1970S, CITY, FUTURA, HELVETICA
December 2, 2014 8:04 AM   Subscribe

Typography in Alien. (Also, Moon and 2001: A Space Odyssey.)
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse (35 comments total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
 
In Space, No One Can, - wait... , is this in Verdana?
posted by Auden at 8:21 AM on December 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'm very glad the article mentions Alien:Isolation's in depth process for making the game feel "authentic" in regards to Alien. Playing that game is a very fantastic immersion into the world of the original movie. Very well done design.
posted by Twain Device at 8:27 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


I feel a great disturbance in The Font.
I find your lack of Kern disturbing.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 8:34 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I always love it when someone does this - and Alien's always been high on my imaginary "wish lists" of comprehensive typographic analysis. Fantastic!
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 8:42 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


After all that Futura-ish beauty, it's a little disappointing to see a follow-up card introduce commercial towing vehicle The Nostromo with some slightly fuzzy Helvetica

After what Futura-ish beauty? The "A L I E N" is Helvetica too.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:45 AM on December 2, 2014


What's up with the weird digression about 200 million vs. 20 million tons vs. tonnes in the middle.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 8:51 AM on December 2, 2014


Having said that, there is one Alien detail listed here that has always bothered/delighted me: That hazard symbol that I can't help but read as CAUTION! PURINA® ALIEN CHOW™. Nice to have someone to blame/hug for that. Fuck/thank you, Ron Cobb!
posted by Sys Rq at 8:54 AM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm not as much of a font geek as Mrs. Example, but I love this site for the closeups of things like the Nostromo's icon system and the self-destruct instructions. I'm a little disappointed that the keyboard for the self-destruct system was so weird, though. I suppose they never expected anyone in the audience to look at it that closely.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 8:55 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


That's the official line, at least.
posted by hat_eater at 8:57 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


yeah, this is another case of filmmakers and production designers never anticipating that soon, certainly soon enough that people would still be interested in their classic movies, viewers would have the ability to do perfect hi-resolution freeze frames and study everything about an image.
posted by Naberius at 8:58 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


thank you so much! My favorite movie, and wow, what a cool link!
posted by agregoli at 9:09 AM on December 2, 2014


Ooh that Sanskrit keyboard is delightful!
posted by odinsdream at 9:10 AM on December 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


Pic from TFA: Semiotic Standard For All Commercial Trans-Stellar Utility Lifter And Heavy Element Transport Spacecraft -- I really want to know what font the text on THAT is in, if it's a font at all and not entirely hand drawn. Inconsistencies make me think it's drawn by hand. sigh

I kind of collect Tekton/Architect/Blueprint/Stylus fonts and that one's sweet.
posted by sidereal at 9:31 AM on December 2, 2014


It's entirely (and obviously, frankly; we're talking 1970s here) hand drawn. Part of being a draftsperson is being able to write like that.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:35 AM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


So who's the Ron Cobb ( or Chris Foss or Syd Mead) of today?
posted by octothorpe at 9:39 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Science fiction and typography? I think I just felt a tingle down there.
posted by PHINC at 9:44 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


This title card from Alien is an example – possibly the Ur Example – of a popular sci-fi trope, the Foreshadowing Inventory. Seven crew, you say? Hmm. Seven. Let’s hope nothing disastrous happens to them, one by one.

Fun fact: the Spanish title for Alien was "Alien: El Octavo Pasajero." We were spoilered before going into the movie theatre.

(I wasn't because I was way too young for the movie in theatres or the first run of the movie on TV, but you get it)
posted by sukeban at 9:46 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also note, in the piece on Moon, he links to the equally awesome blog of Moon's effects guy, Gavin Rothery.
posted by Naberius at 9:49 AM on December 2, 2014


So who's the Ron Cobb ( or Chris Foss or Syd Mead) of today?

Jony Ive

meaty thud

police sirens
posted by sidereal at 9:50 AM on December 2, 2014


Excellent find. Thanks.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:05 AM on December 2, 2014


The Syd Mead of today is still Syd Mead, who did the concept art for Elysium.

I suppose "the art department of the Mass Effect series" is the collective next Syd Mead.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:23 AM on December 2, 2014


Twain Device: "I'm very glad the article mentions Alien:Isolation's in depth process for making the game feel "authentic" in regards to Alien. Playing that game is a very fantastic immersion into the world of the original movie. Very well done design."

