Sunset Gothic is a painterly sans-serif rendered in the tradition of Los Angeles sign-painters. It is an homage in part to John Baldessari (1931 – 2020) and his mostly-anonymous letterers (among them Norm Laich); to Ralph “Doc” Guthrie and the LATTC’s Sign Graphics programme (the last accredited degree of its kind in the US); and to the brush-rendered, vernacular approximations of vector-based letterforms which can be found up and down Sunset Boulevard, upon which Colophon Foundry’s L.A. outpost is located.
Stretching from Figueroa Street and the Arroyo Seco Parkway near downtown Los Angeles and culminating at Highway 1 in the Pacific Palisades, the boulevard terminates in the West at the Pacific Ocean after meandering through Echo Park, Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, and Brentwood. Across neighborhoods, the busy thoroughfare is lined and dotted with commercial endeavors new and old, many of whose proprietors announce their goods and services to automobile-bound passers-by with typography painted directly onto building facades and shop front windows.
Typical of this mode of communication is the primary requirement to attract attention and the secondary need to maintain legibility for viewers inside of moving vehicles; indeed, these letterform paintings are for car-drivers and -passengers first, and pedestrians thereafter. This implicit condition leads organically to typography that contains compelling forms amidst hyperbolized, often over-scaled features. Emulating this meeting point of gesture and legibility, Sunset is a dexterous, workhorse sans-serif masquerading as a sign-painter’s display type.
Developed via observation and amalgamation since the designer’s arrival in Los Angeles in early 2016, Sunset Gothic is a subjective mélange of a multitude of unattributed sans-serif painting styles. Available in seven weights — ranging from the wispily elegant Hairline to the wryly assertive Heavy—Sunset is typified by a modulated / flared vertical stroke that can be found across sign-painting outputs and in typeface precedents like Hermann Zapf’s Optima and Aldo Novarese’s Forma. Additional identifying features include curvature terminals that mimic brush-lift, and a handy stylistic set that provides angled sign-painters’ terminals to the type’s horizontal strokes.
Sunset Gothic is available in seven weights — Hairline, Thin, Light, Regular, Medium, Bold, and Heavy — with corresponding Italics. Sunset Gothic is open to licensing in both Standard (‘STD’) and Professional (‘PRO’) versions. The latter contains a multitude of OpenType features, old-style numerals, various stylistic alternates including sign-painters’ terminals, an extended suite of astrological and astronomical symbols, and a number of additional non-standard marks.