Margo Chase & Madonna

Hello everybody,

In the late Eighties, Margo Chase drew a beautiful set of letters to create a suitable logotype for Madonna's album "Like A Prayer".

The general feeling I get is that of some Old Style capitals (with prominent serifs) drawn in a rather narrow, compressed style. Ms. Heiden may well have created these letters from scratch, but I wonder if there are older designs that pre-date this style.

As the letterforms themselves have a slightly distressed, nervy look, I tried to find (in vain!) something akin to that. Maybe a Caslon Antique would do? Well, it goes without saying that it definitely did not.

My question is about Old Style typefaces that may resemble the letterforms in the logo.

I have attached a slightly doctored (the first and last letters are capitalized in the original design) example of the logo to make things easier.

Thanks for your time and patience!

Comments

  • Marc OxborrowMarc Oxborrow Posts: 186
    Hey Fiz, type ID requests are against the rules on Typedrawers.
  • and not to use a real name is also against the rules.
  • Also, although I agree with all three replies above, I think it's quite ungracious to deploy a flag on a recent arrival.
  • Since the type sample shown was identified by the poster as writing by Margo Chase, is it a type ID? The request was for suggestions of types that resembled the example.
    It wasn't my intention at all to turn my message into a Font ID. I was rather wondering about the historical origins of a particular example of hand-lettering and trying to trace its origin and evolution.  

    Thank you for having understood the real intention of my post.

  • and not to use a real name is also against the rules.
    Actually, my real name is Fiz. But if you mean my surname is not featured on my profile and that is against the rules, I am changing it now. Thanks for pointing that out!
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,109
    edited April 1
    It's hard to decode Margo Chase becuase her lettering inspired so many typefaces and entire typeface trends rather than the other way around. I think the title is something she made up based on the general idea of Latin serifs to go with the rest of the cover design. There's a crown symbol and thorny shape which I think suggests a crown of thorns. There's an overall theme of Catholicism which was Madonna's intention with the songs as well. The cover design and lettering emphasizes the more cruel, painful side of Catholicism. I love how the religious imagery obscures what that title track is actually about.  (look it up if you don't know) I know you didn't ask for an album review but it's hard to resist because it was such an incredible accomlishment in every way. The cover art, the videos, music and lyrics worked perfectly in unison.
  • welcome on board, Fiz. Don’t take it hard or personally. The rules here are actually quite sensible, otherwise this forum wouldn’t be what it is.
  • Marc OxborrowMarc Oxborrow Posts: 186
    edited April 1
    @Fiz de la Peña Apologies for my brusque tone. Welcome to Typedrawers!
  • welcome on board, Fiz. Don’t take it hard or personally. The rules here are actually quite sensible, otherwise this forum wouldn’t be what it is.
    Thanks for your answer and understanding.
  • @Fiz de la Peña Apologies for my brusque tone. Welcome to Typedrawers!
    @Fiz de la Peña Apologies for my brusque tone. Welcome to Typedrawers!
    Thank you!
  • It's hard to decode Margo Chase becuase her lettering inspired so many typefaces and entire typeface trends rather than the other way around. I think the title is something she made up based on the general idea of Latin serifs to go with the rest of the cover design. There's a crown symbol and thorny shape which I think suggests a crown of thorns. There's an overall theme of Catholicism which was Madonna's intention with the songs as well. The cover design and lettering emphasizes the more cruel, painful side of Catholicism. I love how the religious imagery obscures what that title track is actually about.  (look it up if you don't know) I know you didn't ask for an album review but it's hard to resist because it was such an incredible accomlishment in every way. The cover art, the videos, music and lyrics worked perfectly in unison.
    I agree with so many things in your message. Some people noticed that this was Madonna's first album cover without her likeness on it... while some others went to the extent of saying that the image was actually Madonna's cheeky riposte to the Rolling Stones' "Sticky Fingers". Anyway, I guess all the anecdotes and trivia only add to a fuller understanding of a mainly great album. 

    Thanks for your message. 
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,744
    edited April 3
    There was a Goth sensibility to Chase’s work back then, spiky and condensed (or horizontally extended). Mix in some distress. With that vocabulary in play, there was not much need for precedent.

    Besides, it’s unlikely that any existed, as there was not much selection of condensed serif typefaces available, and the great vogue for distress was just then emerging.

