Back Story: If you are not a recent addition to the graphic design field, you may remember your first internship at a New York City studio as a series of dreary winter afternoons spent laboriously typesetting one word at a time using an ancient phototypesetting machine. No need to rephrase Wikipedia:
“In phototypesetting, light was projected through a film negative image of an individual character in a font, then through a lens that magnified or reduced the size of the character onto photographic paper, collected on a spool in a light-proof canister. The photographic paper or film then fed into a processor—a machine that pulled the paper or film strip through two or three baths of chemicals—where it emerged ready for paste-up or film make-up.”
Interns who over-exposed the type were not only subject to ridicule by the creative directors, both of whom were named Mark, but the resulting blobby, less-than-crisp letterforms were useless. The strips of photo paper went straight into the trash and the whole process had to start over and there was never enough time and the intern would miss her train back to Long Island and it Was. Not. Good.
However, some good came of this three decades later, when Barrios became intrigued by the relationship between typography and sculpture, realizing that sculpted three-dimensional letters took on variable shapes depending on the light conditions in the environment. “After months of sketching and carrying out experiments in different media, I arrived at the most interesting solution: a font whose axis of variation allows the exposure to be affected in the same way as a photograph,” he says. Over a two and a half year development process, the designer pushed the limits of current technology, exploring different forms of interpolation and sculpting each of the 1380 glyphs of the typeface individually.
Why’s it called Exposure? Barrios says, “The name that best fit was Exposure, a term meaning ‘the action of exposing a photographic film to light.’”
What are its distinguishing characteristics? This typeface uses exposure as a unique axis of variation beyond the conventional variable typographic axes (weight, width, and slant). Exposure’s adjustable axis ranges from -100 to +100, lending a feeling of changing intensity of light. “Regular exposure” set to 0 retains legibility but as you move toward either end of the variable spectrum, the letterforms push the boundaries of legibility.
What should I use it for? Barrios says, “I prefer uses that have nothing to do with light; it is a versatile enough font to be used in many different contexts. When underexposed, it looks great in titles or highlighting parts of a text. When overexposed, it becomes a stencil. I like its appearance most as running text when the exposure is set to ‘ideal’.
What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? Exposure has so many possible variations, both in regular and italic, that it functions perfectly well on its own. To pair it with a different font, look for one that shares its generous x-height and prominent diacritics, such as Geograph. Even the two creative directors named Mark would have had fun with this one.