One of the more interesting aspects of contemporary type design is the relative ease with which designers can shift back and forth between the digital and real world, depending on the needs of the project. (Cases in point: Bixa and Lustig Elements.) Spanish Western, a one-off project from Madrid design studio Dosdecadatres, is a set of 3D lettering commissioned as titles for Alberto Esteban’s public television documentary of the same name. And lest you think all this 3D business is just a bunch of bells and whistles, the type’s depth exists for a very good reason; Quique Rodriguez, creative director of Dosdecadatres, wanted to create typographic landscapes that mirror the rugged countryside that appears almost as its own character in every Western film in the canon. Spanish Western’s letterforms—epic, solid, dramatic shapes—speak of wind-worn rocks and harsh mountain ranges, of dry air and dust and baking sun. The documentary’s black-and-white title sequence serve to highlight the stark contrasts of light and shadow.
Bet you didn’t know that many of the most famous cowboy epics, like Sergio Leone’s classic The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (1966) were filmed in the arid Spanish countryside indistinguishable from the landscape of the American West, yet a whole lot cheaper in terms of cinematic production costs. “Turn on a TV at nap time in Spain and you’ll see a Western for sure. I grew up falling asleep with these movies,” says Rodriguez. “John Ford is God but really, the only thing I need to enjoy a Western is Clint Eastwood appearing on the screen.”
“In all Westerns, you’ll see at least two things: a sunrise over a stunning landscape and wood—a lot of wood,” he continues. “We began to design Spanish Western by starting with Morricone, a modular black slab typeface with Western references. Once the letters were designed, we created a 3D version and shaped the wooden pieces using a CNC machine. We tried several times to find the right technique and the right kind of wood, but when the pieces were finally done it was fantastic playing with them to create the typographic landscapes. Touching the letters was an amazing feeling.”
Striking out into the creative frontier between 2D and 3D type has never been easier, thanks to the wealth of technologies now available for bridging the gap. And while the process isn’t as lawless or violent as the Wild West (designers are generally a peaceable lot), it does have much in common with the free-spirited sense of exploration that defined that era. Might we see Spanish Western coming to an Open Type format anytime soon?
“Releasing it was not the idea; we designed only the letters necessary for the title of the documentary,” says Rodriguez. “We love typography so much, but we’re not type designers, and to create a whole typeface would be a big deal for us. If anyone reads this and wants to develop Spanish Western, please feel free to shoot us an email.” Hear that, typographers? Are you gonna pull those pistols or whistle Dixie?