When Hal Taylor saw the 1930 logo for the Stetson Shoe Company of Weymouth, Massachusetts, he didn’t run out and buy a pair of loafers. Instead, he seized on this striking example of an Art Deco logotype as the basis for a new typeface design. “I was impressed with the delicate and sophisticated letter forms,” Taylor recalls, “particularly the enlarged cap S – in any other case it would have seemed unbalanced, but in the context of this logo, it worked perfectly.”
All the letters in the original all-caps Stetson Shoe logo were rendered with condensed proportions except the O, which was a perfect circle. While the prominent O added visual interest to the logo, Taylor knew that such a character would limit his typeface to display applications. For versatility’s sake, he drew his O for ITC Stepp with the same proportions as the rest of the alphabet. Taylor also gave the logotype’s inverted S a more traditional design, but kept the original as an alternate character in the OpenType font.
Taylor’s toughest challenge during the design process was creating a lowercase. “A good type designs tells you what it wants to be,” he says, “and after a little while the Stepp caps began to tell me what the lowercase should look like.” Taylor’s lowercase is slightly more conventional than the caps. The jaunty ‘g’ and almost upside-down ‘s’ add subtle charm, while the capital letters provide the broader gestures of Stepp’s personality. Together, they create a versatile and distinctive typeface design.
One of Hal Taylor’s first jobs was as a photo-lettering typographer in Philadelphia, setting headlines and creating custom lettering. This was followed by a stint doing finished lettering for John Langdon, whose ambigrams appear in Dan Brown’s best-selling novel, Angels & Demons. Today, Taylor works as a graphic designer in the publishing industry, but he still finds time to create an occasional hand-lettered book jacket – and draw handsome typeface designs.