Tungsten is the result of a long history of flat sided sans serifs, all used on propaganda posters to portray power and industry. At the core, the function of this font is to keep what worked well on 20th century posters, and modernize what didn’t. Tungsten does away with the aggression and the cockiness of the 20th century, and instead depicts a much subtler confidence and timeless respect. It is more versatile, more optimistic, and less dogmatic. The design of my typographical specimen pays homage to its long history, while staying true to its core elements.
Tungsten’s colourful history was a very important starting point for this design. It needed to portray something that had an old, rustic feel, but one that wasn’t outdated. It needed something that gets better with age — like a fine wine, but a little bit less pretentious. I tried to imagine what this font would look like if it were a person, and the first image that came to mind was a sharp looking older man in a clean suit — someone with a George Clooney feel.
2. The Modern Gaspipe
The fact that Tungsten came from a family of fonts known as “The Modern Gaspipe” helped me further conceptualize the details of the design. The font’s resemblance to pipes instantly inspired me to look at industrial era themes — copper, brass, steam pipes, rivet walls, etc.
I quickly began to associate Tungsten with Steampunk, a genre of science fiction that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by industrial steam-powered machinery. It seemed like that perfect balance of old and new that the creators of Tungsten were after.
- Contradicting Design
Trying to create a balance between such a powerful history and modern day subtlety quickly became a challenge. How to portray ruggedness without too much testosterone? How can so many of these grungy metals and gears still be seen as bright and optimistic? The design has to be loud and bold, but it can’t be overwhelming either.
2. Dark and Tacky
Laying out the design for the first time was quite the reality check. The initial Mood Board did not do a good job at creating balance. When all the metallic textures and steampunk elements came together, the page looked cluttered, hyper-masculine, and nostalgic for the industrial. There were not enough modern elements, there wasn’t a sense of timelessness, and the bright and optimistic elements did not tie in well with the rest of the design. It was time to go back to the drawing board.
- Keep the Blacks & Browns
Removing the dark colours created more damage than solutions. A white minimalist design looked too modern — it created a lot of bright empty space that contrasted with all of the other elements of design in the Mood Board. Keeping the black was an excellent way to maintain a rugged and disarming feel and a great way to symbolize power and timelessness without being too overwhelming. In fact, it was still possible to declutter and create a more minimalist design by spacing out the rest of the text and images against a black background.
2. Add the Yellow
Adding yellow to my Mood Board was an excellent way to brighten up the mood while still being cohesive throughout the page. It is also a very confident and bold colour, bringing the design closer to it’s core values.
3. The Essence of a Pipe
The metals weren’t working well with the design and were the primary culprits of clutter and tackiness. It was still important for me to find a way to incorporate the idea of ‘The Modern Gaspipe’ because it plays such an important role in defining Tungsten. This is where the dotted yellow lines were born. Rather than literally adding images of metals and pipes to my design, I created the feeling of pipes by connecting yellow dots throughout the page. This worked out a lot better than I anticipated — it allowed me to connect elements that were very spaced out and it helped guide the user’s attention all the way from the top of the page to the call-to-action button at the bottom of the page.
Staying true to the core values of Tungsten’s design ended up paying off — the final product is a sleek, bold, and impactful design. It flows smoothly from the very beginning to the very end, and is a successful balance between the old and the new.