New Additions: September 2020
30th September 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:
What was your initial motivation for designing Laica?
When I started on the final project for my Master TypeMedia course at KABK, I was struggling with the idea of overlapping inner and outer contours, something that later on was developed nicely by Yoann Minet with Totentanz. To overcome this moment of stickiness I set down a few simple desiderata: the design should work in running text, it should be at its best in the range 9-12 points, and it should have a few interesting and strong features. That helped me focus on the whole system (rhythm, inner and outer space, frequency of black shapes, contrast) and work on the whole font family, rather than on single interesting letters.
At TypeMedia the teachers encouraged us to follow the teachings of Gerrit Noordzij, using sketching with a pointed pen or broad nib as the main source of ideas. I really wanted to try and see if those approaches can live together in the same system, and that turned out to be a rewarding experience.
Did you have any other typefaces as influences, or did the design develop entirely from your own ideas?
One of the biggest influences at first was Material, a typeface designed by Nicolas Eigenheer in 2006 and released by the Optimo foundry. I loved the neat design, and I think that was an important inspiration at the beginning.
When trying to find similar fonts for Identifont the closest I could find is Farao, designed in 1998 by František Štorm. Had you seen that, and was it an influence on the design?
It is quite funny because the work of František Štorm has always inspired me, either because of some interpretation of an old historical reference, or how the contrast is distributed along the design providing an unexpected rhythm. Although I knew Farao I wasn't aware of being influenced by it, but it could be that some details were unconsciously in my mind.
Some of the letters in Laica are quite exotic, such as the unusual 'G' and the asymmetric 'T'. What gave you the idea for these, or did they arise accidentally?
I have to say that nothing came accidentally in this type family. It is not a big superfamily so I wanted to be aware of every decision, and I thought a lot about every detail. The ‘G’ has no serif or teardrop on the up-ending stroke, just like the letters ‘C’, ‘c’, and ‘a’, so that intricate construction builds a tension in the glyph to fit the balance and consistency of the whole typographic system, giving it a more vertical stress.
In the ‘T’ there is another concept: you usually use it where it has to interact with lower-case letters to its right, so I designed the glyph to give privilege to this uppercase-lowercase combination, allowing a more cozy set.
Why did you decide to create two versions of Laica: Laica A and Laica B? The differences seem to be very subtle, thickening the brackets on some of the capitals.
Initially Laica had quite a utilitarian family, a few styles that work properly together in text: roman/italic/bold. Dinamo suggested the possibility of enlarging the family, to provide a fully detailed text version (Laica A, with brackets in low contrast parts of the design), and a version intended for display uses, without the transitions, which became Laica B. In the future the idea is to expand the family further with a sans-serif version and a monospace.
How did the design of Noctis arise? Did you design it for a particular application, or was it the result of experimentation?
With Noctis we set out to create a typeface for the world of fashion and design. Since its creation, it has had very clear goals: to combine the classic features of Italian fashion with new trends, while maintaining an elegant and firm design.
It’s a sign of the originality of Noctis that I’m finding it hard to find any similar fonts to compare it with on Identifont. Are you aware of any other typefaces that share characteristics with it?
Noctis was initially inspired by Italian designer Aldo Novarese's typeface Primate, which influenced the wedge shape of the serifs and the way they are connected. We were also influenced by other typefaces in the wedge serif category, in particular Zetafont's Blacker Display and René Bieder's Mirador.
With most typefaces I would expect that the normal weight is designed first, and then the heavier and lighter weights are derived from that. However, with Noctis am I right in thinking that the most characteristic weight is Noctis Heavy?
Yes, we started by designing Noctis Heavy, since our influence, Aldo Novarese's Primate, was a heavy typeface. From that we then developed the lighter weights in the family, down to the light and thin which are almost monoweight.
The Noctis family includes some rather eccentric variants called Noctis Texturae, in which each character is reflected or rotated into multiple copies. Although they're fascinating, it's difficult to envisage a practical application for these fonts; did you have anything in mind?
Patterns are widely used in fashion design, and particularly in fabrics, so we developed the Texturae variants to be used as a pattern generator rather than a classic typeface. They are extremely easy and intuitive to use, as metrics and kerning are tuned to automatically take care of the spacing, with the exception of the line spacing that can be creatively adjusted by the user to reach the desired result.
What were your sources of inspiration for Harri Text?
The main source of inspiration for Harri Text, and the earlier display typeface Harri, was the peculiar lettering style broadly used in the Basque Country, a region located on both sides of the French/Spanish border on the Cantabrian coast. This style, which is commonly used in extremely bold weights, shows overemphasised features that are seemingly the result of a peculiar evolution from the old carved inscriptions that can still be found in some areas of the Basque Country, especially on the French side. The design of Harri is a sort of compromise between the strong character of the present instances of this peculiar style and the old inscriptions they evolved from. Those inscriptions are the origin of its incised appearance, and also the source of inspiration for all its letter variants.
