The lost “g” in question, furthest to the right.

After running a piece last month on some of the genius ways designers have repurposed their rejected works, we’ve decided to keep exploring the topic. In fact, why not provide a platform ourselves, asking some of our designer friends to share designs that, for whatever reason, ended up in the reject pile? You’ll find new examples here, every month, as well as in the very first issue of our Eye on Design magazine, where we decided to devote an entire section to resurrecting the rejects.

In the first installation of this new series, we talked to Amsterdam-based design agency Thonik about creating an identity for the entire Netherlands Government—though that enormous task never managed to leap past the pitching stage. Today, we’re zooming in a bit, and focusing on the minute details of the letter “g” in an alphabet called Operator. Prepare to examine the lost aspects of a design that are so precise, so specific, and so delightfully nerdy, that only a type designer would notice them—much less mourn them. Here’s Andy Clymer, senior designer and design technology director at Hoefler & Co, in his own words.

Courtesy of Andy Clymer of Hoefler & Co.

“We had been working for months on the upright roman version of Operator, and we knew that there needed to be an italic companion to it. There were a couple different ways the italics could have gone. A lot of times you might expect the italics to look like a slanted version of the upright roman. The other option was really going for it, adding more script and cursive elements in there, like you see in old typewriters.

“If you look at most typefaces, the ‘g’ can be so wild.”

“The ‘g’ was a really tricky glyph. It took a lot of work. At minimum, a lowercase ‘g’ needs to have a round shape at the top and something below the baseline. That’s what we were trying to do here with this form. You’re removing details to find the part of it that still looks like a ‘g.’

“If you look at most typefaces, the ‘g’ can be so wild. It’s one glyph where you have a lot of room for experimentation. We were trying to imagine how the stroke of the pen might work, since it’s kind of supposed to be cursive but an invented cursive form—something we hadn’t seen before. I was looking at my own doodles and handwriting and noticed this weird curlicue kind of loop, where there’s a round bowl at the top and it descends in a horizontal way, almost like the lowercase ‘y’ might. This ‘g’ starts in the middle and loops around counterclockwise before switching directions and finishing off below the baseline. I don’t know that that’s the natural way to write a ‘g.’

“I think Jonathan Hoefler always thought it was a little bit off. It read okay in the context of words; when you read it in the middle of a word, your eye would be able to recognize it as a ‘g.’ But if it was at the start of a word, or if there were two in a row, it really didn’t feel right. For a while, I was trying to convince him to keep it, but I think we both knew it was a little out there. If you really study the shape of it, I don’t know if it really looks like a ‘g.’ If I had to guess what it was without any context, I don’t know, maybe it would even look like a really strange ‘s.’ Is it upside down? Is it backward? What is this thing?”