font as defined by its content,” say Kent and LeClair.
“Our goal is that through repeated exposure, readers develop a sort of latent understanding of this system, which gives a specific texture to the reading experience,” they add.
Fonts come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some come from independent foundries, while others appeared as early as the turn of the century, according to the designers.
The research phase revealed surprising trends within typography. For example, the Cooper typeface that has become “synonymous with the 1970s” was actually created in 1922, Kent and LeClair explain.
“Most of the more iconic display fonts are cover versions of fonts created much earlier and in a very different context,” they add.
While Kent and LeClair wanted to “draw inspiration from the ethics and spirit of DIY publishing” seen in zines and independent publications, they were careful not to “lean too heavily on the pitfalls. visuals of the print ”.
They say, “By creating a kaleidoscope set of reference points that mixes both contemporary revivals and older scans, our hope is to have created something that looks new, even though it carries many associations with the past.
“Subtle reference to print”
Referring to the DIY publishing and print media world of the ’70s, The Broadcast has an “off-white” color scheme in an attempt to distinguish it from the default white background on web pages, Kent and LeClair add.
On the individual home pages for each discipline, the masthead rotates through the associated typeface. A selection of lighter backgrounds was also chosen to differentiate the magazine from PW’s main website, according to the designers.
Other details such as the rounded corners and the typography of the serif body were also used to reinforce this distinction. An index menu also allows readers to search all editorial content using different filters.
On the magazine’s marquee, the local time, weather, latitude and longitude based on the location of the PW building in Red Hook, Brooklyn is listed.
When readers are in a hover state – pausing on an interactive page – the “ink” begins to bleed as a “subtle reference to printing,” say Kent and LeClair.
The magazine’s first issue opens with a contribution by neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris (with illustrations animated by Annapurna Kumar) and a conversation with Dr Carl Hart on adult drug use.
You can read more about The Broadcast on the PW website.