stranger things revives benguiat

My entrepreneurially-minded son graduated in art from the Cooper Union in Manhattan. A few months ago he showed me a few logo ideas that he had designed for his nascent business. It’s in the same industry in which he is currently employed. He had created a symbol and paired it with the name of the company displayed in a unique typeface.

I told him I liked the symbol but I wasn’t crazy about the typeface selection. He had set the company name in a typeface named after its designer: Benguiat. I was very familiar with the typeface—perhaps too familiar. Benguiat was designed in 1977. The problem with practicing design as long as I have is this: I’ve seen too much. Typefaces that were wildly popular a long time ago are so associated with the time period of their emergence, they are still stuck there—at least to me.

My associates at modern8 have recently been talking about Netflix’s Stranger Things. I’ve not seen it, but I’m in the minority here and apparently, amongst most everyone else. So I watched title opening and credits, which has no character references, just cool typography and music. The title typeface selection? ITC Benguiat—with it’s odd serifs and swooping “A” crossbar, set with tight letterspacing and drop caps left and right. Just like like I used to do 35 years ago.

The design firm behind the title opening is the legendary Imaginary Forces, who were given 15 book covers as inspiration by the show’s creators. Many of those book covers were Stephen King novels set in Benguiat. The now 88-year-old designer, Ed Benguiat, is one of type industry’s most prolific, having created over 600 fonts. Together with Herb Lubalin and others, he formed International Typeface Corporation (ITC), the most successful typeface distributor in the 70s and 80s. Benguiat said he recently noticed a surge in his typeface design royalties: it was due to Stranger Things.

I’ve read that the show has an “obsessive 80s pop culture reference”, so the typeface choice makes sense. But I’m still not on board with my son’s choice of Benguiat for his company logo. I’ve somewhat modified my opinion of the typeface, but I doubt his company is obsessed with 80s pop culture.