New Additions: August 2020
31st August 2020
From the hundreds of fonts we add to the Identifont database every month we chose a selection of the most interesting recent additions, and interviewed the designers about their approach to each design:
Beatrice d'Agostino for Leftloft – LFT Arnoldo (TypeTogether)
You wrote that Leftloft initially developed LFT Arnoldo for the rebranding of Oscar Mondadori. Can you explain a bit about the brief?
Oscar Mondadori is a major Italian publisher founded in 1965 with the aim of bringing great literature to the general reader, and for over 50 years the ‘Oscars’ have offered paperbacks in massive print runs, with over 4,500 titles, 28 different series, and more than 1,200 authors encompassing ancient, modern, and contemporary classics, thrillers, romantic novels, science, children’s books, and self-help handbooks. However, the company suffered from a lack of unity, and thus of identity. Leftloft’s brief was to rebrand and restyle the whole collection to give the Oscars a new identity, turning this vast territory into a big, yet harmonious, family.
How is LFT Arnoldo derived from the typeface used in the rebranding?
When we started the rebranding, we couldn’t find a typeface that matched the logo we had designed, so we decided to design a typeface for the logo and the books’ spines, but just in uppercase and in one bold weight. That was what we needed at that moment. The new version of LFT Arnoldo starts from the lettershapes we designed in the first place for Mondadori, but is extended in terms of weights, the character set is bigger, and obviously now there is lowercase too.
Are there any other typefaces that you studied or influences you had in the development of LFT Arnoldo?
The typefaces we took as references were LL Circular (Lineto) and Infini (Graphisme en France). LL Circular was the typeface we chose for the back cover of the Oscar Mondadori covers, so Arnoldo needed to live with it in a harmonious way. We looked at it for proportions mostly. Infini, on the other hand, was a good reference in order to deal with chiselled stems.
You describe LFT Arnoldo as a “flared humanist sans”, so I suppose the first such font that comes to mind is Optima, but the two are very different. How would you characterise the differences?
LFT Arnoldo has different proportions compared to Optima; we tried to work with contemporary and more rational proportions. Another difference is the kind of contrast. Optima has more a “classical” look and elegance. With LFT Arnoldo we wanted to keep the chiselled feeling but working with a small amount of contrast.
In writing about LFT Arnoldo you use words such as “carved” and “chiselled”. Were you trying to convey the roughness of stone in the character shapes?
The Mondadori catalogue is a huge one, with over 4,500 titles from ancient classics to contemporary works. First of all, we designed a typographical timeline. For each century we chose a few typefaces inspired by that period. In this way every cover is set in a typeface that reflects the spirit of the title’s time. The typeface designed for the book spines and logotypes had to work with all these typefaces, so our idea for LFT Arnoldo was to have a timeless typeface; contemporary in proportions but with an engraved feeling, starting from the idea of the roughness of the stone.
Here's the link to our case study: https://leftloft.com/case-study/a-new-oscar-for-mondadori/
Luke Prowse – NaN Weiss (NaN)
NaN Weiss is a quirky font – the verbal description that comes to mind is "spiky serifs". Was that a starting point in the design, or did it just evolve like that?
I kept finding myself lingering over samples of Weiss Initials, particularly the kräftig/bold weight, in a kind of bewitched stupor. Having worked on a lot of fonts with a more mechanical approach I was attracted to working on something that was sort of anti that; inconsistent, organic, difficult. Emil Rudolf Weiss’s work was a door into that world. I’d also never done a revival before so was also interested in simply working differently. As far as I know there’s a very limited source material of uppercase, numerals, and minimal punctuation so the other curiosity was in developing out a wide glyph set.
The only other font I can find to compare it visually on Identifont is Bernhard Modern Bold. Was that an influence?
It’s funny you mention Bernhard Modern. I have two small boys who love the books by writer Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler. The Gruffalo is probably the most famous of theirs. Bernhard Modern is used throughout their collection, so I’m starting to wonder whether my affection for Weiss Initials was being subconsciously nurtured every time we read a book together.
Although it's not immediately obvious from looking at it, Nan Weiss is a monospaced font. Why did you decide on that? It's presumably not intended for applications such as code editors and terminals. Did you have applications in mind when designing it?
Developing it as a monospace was more of a “what would happen if…?” kind of scenario. In that sense it’s an experiment and the lack of clear end-application is perhaps a testament to that. Weiss Initials, to my eyes at least, has such a rich ecclesiastical tone you can almost taste it rubricated in ox blood. Making it monospace was a counter balance to that with modern “coder aesthetics”. So it’s a mash-up; warm and cold, old and new, virtuous and apathetic. It’s a bit strange to talk about humor in type but in some ways it’s a drawn-out joke. Perhaps on myself.
