Treme Type

21 Apr 2010

What went wrong? I married a goddamn musician.

HBO’s new series, Treme, is David Simon’s thoughtful, measured, and consistent vision of New Orleans. Yet the credit typography misses the mark so wide that I’ve wondered if the distraction is intentional. Perhaps I was missing something. But after having slept on it, I believe that it’s a mistake.

The Treme logotype is everything that it’s counterpart is not. It’s an accurate example of hand-painted lettering that instantly conjures an image of the New Orleans culture. Because it’s handmade, it’s also real— the stylistic affectations and imperfections are what give it character.

On the other hand, the title/credit type feels odd, almost forced. It seems to be some sort of mid-weight serif font, perhaps Bell MT, stuck between old style typefaces like Garamond and a transitional face like Bodoni. It doesn’t pair well with the show or even offer any stylistic continuity. The Treme logotype evokes New Orleans neighborhoods, lifestyle, and culture. The title font evokes an antiseptic book report.

Sure, it contrasts with the powerful imagery in the intro theme, but it has a completely undesirable effect. Rather than making the images themselves pop and feel more powerful, the typographic contrast is jarring, and distracts the viewer from the imagery. So what was Simon thinking? While the typeface does have a genuine feeling, it certainly is not that of New Orleans. My guess is that he chose it because the ball terminals on the font’s letterforms bear a semblance musical notation. Yet notation isn’t really the essence of Jazz, or New Orleans for that matter, both of which represent a diametric shift from Western norms of that era.

Saints will cost you extra.

Watching the show, loving the show, but still confused by the credits.

(Written by Desedo friend Ryan Reynolds, who is the Design Director at MSDS.)