The Moderns


Sex Madonna (1992)

I was at a screening for the film Helvetica a while ago and after the movie there was a Q&A with the director and many of the participants in the film. One audience member asked Massimo Vignelli, “If you could be a type face which one would you be?”

Vignelli answered, “Helvetica in the day and Bodoni at night.”

Bodoni was designed by Giambattista Bodoni around 1798. It’s a modern typeface, with flat, unbracketed serifs and an extreme contrast between the thick and thin strokes. Like it’s predecessor Didot, it is removed from the sweeping serifs that mimicked the quill and gestures of the hand. Born out of the Industrial Revolution it would become the standard for fashion and beauty for years to come.

It is precise, crisp, and unflinching.

It is warm, elegant, and sensuous.

The moderns are delicate, but harsh. They’re inhuman but sexy. Bodoni is alluring in it’s contrasts of generous curves and honed edges. It’s the typographic equivalent of a knife blade over the arc of a hip.

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