How DDC Hardware came to be
An interview with Aaron James Draplin
What led you to draw the initial DDC Hardware alphabet?
General frustration, of course. I couldn’t find a simple, utilitarian typeface that was was ubiquitous as DDC Hardware turned out to be. That and, free of the latest trends and ironic twists in the type world. I just wanted something that was painfully functional. Unapologetic in it’s lack of, well, “the latest stuff.” And in many of my travels, I’d be alongside some river or junkyard, and I’d see versions of the typeface painted on corrugated steel siding, or, ghosted on some old brick wall. So I’d take a couple shots, stew over it the rest of the ride and build a couple characters later on that night. I started with “D” and “C” first, you know, always gunning for that “DDC”.
And, for years, I’d use other typefaces that got close to what I needed, and I’d have to alter them. So I built my own character set from scratch, and would cherry-pick what I needed from it for projects. That would’ve been 2006, if my arithmetic checks out right.
Can you give us some back story on how Riley got involved?
It was some years ago. 2011! I kept seeing his name attached to great work. That piqued my interest and we shared some emails and then a couple calls. And somewhere there I showed him my first cut of DDC Hardware. And of course, he says something like, “I can build that typeface for you.” And I hired him, with virtual handshake and general warnings of how busy I get, and go into hiding and all that. Quickly, he had a version of the typeface I could load on to my computer. And me being the horrible person I am, that sufficed. I’m pretty sure I still owe him some loot from that first cut.
What are some of your favourite applications of Hardware in your own work?
There’s only been a couple instances in the last decade. Remember, I built that first initial “cut” from one crappy, little photo from a walk on Washington Street in Minneapolis. And from there, I’d built pieces of type from it, using just the characters I needed to get the job done. If a character or ligature I needed wasn’t in that original alphabet and number set, I’d simply build it and add it to the mix. As I went. To see Riley get ahold of the thing, and properly develop it? Such a beautiful process. I feel like Hardware is an adult. I knew the little guy when he was “knee high to a grasshopper.” Just a little shit. Now? He’s all grown up and ready to venture out into the world.
I used it in a presentation about junking a couple years ago. And then had 10-12 people write me to ask me what typeface I was used! That got me excited I might’ve stumbled onto something.
Is it true that you used an early version of Hardware on a logo for the great John Hughes?
When John called on my services, I just thought he was any other farmer with an eye for design. Or, an eye for the simple, unassuming, solid agricultural forms of the past. He told me, “Make me something that looks like we’ve been around the 20-some years we’ve had the place. That fits with all the equipment we have on the farm.” And like the designs of the countryside, that made complete sense. Legible, straightforward and completely functional.
How do you hope to see designers using the various widths of Hardware?
I’d like to see it show up on a package for nuts and bolts! Things that require reading numbers and parts and sizes. Or a sign that says “BAR” and points to some shitty bar. Or a modern day version of “Eat at Joe’s” sign above a restaurant. But no one is named “Joe” anymore, so I guess “Eat at Ethan’s” might have to suffice. I’d just like to see it communicate things clearly. I like things that do a solid job, without all the fuss.
And hell, I’d like to wholeheartedly ban it from the slew of Star Wars remix posters that keep littering the web. Man, leave that shit alone. Enough, already.
Thanks so much for your time Aaron!
DDC Hardware is a thorough take on a no-nonsense, industrial, vernacular style of letters. It includes:
- Extensive language support
- Three widths
- A series of catch words
Get to work with this collaboration between the Draplin Design Co. and The Lost Type Co-op.
What led you to draw that initial Hardware alphabet?
General frustration, of course. I couldn’t find a
—that was as ubiquitous as Hardware turned out to be.