Time moves variably during the holiday season as we look back on one year, prepare for the next, and hopefully make space to indulge in the present. The approaching Winter Solstice has long been celebrated as a moment to nurture these simultaneous movements of time. With the shortest day of 2021 falling this Tuesday, December 21, Sharp Type marks the occasion with The Yule Ogg, our twist on a holiday classic.
By now, the Yule Log video is a seasonal staple of western culture. It lives in a strange Venn diagram where solemn holiday reflection, mistletoe naughtiness, and Christmas sweater irony merrily coexist. The first Yule Log video was aired in 1966. Fred Thrower, manager of WPIX-TV Channel 11 in New York City, had the idea to loop a 17-second film clip of a lit, ornate fireplace as a holiday card to their viewers. Like Thrower, Sharp Type wanted to do “something a little different and special.” In our case, this meant fabricating woodcuts of the entire Latin alphabet in one of our most beloved typefaces, Ogg - and then burning them all, one by one.
The resulting recording of this process is Sharp Type’s inOGGural YouTube video.
The provenance of the Yule Log is not entirely clear, but its origins point to pre-medieval Norse traditions. During the celebration of the winter solstice, it was one of the emblems of “divine light”, and at one point, an entire tree was burned. Over time, however, as the tradition spread across Northern Europe and then to North America, a large log from the trunk of a tree became more practical. How the log itself burned - the rhythm and pattern of sparks, the falling of the embers, etc. - could be read as a way of determining one’s good fortune in the coming year.
Just as the Yule Log is the foundational log of the holiday fire, Ogg has become one of the foundational typefaces of Sharp Type. The initial plan was to use Ogg Display, but we found the shapes too delicate for the wood-cutting process. Its sibling, however, Ogg Text, proved to be an ideal candidate with its thicker hairlines; fuller figures; and wide, sprawling large serifs.
Our friends at Neal’s CNC in Hayward, California realized our vision, masterfully cutting slabs of ash wood into the clean, crisp cuts of Ogg you see in the video. While Fred Thrower had access to the grand hearth at Gracie Mansion, Sharp Type founders Lucas Sharp and Chantra Malee used their own fireplace in Marin County, and they performed the due diligence of placing the letters to alight, one by one, over four hours.
May these toasty woodcuts usher in a new year of good spirits, good health, and good type. Wishing the best to you and yours!
Chantra, Lucas, and the rest of the Sharp Type Team
Concept and Direction by Chantra Malee
Production Design Chantra Malee & Lucas Sharp
Director of Photography Chantra Malee
Producer Theodore Jahng
Copy Theodore Jahng
Key Grip Lucas Sharp
Pyrotechnics Chantra Malee & Lucas Sharp
Editing Lucas Sharp & My-Lan Thuong
CNC by Neal’s CNC Berkeley, California
Closing credits and title sequence Justin Sloane