Creating the perfect blend of our past and present

by ANDREW LEE

Art director, The Japan Times

Two years ago, when we first decided to rethink The Japan Times logo for the 120th anniversary, we considered reintroducing the inaugural blackletter logo in order to emphasize our Meiji-Era roots. After redrawing and digitizing The Japan Times logo from 1903 and testing it in both print and screen we realized, however, that it simply wasn’t working. While it obviously captured the paper’s past, it didn’t convey where we want to be in the future.

On a more technical side, too, it didn’t work very well on screen at small sizes.

We realized early on that, true to responsive web design methods, we needed to work backward from the smallest version of the logo we would need. In today’s digital world that often means the icons used on social media — in our case we simply use the abbreviation “JT.”

Unfortunately, sometimes individual letters simply look terrible out of context, and the blackletter “J” and “T” were almost unrecognizable alone.

In fact, as we abandoned the blackletter idea and looked at other options, including a contemporary take on the 1933 all-caps logo, we realized that the capital letters “J” and “T” are, in general, pretty horrible together.

When shrunk down to the small sizes needed for reading on mobile devices, “JT” had a tendency to look like the symbol for pi (Π). The awkward white space above the descending hook of the “J” also made things difficult. Another problem was the association in Japan with the “JT” logo of Japan Tobacco.

The lower case “j” and “t,” however, looked like a much more promising option.

But, how would “The Japan Times” look in lowercase and would it be able to capture both the classic feel of the blackletter that we sought and the contemporary mood of optimism that we wanted to convey in the buildup to the 2020 Olympics?

After some serious searching, a typeface was found that had the right feel.

Often, when a newspaper goes through a redesign, it commissions a unique custom font to be used in the body copy, headlines and so on, which helps build a cohesive identity for the paper. The Guardian and The Financial Times, for example, have both been redesigned in the past decade or so and use custom typefaces.

Unfortunately, The Japan Times was unable do this. But after a long search we were able to find a font that had previously been created for another news publication and that matched our needs. It turns out it also had the elements we wanted for our new logo and masthead.

The Berlingske family of fonts, by the Danish font foundry Playtype, was initially created as a custom font for the Berlingske newspaper in Denmark. Playtype designed Berlingske “to deliver significant modernization while paying homage to a unique heritage,” which clearly matched our search for a typeface to use in the redesign for our 120th anniversary.

The serif styles of the Berlingske family have a particularly nice calligraphic feel to them, which we felt evoked the brush strokes of Japanese script — this is especially true for the Serif Black style. In the “jt” icon to the right, notice how the arc of the stem in the descender of the lowercase “j” comes to a point, as if an inked brush was lifting from the page. This classic feel to the letters also manages to prevent the lowercase “the japan times” from becoming too light-hearted.

After some in-house tweaks to make the full logo slightly more unique to The Japan Times, the final logo is presented here for the first time.

From April 1, it will appear in a two-line form on the front page of the newly redesigned newspaper as well as online in a single line while the “jt” mark will appear on social media.

We hope you like it as much as we do.


Download the PDF of this 120th Anniversary Special

 

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