Process: Greenstone

About Greenstone

Greenstone interprets Oscar Ogg’s vernacular lettering style through the lens of American and British stone carving, such as the work of John Howard Benson and David Kindersley. The connection between these sources is reminiscent of the intercultural dialogue between the American and British type design industries in the 19th to 20th centuries, a period when many designers were drawing influence from their peers across the Atlantic. While perfectly serviceable as a model alphabet for carving in stone, Greenstone is a typographic expression of an ancient and sacred tradition of lettering, in which the plethora of exquisite vernacular styles have developed over the centuries thanks to the improvisational nature of use-specific composition.


Greenstone Construction


Over the course of his research for this typeface, Davenport toured numerous cemetery grounds in the American Northeast, observing the evolution of the stylistic zeitgeist through the lettering models used in the carvings that still withstand the test of time. He also dug through the studio’s Oscar Ogg archive and unearthed a series of plaques that the master lettering artist designed for the US Maritime Commission during his time in Fredericksburg, Virginia. These typographic examples are most evident in Greenstone’s large, flaring capitals and its delicate, expansive serifs.


While brushed letterforms existed as early as the ancient Roman period, the 20th century witnessed a renewed appreciation for these letterforms, seen on book jackets and a plethora of designed goods. The stout low-contrast horizontal strokes and the delicate high-contrast serifs produced by the flat brush eventually served as the basis of Roman stone inscriptions. Edward Catich has written extensively about the relationship and lineage between these two practices in his book The Origin of the Serif.

Greenstone Italic

Greenstone consists of two styles: a Regular that has an almost imperceivable slant of 2° and an Italic that has a slant of only 5°. In a “typical” typeface family the Italic could be anywhere from 6–20° steeper than the roman, but Greenstone delights in these subtle differences. Greenstone’s Italic is constructed with a more fluid ductus similar to that of a flat-brushed letter or even a broad-nib pen at small sizes — the extremely condensed lowercase emphasizes the drastic contrast when set with the roman.

Tapping into an ancient craft

Compared to letters produced by the brush, stone-carved letters are produced inside-out — requiring a sense of depth and rhythm. The center-line is cut first, then the carver makes v-cuts with a chisel. A measured rhythm is needed to keep cuts evenly deep and at the same angle. When cut correctly, the letters contour themselves, defined not by an outline but by their own highlights and shadows.


By virtue of stone carving’s handmade process, letters are charmingly imperfect. The idiosyncrasies found in Greenstone’s letterforms are a product of these one-of-a-kind use-specific styles. Greenstone is also informed by the dichotomy between addition and subtraction unique to Oscar Ogg’s distinct lettering technique. Known as the “King of White” due to his use of white corrective paint, Ogg would progressively add to his surface to build up his letterforms. In contrast, the process of carving constantly removes material from the surface of the stone to create the subject. Greenstone brings together the charm of Ogg’s hand with the tactile materiality of this centuries-old lettering practice.

For the release of Greenstone, our resident stonecarver My-Lan Thuong cut this piece into slate. ⁠You are of course welcome to use Greenstone as an exemplar for your next monumental inscription, but as master stonecarver Nick Benson was quick to remind us: a true stonecarver draws their own!

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