The UI and environmental design of Isolation is stunning. We spent a good 50% of our time playing it being absolutely gobsmacked at how faithful a recreation of the feel of Alien it was (and the other 50% being scared shitless of the alien).

best Alien franchise entry since 1979
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:25 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Seconding the recommendation for Alien:Isolation. It is a scary game, though. Don't play it at night in the dark :-)
posted by Pendragon at 11:32 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I love this, especially the graphic of space symbols. If you turn this into a poster, I will hand you my monies.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 12:15 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't think that they used CRT screens for some funky low-tech vibe. I just think in 1979 it didn't occur to them to do otherwise.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:54 PM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


I love this, especially the graphic of space symbols. If you turn this into a poster, I will hand you my monies.

Likewise! I can't stop looking at it.

As stated in the article, the fine folks over at The IconFactory recreated the Semiotic Standard as iOS app icons, and I can't put my finger on it, but I really feel they missed the boat. Really good design has a je ne sais quois about it that's really hard to pin down, you just know it when you see it. Those app icons don't do it. Dunno why.

That hazard symbol that I can't help but read as CAUTION! PURINA® ALIEN CHOW™.

You aren't the only one, it gave me an eye twitch every time.
posted by sidereal at 12:59 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Those app icons don't do it.

Yeah. nice effort, but the person who designed the original icons obviously knew what he was doing and is a professional.

Why make these changes:
The red colour now looks pink.
The Pressure Suit Locker icon has colour in it indicating that there's someone in the suit, which isn't what the icon's about.
The fiberoptics/photonics "F" has sharp edges (which cables don't), and doesn't extend to the edges so it doesn't look like it extends past the edges of the room/area, unlike the original. The original is better-defined (thicker lines).
Exhaust is yellow and not orange, and the yellow and white wash out too easily.
The black background is now grey.

If you're not that clever, don't attempt changes to SOMEONE ELSE'S fine work or else you'll look like a fool.
posted by Zack_Replica at 2:14 PM on December 2, 2014


The Syd Mead of today is still Syd Mead, who did the concept art for Elysium.

Well sure but I was hoping that there were some younger futurist designer/illustrators around but then futurism isn't really what it used to be.
posted by octothorpe at 2:20 PM on December 2, 2014


I was hoping that there were some younger futurist designer/illustrators around

Jayse Hansen has done a bunch of recent sci fi UI.

GMUNK (who started as a Flash guy back in the day) did the UI for Oblivion.
posted by gwint at 2:35 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also:

David Sheldon-Hicks worked on Prometheus.

and maybe the best known is Jorge Almeida (Minority Report, Iron Man 2, Eagle Eye, The Dark Knight Rises, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Star Trek Into Darkness)
posted by gwint at 2:41 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's only one Syd Mead, but Daniel Simon ain't no slouch.

Ash Thorp has done a few things, too.
posted by doctor tough love at 3:08 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Steam badges for Alien: Isolation are in the same semiotic theme. Neato!
posted by Renoroc at 6:22 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can't put my finger on it, but I really feel they missed the boat. Really good design has a je ne sais quois about it that's really hard to pin down, you just know it when you see it. Those app icons don't do it. Dunno why.

Too round, too light, too "proportions, shmoshmortions." (Notice how the red outline of the originals is exactly twice the thickness of the white inlays? That matters!) Plus all the stuff Zack_Replica said.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:52 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Seconding the recommendation for Alien:Isolation. It is a scary game, though. Don't play it at night in the dark :-)

I may have mentioned this before, but one evening when I was about 13, I was over at my dad's girlfriend's house. I think Dad was working late and she was off at some event with her kids, so I was just hanging out, snuggling her cats and reading the novelization of Alien (which I hadn't yet seen).

It had been a while, and it had gotten dark outside. No problem, I could switch on the reading lamp over my high-backed chair. Cozy, you know? Reading in a high-backed chair in a pool of light when it's dark around you.

And then, out of nowhere, one of the cats leaped up onto the table behind me, claws first, making the most godawful unexpected SKITTER-SKITTER-SKITTER-CRASH!!!! noise.

I jumped halfway out of the chair and probably lost 5 years off my lifespan with that one. Thanks, cat.
posted by Lexica at 9:33 PM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


More pushbutton Theosophy: Alien: References to Blavatsky's secret doctrine
posted by larrybob at 12:23 AM on December 3, 2014


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