For those of us who don't live in London there are a handful of cultural Icons that become must-visit destinations as tourists in this remarkable city. The imposing clock tower housing the Bell nicknamed 'Big Ben' in Westminster is one of the instantly familiar and memorable of London landmarks.
FS Benjamin is a new flared serif typeface from London based foundry Fontsmith. The typeface is inspired by the contrasts of London and named after Big Ben. The font was designed by senior type designer Stuart de Rozario with creative direction from Fontsmith founder and creative director Jason Smith.
Big Ben Facts:
The clock tower was designed by Augustus Pugin in a neo-gothic style. When completed in 1859, its clock was the largest and most accurate four-faced striking and chiming clock in the world. The tower stands 96 m tall, and the climb from ground level to the belfry is 334 steps. Its base is square, measuring 12 m on each side. Dials of the clock are 7.0 m in diameter.
Big Ben is the largest of five bells and weighs 13.7 tonnes. It was the largest bell in the United Kingdom for 23 years. The origin of the bell's nickname is open to question; it may be named after Sir Benjamin Hall, who oversaw its installation, or heavyweight boxing champion Benjamin Caunt. Four quarter bells chime at 15, 30 and 45 minutes past the hour and just before Big Ben tolls on the hour.
FS Benjamin Typeface Facts
FS Benjamin is a flared serif typeface consisting of 12 styles ranging from Light, Book, Regular, Medium, SemiBold and Bold with Italics. It has clear, delicate letterforms, punctuated with brutal chiselled angles. With a pure and crafted feel to the forms the typeface has traditional roots but has been designed to work in a contemporary setting. Archetypal proportions in terms of x-height to cap height and ascender to descender ratio, allow the typeface to feel familiar and be legible in all platforms.
A simple brief to challenge convention
Fontsmith approached DixonBaxi to collaborate on the launch campaign with a simple brief. Show the typeface in an unexpected setting. Push the boundaries and show how a traditional design can work in modern applications.
The typeface itself has clear, delicate letterforms, punctuated with brutal chiselled angles. With a pure and crafted feel to the forms the typeface has traditional roots but has been designed to work in a contemporary setting.
DixonBaxi were inspired by Jason Smith’s story behind the font – ‘Much of the typography we see today is so similar. I thought what if we created a typeface with traditional roots but modernised it to sit amongst the punk and noise of the streets of London. Old with new. Business with busyness. This is what London is all about. A huge mix. Everything sitting next to one another in a buzzing busy culture of society and work.’
The Sounds of London
The idea of London – with its contrast and diversity, immersive and visceral energy – as a symphony of noise, unexpected contrasts and vibrant expression inspired the font from its conception. The ‘Sounds of London’ was a concept born out of this idea. Consequently, the name FS Benjamin came from the most iconic sound in London, the great bell on the Houses of Parliament in Westminster ‘Big Ben’.
Limited-Edition Vinyl remixes the Sounds of London
The entire DixonBaxi team took to the streets over several weeks to capture a huge mix of sounds, noises and snippets of conversations at different times of day, from the commute to the weekend in the park and to lesser known parts of London.
In collaboration with Zelig Sound, they produced a unique track that remixes these field recordings into a soundtrack of London which has been pressed into a limited-edition vinyl. Side A features one track that is a fusion of conversation, looped-noise and sound-design to create an immersive soundscape that captures the essence of city life. While Side B is 10 minutes of raw field recordings. These take on a new life when abstracted from their natural environments – challenging perception of the familiar.
The record cover features a close crop of the words ‘Sounds of London’ set in FS Benjamin, while the reverse features co-ordinates of where the sounds were recorded, laid out true to their location on a London map.
A limited run of 100 vinyls were produced. The first 20 sales of FS Benjamin will come with a free copy and the rest will be available to purchase from the Fontsmith Shop.
Typographic expression inspired by sound
Alongside the vinyl is a large-format unbound booklet. The sounds, and overheard snippets were transcribed and expressed typographically to form a unique printed piece to showcase the font. A dramatic range of expressions were created, from quiet to loud, ambient to conversational, testing the font to the limits of legibility while respecting the need to demonstrate its ability to work in a modern way. For one of the posters, DixonBaxi ran the soundtrack through the letterforms themselves, distorting the letters to create unique compositions.
An eclectic colour palette was created to balance tradition and modernity, while the layouts are deliberately unstructured to represent the restlessness of the city. Collaborating closely with Push Print a tactile experience was created from the scale of the format to the choice of the recycled stock and the way it is packaged ready to be sent to creatives across the UK.
The FS Benjamin ‘Sounds of London’ specimen is also available to purchase from the Fontsmith Shop.