Jeremy Mickel’s adineuePRO
To co-incide with their ‘Sport 15’ campaign, adidas commissioned type designer Jeremy Mickel to design and improve their brand typeface, adineue.
We first saw adineuePRO on the ‘hater’s’ campaign by Iris Worldwide, which featured photography by Rick Guest. With the latest launch of the adidas X and ACE it’s getting the attention it deserves. TMG caught up with Jeremy and asked him a few questions about the process.
Hi Jeremy, first question — Who do you support?
I just moved to Los Angeles, so I’ll say the Galaxy! (And I really like the sign painter typography they use on their site.)
The original lowercase adineue alphabet was created by Joancarles Casasín at Baselab for the ‘All In’ campaign in 2012. What was the brief for the new adineue Pro?
adidas has commissioned many custom typefaces over the years, most notably the adineue family. It was based on the simple geometry of the adidas logo, and was drawn in 3 weights, lowercase only. Also relevant is Dribbler, by Tal Leming, which was uppercase only and featured an early version of the ligatures used in adineuePRO.
adidas wanted a more complete suite of fonts that could fully support their branding needs. We worked together to develop an uppercase with an extensive ligature system and a range of stylistic alternates. We added a Black weight, developed italics, and also created a Condensed version. The new font was named adineuePRO to differentiate it from the original.
They’re currently using the Black Roman weight in all caps almost exclusively, but over time you’ll start to see some of the other variations. We also worked with Ilya Ruderman to create a Cyrillic version. And special thanks to Ben Kiel for help in mastering.
adidas Portland commissioned the typeface. Did you also have to get sign off from the HQ in Germany. If so how was that process? Was there a lot of back and forth?
The process was much smoother than I could have imagined. I worked directly with Leon Imas, Senior Director – Global Identity, and he handled all levels of approval. His keen eye and knowledge of the adidas culture made for a streamlined process. The team I worked with was in Portland, but it’s all adidas Global — there’s no difference between that office and the one in Germany.
The typeface features numerous alternatives and ligatures. Did you look at Herb Lubablin’s ITC Avant Garde for inspiration?
Anytime you draw an angled A and create geometric sliced ligatures, Avant Garde is the undeniable reference. However, after acknowledging that influence, I didn’t spend too much time worrying about what the original looked like, instead focusing on how to solve adidas’ specific needs.
We saw a connection between the angles in their 3 stripe ‘BADGE OF SPORT’ logo and the angles of the sloped A M V W, and the spaces between the three stripes served as reference for the hairlines between the ligatures. The use of ligatures also addressed their goal of compressing visual messages, making them denser and more immediate.
Some alternatives are cropped on purpose to avoid awkward spaces. Was this easy to kern?
The sliced ligatures are actually the only characters that don’t kern — they’re spaced to line up perfectly. Getting the hairline slices to be consistent across the entire style was quite a challenge though: a mix of measuring, proofing, and correcting.
One detail I’m proud of is that the ligatures are actually separate glyphs, which means that adidas designers can control the exact width of the hairline slices by tracking the type in or out. I knew they would be using the ligatures in a range of sizes and applications, so it was important to give them that flexibility. Otherwise the ligatures would look too tight or too loose in some settings.
Keeping the ligatures as separate glyphs also means there are more combinations than you would otherwise have access to. In some cases, you can have triplicate ligatures like BAM, where the B and the M are sliced.
There are quite a few number sets within the font. Can you tell us a bit more about them?
The original adineue was lowercase only, and the numbers were 3/4 ascender height (top of the h). I made the caps the same as the top of the h, but that meant in an all caps setting the numbers would feel too small, so I made lining numbers that were cap height.
They also wanted condensed numbers for jerseys and other display settings. There are quite a few alternates in the condensed numbers, because we kept having ideas about how they could work, and decided to keep them all.
Was anything challenging and how long did it take you to complete?
The sheer number of glyphs in each font was a challenge. There are almost 800 glyphs in each style, 300 of which are ligatures. Making sure everything worked correctly across all 12 styles required lots of proofing and troubleshooting.
The project took about 6 months, start to finish.
How do you feel about the trend of blocky sans-serifs in the sports world?
Like any trend, it’s cool until it’s overused, and then it becomes a crutch instead of a design decision.
How has type design changed since you started working?
When I first started drawing type in 2006, I enrolled in a continuing education course at Cooper Union, and they cancelled the class because I was the only person who enrolled! Now there are classes around the year at Type@Cooper, and enthusiasm for drawing type only seems to be growing. I’m glad I started when I did, publishing my first font back in 2008.
And finally, what advice would you give to type designers looking to make a career in sports-led design?
The biggest advice is just to draw as much as possible. The best way to draw good fonts is to draw bad ones, and then learn to spot the difference.
I’m a big believer in reaching out to the designers and companies you admire. The worst thing that can happen is they don’t reply, and the best is that they give you a piece of their time and help you out. It’s made a big difference for me over the years.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us Jeremy.
Jeremy Mickel runs MCKL, Inc., a type foundry that publishes original fonts and provides custom type services for clients worldwide, and has published typefaces with Village and House Industries. Jeremy has given talks at national design conferences, and his work has been honored by the Type Director’s Club and AIGA, and is in the permanent collection of the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum and Walker Art Center. He has taught typeface design at the Rhode Island School of Design and at Minneapolis College of Art & Design.