This Summer was dominated by one show and that show was “Stranger Things”. The sci-fi Netflix drama was a much beloved nostalgia trip. The story of young friendships with an alien companion set against a scary ‘other world’ had us all revisiting The Goonies, Alien, ET, and Stand By Me, to name a few. One of the most attention-grabbing aspects of the show was the title sequence, complete with eerie score, ending with the neon outlined “Stranger Things” coming into focus. The image of the title itself has become one of the most talked about features of the show.
The font used is ITC Benguiat, named after it’s inventor Ed Benguiat. He is responsible for developing many of the fonts still in use today. ITC Benguiat was designed in 1978 and has become one of his most recognisable. The genius of The Duffer Brothers, the creators of “Stranger Things”, is that they used a font which instantly evokes nostalgia. You may recall reading the Choose Your Own Adventure novels in the 1980s, where you could decide the outcome of a story by flipping to a page of your choice. ITC Benguiat used on all the front covers.
Even more familiar, it has also been used for the covers of many Stephen King novels:
Indeed, many of the show’s themes, telekinesis for example, again borrow from the master of horror Stephen King.
We’ve established how fonts such as this can communicate a sense of nostalgia and exemplify a genre. This is the power of fonts. Let’s now discuss the man behind this iconic typeface. Ed Benguiat founded the International Typeface Corporation, along with Herb Lubalin, Aaron Burns and Edward Rondthaler in 1970. Benguiat is responsible for crafting more than 600 typefaces, including Tiffany and Panache. He grew up in Brooklyn, NY and started out as a prominent jazz percussionist. After marrying and starting a family he realized a life on the road touring was not for him, and he feared a future as an aging musician playing only weddings and bar mitzvah’s. He decided to go into illustration after seeing a sign on 5th Avenue, on the way to one of his jazz gigs on 52nd Street, which said: “Be an artist”, advertising The Workshop School. Benguiat describes music and typography as being closely associated saying, “Music is placing sounds in a proper order to be pleasing to the ear. What is graphic design? Placing things in their proper order so they’re pleasing to the eye.”
Benguiat worked at a time without computers so his eponymous typeface took a year and a half to complete, painstakingly sketching each character. Over the last 50 years, he has also created many movie logos including Planet of the Apes, Super Fly and Star Trek. In the 90s, he created the logo for another eerie show that had a cult following: Twin Peaks.
Benguiat’s responsible for the look of The New York Times and Esquire magazine, Ford and Estee Lauder. He turns 89 next week (October 27th) and his work is as relevant today as it always has been, as Stranger Things has proven.