Over time the lettering style used in the Basque Country has become more extreme, and the features in the old carved inscriptions have been exaggerated in more recent Basque lettering to express a feeling of identity as a distinct nation/culture. These wilder features are more apparent in the bold and extra bold styles of Harri and Harri Text.
Harri Text was developed from your earlier all-capitals typeface Harri, which you designed in 2017. Apart from adding a lower case, the main change I can see is the simpler ‘A’, without the top bar. Why did you decide to change that?
Harri was conceived as a display typeface, and it is an all-capitals typeface, since lowercase letters are hardly ever used in the Basque lettering style. It involved creating a large number of letter variants and contextual alternates to reflect the many variations in that style.
With Harri Text the challenge was to design a lowercase set based on the design of the capital letters, as there was nothing useful to use as a reference. Along with that, a lot of decisions had to be made, always having in mind its use in long texts.
The ‘A’ both with and without a top bar is present in both typefaces. In Harri the default ‘A’ has a top bar, for a greater Basque flavour. In Harry Text the default ‘A’ is more neutral, to avoid distraction in long texts, but in both cases you can choose the alternate from a Stylistic Set.
I found it hard to find any similar fonts to compare Harri Text with on Identifont; the best I can come up with is Michael Harvey’s Zephyr. Are there any other typefaces that you know of that are similar in approach?
Michael Harvey was one of my most admired calligraphers and lettering artists. His interest and experience in stone carving is an influence that can be seen in many of his works, and Zephyr is not an exception. Harri and Zephyr have this inscriptional origin in common, hence its resemblance. Zephyr is also one of the few fonts I know that makes use of top-only serifs, something very common in the Basque lettering style.
More generally I would classify Harri in the group of incised typefaces, and of course it shares a great deal of features with other incised fonts like Albertus or Friz Quadrata for instance. Actually, both are often used as an alternative to other Basque-style fonts when a more standard/neutral look is sought.
Infini, by Sandrini Nugue, is a project that superbly translates the organic nature of incised letters in a font. LFT Arnoldo by TypeTogether is also a good example of how a well designed incised-like typeface can be well suited to set long texts.
Did you design Harri Text for any particular application, and what sort of applications do you foresee?
The most expected uses seem those related to local products/services in the Basque Country, and I have seen it used for a local brewery Boga and for Basque cultural events. However, actually most of the sales seem to be generated outside the Basque Country. I am always happy to discover uses I never think of for the typefaces I release – it is one of the most exciting things about type design.
You wrote that Exposit was inspired by Joseph A. David’s “Plaque Découpée Universelle”, a stencil originally designed in 1876 which could be used to draw a set of block capitals. You’ve repurposed it to draw a variety of different, often irregular, characters. What gave you the idea for this project?
I started working on Exposit as part of my undergraduate thesis project about variable font technology in spring 2017. I originally drafted the typeface as a variable font with three axes. David’s “Plaque Découpée Universelle” helped me to construct a basic set of letterforms. I liked the versatility of it, but also its simplicity that allowed me to focus on the actual idea – to create a typeface that was designed for the technology, not adapted to it.
Even though variable fonts were fairly new back in 2017, many variable fonts were created by converting already existing, static typefaces, whereas Exposit was drawn as a variable font, leading to such an irregular, or even energetic, character set that may not be super useful, but was exciting.
Presumably there were some characters you couldn’t design strictly using the stencil, such as the accented characters?
Actually quite a few characters didn’t fit the grid – accented characters were one of them. But also fractions, for example. Plaque Découpée Universelle was originally created to draw letters, numbers, symbols, and basic punctuation – so in order to expand Exposit’s character set I had to break the grid.
The fonts include a number of OpenType Standard Ligatures, such as ‘EX’, ‘GH’, and ‘LA’. Are these also derived from the stencil?
I also had to break the grid for ligatures. I used the stencil as a foundation for the basic shapes of letterforms, but the more complex the typeface became (almost every character comes in multiple widths/shapes), the more often I had to adjust it. Just the LA ligature, for instance, comes in seven different versions.
Did you start this project with a particular application in mind, and what applications do you foresee for these fonts?
The intention was to create a unique, experimental font. One of the first experiments I worked on was a mobile web application that utilized the phone’s acceleration sensors. By tilting it, you influence the characters. One of my favorite applications of Exposit is an identity for the Leeds Piano Pub Competition by Saul Studio. They made it react to sound, which actually reminds you of playing the piano.