From the Design Desk

From the Design Desk: Syracuse University’s new typeface, Sherman

Courtesy of Syracuse University

Syracuse University shares a distinct history with its new official typeface, Sherman.

Syracuse University is currently undergoing a rebrand in partnership with Pentagram, a worldwide design firm. The rebrand includes a new official typeface for the university that was announced last week.

The typeface, Sherman, was created by type designer Frederic Goudy, who in the 1930s shared a working relationship with the then-dean of SU’s School of Journalism, according to an SU News release. Sherman was commissioned by publisher Frederic Sherman in 1910 and gifted to the university in the 1960s by Sherman’s niece after he died, according to the release. Due to the university’s relationship with Goudy, she considered SU the only rightful home for Sherman.

When the designers at Pentagram learned of the connection between Sherman and the university, they got to work with reviving the typeface. The university, Pentagram and production company DressCode created this video about the process.

Now that Sherman is making its way onto university websites and signage across campus, here’s what some of The Daily Orange’s design editors think about the typeface transformation.

What are your first thoughts on the new typeface?

Ali Harford: The new typeface has a more vintage feel, which I love. It really captures the essence of the history of SU and encourages the people involved with the university to immerse themselves in the history as well. I think this type is more inviting and gives Syracuse a more clean and friendly vibe.

Andy Mendes: While I usually am a sans-serif kind of guy, I actually really like Sherman and think it fits Syracuse University really well. The type looks really classic and clean without being pretentious or basic, and I think it’s a very versatile type.

Lucy Naland: Sherman has a delightful quality to it, which you can sense from its playful, round shapes and curves. It may be a little too fun for an official university typeface, but its history, usability and friendly look make it the clear choice for representing SU.

Kiran Ramsey: Sherman has personality and a certain traditional charm. Its original shape allows it to stand out very well on its own.


How does Sherman compare to the old typeface, ITC Franklin Gothic? 

A.H.: ITC Franklin Gothic is so serious. Whenever I see it I read the font in a deep voice that isn’t really pleasant. It’s so in-your-face and bold. Sherman is definitely the opposite of ITC Franklin Gothic, since Sherman is more of a traditional font, and I honestly like seeing Sherman on university documents more than I liked Gothic.

A.M.: It’s interesting to see the change because ITC Franklin Gothic is the more modern of the two typefaces, so it does feel like SU is going back in time with their type choice. Sherman is obviously very different from ITC Franklin Gothic, as ITC Franklin Gothic was really, really bold while Sherman is a much more subdued and quiet type. I liked ITC Franklin Gothic and how it looked on official SU documents and merchandise, and I wonder if Sherman will be able to read as bold and official as ITC Franklin Gothic does on important items such as diplomas.

L.N.: You really can’t compare ITC Franklin Gothic and Sherman. While the former is clean and extremely versatile, there isn’t much else beneath its surface. It could really be any other sans serif. Sherman’s history with the university makes any other random typeface obsolete. It also confidently walks the line between traditional and modern with its fun serifs and ball terminals. This is perfect for a university so rooted in long-standing tradition, while also blazing trails in various fields of study.

K.R.: To me, ITC Franklin Gothic doesn’t tell the story of a 146-year-old university. It is clean and easy to read but strikes me as almost too modern. Syracuse prides itself on its long tradition as a university, and the sans serif ITC Franklin Gothic typeface does not say “traditional.” Sherman has a history with the university itself, making it more than just a font. Before the university made the story of Sherman public, I had already seen a banner with the new typeface. Besides admiring the typography, I didn’t think much of the typeface. I believe that’s a good thing. Sherman just fits.


What role do you think Sherman will take on at the university? Is this an important change for SU’s brand?

A.H.: I think this is an important step in changing the university’s brand. ITC Franklin Gothic was so modern, and I think that SU is definitely a more historical school. I mean honestly, our staple building is Hall of Languages. Would I slap a sign on Hall of Languages that’s typed in Franklin Gothic? No. It just doesn’t fit. The new font is elegant, welcoming and fashionable, and I fully support the change.

A.M.: I think Sherman plays a really big role in establishing Syracuse University as a much more classic and prestigious establishment. Its story as an SU-exclusive type is actually really interesting, and I already love almost all of SU’s new branding — from its updated website to the new light post banners you can see around campus. I’m excited to see how Sherman works in the future, as it has only been around for just a small amount of time.

L.N.: Branding plays an important role in any institution, and Sherman seems to be a great fit for what the university was looking for in a new typeface. It’s really elevated the university’s look so far, both visually and symbolically. How many other schools can boast an official typeface so linked with their own history? Sherman’s discovery came at the perfect time, and I’m excited to see it fully implemented in all aspects of the SU brand. The university’s new website is already 1,000 times better than it was a year ago, so I have high expectations for the rest of the rebrand.

K.R.: I think that Sherman is definitely an important change for SU’s brand. If the university was in fact looking for a typeface with “a vitality combined with a traditional feel,” they certainly found it. Sherman aligns with the identity of a contemporary university with a long history. What role the font will take is certainly up to the marketing team, but I think it is a promising branding tool for recruiting potential students who are looking at traditional East Coast schools like Cornell, Duke and the University of Pennsylvania. All of which, by the way, use traditional serif fonts just like Sherman.


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