The heavier weights almost have a hand-drawn look, like Timothy Donaldson's ITC Angryhog. For example, in NaN Weiss Black the verticals of the 'E', 'F', and 'N' aren't vertical, and the bowls of the 'c', 'e', and 'p' are not perfect ellipses. Were you aiming for an organic, woodcut feel?
I was certainly aiming for an organic, irregular feel without referencing woodcut type specifically. The extreme weights did take on something of their own personalities; rather than referencing the other weights of Weiss Initials I tried to modulate back and forth from the bold. Also I decided to keep a consistent serif thickness across the weight range. It’s an atypical approach to serif expansion and definitely plays a part in the oddity. The thin weight is more monoline and type-writery, and the black as you say is a bit wilder.
What were your main influences in designing IvyMode?
When starting the project that became IvyMode I wanted to understand what kind of typefaces and visual expressions the fashion industry was using, and I found a lot using Optima. I was not trying to make a new Optima, but what I found useful in Optima was the way the strokes subtly widen at stroke endings. The idea appealed to me of how to make a high contrast typeface without the serifs; a display font with a sort of clean and sharp appearance.
At first sight IvyMode is similar to a few other high contrast typefaces, such as Bw Vivant and Vanitas Bold, but IvyMode has some unique characteristics of its own, such as the flared stroke endings on some letters such as the ‘E’ and ‘F’, the hints at serifs on the ‘M’ and ‘N’, and the angled cut on the ‘K’ and ‘R’ leg. What was your inspiration for these features?
While working on the design of IvyMode I found some glyphs a bit unresolved, because of the missing serifs, such as where a glyph ended in a thin stroke. So by introducing the flared endings, it marks more clearly where the letter ends, and therefore becomes a bit more readable, in my opinion. Also, I wanted a tight letter space, and therefore needed some ligatures like 'KA', and while making these, almost by accident the ‘K’ got a vertical cut, and I thought it could be a useful characteristic. So I kept it and added it to the ‘R’ and ‘X’. Also, I emphasised the sharper look by making the apexes pointed, and the dots diamond-shaped.
IvyMode has found uses in areas such as fashion magazines and skincare product packaging; see IvyMode on Fonts In Use. Did you design it with these applications in mind?
I am fascinated by the way that visual elements like text can carry a message, and I am very pleased and thankful that IvyMode has found uses similar to the spirit I tried to build into it.
In your description of Apoc you say that you were inspired by upper-case letters on the cover of an edition of the Book of Revelation, the final book of the New Testament. What process did you go through to develop that into a complete typeface family?
The process to design the Apoc family started with a couple of glyphs I found interesting in the word “APOCALYPSE”. The “POC” was a ligature, and the ‘Y’ was pretty close to what you can find in the actual font. The contrast was a bit reversed in the rounded parts as well, something you can see in the final design of the font family. The design started organically from the first drawn letters: what would the lowercase of these caps look like? You would have some sort of inverted contrast, and thorn-like serif shapes, as you see on the lowercase ‘a’, ‘c’, ‘s’, ‘r’, and many of the alternates.
Did you design Apoc for any particular religious/historical project, or were you just seeing what direction your original inspiration would take you?
There wasn't a particular project behind the design of the family. It began as a sort of research; I was curious to interpret a whole font family based on just a few glyphs. As the font grew the idea was to create something distinctive, yet calm enough to be used on multiple projects. I wanted people to experiment with it, hence the large number of OpenType features such as alternates and ligatures.
Apoc has mystical and medieval connotations, and so I expected it would be used in projects with a historical theme, such as fantasy fiction and computer games, but ironically it seems to be popular in conveying a modern image on book covers, posters, and product packaging; see Apoc on Fonts in Use. Does this surprise you?
This is one of the things that I love about font design: once a font is released to the public it's not yours anymore, and people will use it on what they want, how they want. I'm not really surprised that Apoc seems to appear on modern imagery – I think this font family modestly echoes with some sort of zeitgeist of this era and that's why it suits contemporary creation. I remember that one of the very first uses of Apoc was the work of Michael Clasen in K1M3R4 magazine, and I was really proud to see the font family on such a beautiful project.
How has Apoc evolved since its first release in 2018?
The first version of Apoc included the Revelations style, which is similar to the Hairline weight but with enhanced serifs, and Apoc Light Sans, minus the serifs. In 2020 I updated the font family with more weights (Hairline to Dark), a variable version, updated metrics and kerning, and new glyphs and alternates. A Cyrillic version, created with the help of Ilya Ruderman, is coming soon.