Gold Standard recently tackled their largest commission from ESPN so far – a bespoke typeface, pictograms, illustrations and layouts for a special Winter Olympics issue of ESPN The Magazine. Martin Lorenz of tells us more...

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To mark the occasion of the 2018 Winter Olympics, which were held in Pyeong Chang, South Korea earlier this year, ESPN The Magazine published a special Gold Rush issue focusing on female athletes competing at the games. To bring the issue to life, they turned to, who had previously worked with the ESPN team on bespoke type for special issues on the NBA and NFL – though this new commission would be their largest for the magazine to date, encompassing pictograms, illustrations and layouts in addition to the new typeface. We caught up with Martin Lorenz of to get the lowdown...

You've worked on bespoke fonts for ESPN magazine before – what was different about this commission?
The briefings from ESPN are always very open, which is the best approach if you want to get the most from us. We knew that this issue would be focused on the female athletes participating in the Winter Olympics in Pyeong Chang. A couple of well-selected keywords is usually enough to get us started. We made a lot of sketches, and together with their art director we picked the elements we liked best. This is how we ended up with the typeface which was finally printed in the Gold Rush issue. The typefaces we drew for the NFL and NBA issues are very bold and dark, while the typeface for the Gold Rush issue is light and colourful. There is a reference to the olympic rings, colours and even to the Pyeong Chang 2018 logo without actually using any element of any of them. We used neither the exact same rings, nor the colours. We just wanted the reader to be reminded of these references.

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Tell us about the formation of the letters and your choices about colour, weight etc...
We started with the circles, as they were the most important visual link to the Olympic Games, and tried to use as many of them as possible. Then we applied the colours to the circles, alternating the colour from circle to circle. At the end, we added the straight lines to make the letters legible. There were lots of tests for the weight of the typeface. The right weight really depended on the size at which the typeface was used.

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Designing anything associated with the Olympics comes loaded with the weight of graphic design history – did you look at any archive references or try to steer clear?
References are only helpful to introduce the reader to the visual language you developed – they connect to something she/he knows – but there always comes a point in the design process when you have to go your own way if you want to create something strong. The olympic rings and colours helped us to establish that connection, but if we had stuck to the original elements we would have got a Frankenstein: a monster made of pieces which do not really fit together and functions in as clumsy a way as Frankenstein did. We had to follow the inner logic of the typeface (and ourselves) to make it work.  

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Your use of large type and bold one-colour photography in the layouts is really strong. Did the client implement your suggested designs unchanged?
As far as we have seen they used the large type too, but they did not use the one-colour photography. Obviously we always suggest what we think works best, but we also understand that at ESPN we are part of a larger team, and that designing the final layout is the job of the ESPN design team.

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