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Nic Carter, Sociotype Journal
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Nic Carter, Sociotype Journal

One of the challenges of designing and marketing a new typeface is how to show it off to potential users. A couple of years ago, London foundry Sociotype came up with a clever solution: publish a magazine using their typefaces.

The result, Sociotype Journal, is a hefty magazine packed with content—the typefaces get a good outing, but this is more than just a type showcase. It’s a magazine about culture and society that is very well put together. Creative director and editor Nic Carter talks us through its origins as he shares his working week.


What are you doing this Monday morning?
Up at 6.30 with my kids for porridge. This morning I’m at Yonder, a workspace and bouldering centre near my house in Walthamstow. I spend half the week here and half in our studio in North Greenwich.


Describe your work environment.

Yonder is very informal, and not in an icky corporate way (definitely no WeWork vibes). There’s a big central bouldering room, overlooked by windows from the workspace, so when I’m on calls I can generally see at least one topless muscled guy hanging off a wall. There’s a thin layer of climbers’ chalk dust over everything, like pixie dust. There’s also a workshop downstairs, a good cafe and it’s run by people from my home town of Sheffield, which gives the place an extra familial glow.

Our office in Greenwich is in one of 16 buildings designed for Greenwich Peninsula’s Design District by 8 architectural firm, ours being by Architecture 00. It’s a series of rather austere-looking concrete slabs, topped off by a caged basketball court on the roof. We created the identity for the Design District, so when we were looking to relocate after the pandemic, we got a tip off about a vacant unit.

Despite the concrete it’s actually rather cosy, particularly in winter, when the double glazing keeps out the draft from the external walkways, which, being up on the second floor, can mean trips to the kitchen in less clement weather can be rather wet and windy. It’s a pretty strange part of London—the demographic varies wildly depending upon who’s playing at the O2 area, which is just across the square.

Which magazine do you first remember?
My first magazine memory is my sister and I highlighting the films we were planning to watch (or videotape) in the Christmas edition of the Radio Times.


Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
A piece I read last week by Andrew Norman Wilson in The Baffler is coming back to me as I’m writing this: he describes his experiences grafting as an impoverished artist, including a stint pet-sitting for a sex-addicted tortoise and a mid-pandemic stay at a medieval-themed Airbnb. It’s hilarious and cringey and a bit sad, and it reminds me of David Sedaris at his most searingly self critical.

I tend to read as many books as magazines, and I’m currently enjoying Max Leonard’s excellent ‘A Cold Spell: a Human History of Ice’.

Describe Sociotype in three words
Typographic. Taxonomic. Tangental.


The magazine is produced as a type specimen, and could be much simpler, but it’s a big bold magazine. Has the magazine superseded the specimen project?
Most type specimens contain variations of dummy copy, and are designed (often beautifully so) to be looked at rather than read. That’s fine, but looking and reading are fundamentally different ways of engaging with type. So before launching Sociotype we decided to put together a specimen that designers could actually read.

We could have written about design, but like most industries, the world of type design can be a rather insular place. So rather than reheating old discussions that might have already been covered better elsewhere, we decided to avoid typography in favour of themes inspired by the accompanying type release. Our three issues to date are the Gesture, Makeshift, and most recently, Home.

Some of our audience are type and design people, some are people who just pick it up off the shelf. We include a 20 page type specimen at the back of each issue, but if people skip the type specimen and just buy it to read, that’s fine: it means we’re achieving what we set out to do.

We had never made a magazine before the Journal, so we’re learning as we go. We’re a very small team. We commission writers and the occasional illustration, but the core team is mostly just myself and, for this third issue, researcher and designer Indiya Tupe, with input from Nigel (Bates, creative director at SOCIO) and Joe (Leadbeater, type designer and co-founder of Sociotype). We’ve also had invaluable support and advice from people like Park (printing) and Fedrigoni (paper).


Has using your typefaces in such a busy, editorial context altered how you’ve designed new ones?
We founded Sociotype with the intention to create large, versatile type families that could work for designers in any context: workhorses with large character sets and enough personality for setting headlines. So each of the three families we’ve produced to date are well suited to an editorial context.

This most recent issue is the densest yet (with over 35,000 words), and the most challenging to typeset, as it features our grotesk Onsite, which comes in three widths and 42 styles. To act as a type specimen, we really need to show a bit of everything, so it’s a puzzle to get it all to fit without it feeling overwhelming, but I’m happy that we pulled it off.

For several articles in this issue we’ve paired the main text with longer captions. This gives us more opportunities to create typographic interest and more room to tell mini-stories of the individual stories, plus it hopefully makes for a less linear experience for readers at different levels or with differing amounts of time.


Highlight one story from the current issue that sums up the magazine and its mission.
Sammi Gale and Darcie Imbert’s article ‘Masterplanning Utopia’ does a great job of bringing together references from a period of over 500 years—Thomas More, Ebernezer Howard, Le Corbusier, NEOM in Saudi Arabia, and the Mars colonisation fantasies of Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk—with a simple question: why are utopian cities so often circular? This way of uniting disparate references—old and new, and high and low—is important, as is the tone of the writing, which is critical, but not too serious. There’s depth, but it’s easy reading. The images and type layouts are very important too. We want the magazine to be compelling visually, not just because we’re designers who like shiny stuff, but because we hope that will encourage people to read it.

What advice do you have for anyone planning to launch a magazine?
Be ambitious. There’s more than enough disposable stuff in the world, so aim to produce something that will have value ten years from now.

What are you most looking forward to this coming week?

Launching issue three! It’s already in a few places (like magCulture) but not on our own site yet. We shot it last week with our friend photographer Thom Atkinson, so it should be up by Friday.


Editors Nic Carter and Henrietta Thompson
Creative directors Nic Carter, Nigel Bates and Joe Leadbeater

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Sociotype Journal #3

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