Tomato is the digitization and quite elaborate expansion of an early 1970s Franklin Photolettering film type called Viola Flare. This typeface is an obvious child of funk, the audio-visual revolution that swept America and put an end to the art nouveau period we now associate with the hippy era.
Funk is of course little more than jazz with a chorus and an emphatic beat. Nevertheless, it became the definition of cool in the 1970s, thanks to blaxploitation movies with excellent soundtracks like Shaft and Superfly. Funk began as a commercial audio experience, then later expanded its signature to cover everything, from design to fashion to the later birth of disco, which is really a further simplification of funk. Funk had very strong and unique typographical elements, particularly a kind of titling with an essentially western, wooden core that suddenly changed and flared in unexpected areas until a very individual brand was achieved. Everything that can be tacked on to the alphabet was used towards that individuality. Things like curls, swirls, swashes, ligatures were always plentiful in funk, sometimes giving the titling a specific gender, sometimes bulging, sometimes speeding, sometimes fading in the distance, sometimes doing nothing but crazily aligning with other design elements, but the result was always a fascinating creature that seemed to invariably want to dance and have fun.
Tomato was built in exactly that spirit. The original film type certainly had enough swashes and curls to be an unmistakable funk font in itself, but our further expansion of it cements it and makes it the definite font for the genre. With as many as 12 different possibilities for some letters, the designer’s choices for a titling set in Tomato are virtually limitless.
The True Type version of Tomato comes in five fonts, including two fonts for alternates, one font for ligatures, and one font for swashes.
A Tomato Pro OpenType version is also available. It is a single font that includes over 650 characters, with expanded language support for Latin, Greek and Cyrillic scripts, all glued together with extensive programming for convenience of use in OpenType-friendly applications, where you can watch the letters morph and dance as you push the buttons and change the options of your OT palette.
Now you know which font will come to mind when someone says the word “funky”.