    Perhaps the most remarkable of distressed old style types was the ostensibly venerable Poliphilus (1923), created using faithfully reproduced photographic images of less-than-optimal printed characters sampled from the Aldine Hypnerotomachia Poliphili to produce a machine-set metal type which could make a perfect facsimile of the output of printing technology long since vanished from the face of the Earth. William Morris had worked with photo blow-ups of Nicolas Jenson’s Renaissance type in the 1890s, but his tracings were just to get the hang of the thing, he would never have dreamed of making a verbatim transcription: too pedantic, too mechanical, no craft. Even Goudy and Cooper’s contemporary historicism, though pointedly a bit wonky, was relatively clean. In Poliphilus a relatively new medium in type design, photography, was used to mechanically appropriate the genius of a type founder working in a far older technology. A postmodern, curation-as-art methodology, with the reproduced artefact becoming a hollow simulacrum of its original self. Type revival as recontextualization. But it didn’t find much favour, certainly not compared with Monotype’s subsequent Aldine revival, Bembo.
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,164
    as there was not much selection of condensed serif typefaces available,
    Though I think of Apple Garamond as very much of that time. 
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,109
    If I had to bet on one font she had in mind it would be PLINC Latin Elongated.
  • I am certainly not an expert on typography, but I reckon many typefaces out there do spring from a former design. This example could well be a likely scenario that points to the origins of that Madonna logo. 
  • Stephen ColesStephen Coles Posts: 901
    edited April 5
    Great sleuthing, @Florian Hardwig! That made me curious to track down which size of XV Century (Barnhard Brothers & Spindler, ca. 1896) Mecanorma’s version was based on. The shapes and notches appear to match the 24 pt. 




  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,744
    edited April 5
    I’m not convinced, Florian.
    A rough tracing of squished Times Roman would give a better match, and would have been a more practical method than “cleaning up” the more gnarly Caslon Antique, back in the day.
    Give it a try!
    The raised crossbar of A is a red herring, just a little “arch” detail.

    All cap Times had been used previously for Madonna albums (e.g. True Blue), so there would be some “brand consistency” there.

    Also, in 1988/89, DTP had just arrived, with the ability to produce artificial condensing of fonts, and Times was bundled with the early Macs, as one of the few digital styles available, so that may have intrigued Chase, and it would certainly have been easy to morph, prior to tracing over it. 

  • Stephen ColesStephen Coles Posts: 901
    Nick, those nicks are very coincidentally in the same place on Chase’s title as they are in Caslon Antique.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,744
    edited April 5


    Here is the Times.
    I would say it’s easier to use it as a model than the Caslon, if you’re going to trace.
    But you’re right about the nicks, so I stand corrected.

  • avperthavperth Posts: 2
    Think I concluded it was probably based on Caslon Antique years ago, here:
    https://www.myfonts.com/WhatTheFont/forum/case/1239264/

    Margo Chase was obviously a master at creating antique goth style logotypes or type treatments, frequently incorporating her own typeface designs as well as employing and adapting existing typefaces in clever ways. For instance, the logo she created for the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" spinoff series "Angel" is based upon Bernhard Modern, with elements removed.

    So, I think it's entirely possible that a version of Caslon Antique (aka Fifteenth Century) was the starting point and Chase re-worked or re-drew it into a sharper and more refined form. It would be unfair to say "this is the font," as the final logo is substantially different—but Caslon Antique seems to have been referenced and is probably the closest in overall look and feel.

  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 844
    I would almost be tempted to speculate that somehow a computer program was used to "morph" Caslon Antique into an elongated Times Roman or whatever conventional typeface, since clearly the nicks are an exact match, but the shape is different, and conventionally, I could see no way to achieve this except a complete redrawing.
    In that case, why on Earth copy the nicks of Caslon Antique exactly rather than just distress the typeface normally?
  • avperthavperth Posts: 2
    Centaur typeface was paired with Chase's art and lettering for promotional materials and used elsewhere on the Like A Prayer album. Caslon Antique was also used on the cover for Madonna's Remixed Prayer Mini-Album. Garamond's uppercase also has very similar characteristics and there are a few "antique" versions with a similar look to Chase's lettering. As before, none of these fonts or typefaces match precisely—so if Chase did use them, it would likely only be as a rough starting point or reference before making considerable changes. The cut of antique 15th and 16th century roman or old-style types, like those of Nicolas Jenson or Claude Garamont (aka Garamond), may have represented the overall look Chase was going for.


  • Margo is no longer with us
    A plane crash! This is so incredibly sad!! :(

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