Nevada is rich in cattle branding history. Some of the oldest recorded cattle brands in the state date back as early as 1883. Drive down any dusty road in Nevada, and you'll be sure to pass a ranch or two with their signature cattle brand proudly on display at the front gate.
As an ode to this iconic signature of the American West and particularly Nevada, assistant professor in graphic design Monica Maccaux is designing a new typeface based on cattle brands.
"I would say it's a Western, cowboy kind of typeface," Maccaux said. "There isn't really anything like this out on the market. I tried to make a combination between a throwback to actual branding irons and my modern take on it."
Each branding mark needed to be distinct from one another as a way to mark ownership of livestock. Cattle brands are made up of a combination of letters, variations to those letters such as adding serifs or changing the angle in which the letter lays, and pictographs like circles, dots and waves.
Because each cattle brand needs to be unique, the combination possibilities can be staggering. This poses an interesting challenge to Maccaux, who will need to decide how many variations her typeface will include. At this point, she knows it will be a large type family, with up to 18 variables for each letterform. Maccaux expects to initially release some of the variations of the typeface in spring 2019.
Maccaux's design process is a delicate balance of ensuring the typeface accurately reflects how a physical branding iron creates shapes and letters and making sure the typeface is aesthetically pleasing to the end user. She hand draws each letterform, redraws them into computing software, and applies coding to give each letter weight and shape.
Connection to the classroom
In the classroom, Maccaux's graphic design students study the close connection between typeface and branding. Maccaux encourages her students to think carefully about typeface choice and to make sure it fits the feeling of their particular brand.
"Every typeface has its own flavor," she said. "There needs to be some thought behind typeface choice. And that's why I think there could be infinite amounts of typefaces. There could be as many typefaces as there are people in the world, to represent every single personality and quirk."
Starting this fall, students can declare graphic design as a minor. Maccaux, the graphic design program director, is working with the University on a new graphic design Bachelor of Fine Arts degree within the School of the Arts, under the College of Liberal Arts. The B.F.A. in graphic design will be the first of its kind in northern Nevada, and Maccaux notes that it will help build a qualified pool of applicants in the region.
Maccaux said she wants the program to prepare students for jobs immediately after graduation by helping them build their professional portfolio and gain working knowledge in graphic design software and the ins and outs of the industry.