New Additions: December 2021
31st December 2021
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 inspired you to create the Arizona family, and did you plan all the styles at the beginning, or did it grow as you were working on it?
It basically started with the introduction of Variable Fonts on the web in late 2017 and early 2018. This visualisation of real-time interpolation between two masters brought up a new way of thinking about, perceiving, and presenting typefaces. So we thought about new axes that haven’t been explored yet, and came up with the Sans to Serif axis. It was clearly foreseeable that this would create different kinds of genres within one type system, but not what these typefaces would turn out looking like.
The forms did not derive from any sources, revivals, or sketches done on paper. The design process was in that sense less linear than is usually the case. From a technical perspective, all the characters needed to be interpolated with each other. By changing single features in one style, you automatically affect the other styles as well. A lot of letters and design features of Arizona needed to be designed in special ways to work in the Sans and Serif extremes, as well as in its transitionary styles. We continually found new and unexpected results along the design process.
The Arizona family consists of five styles: the serif fonts Arizona Serif and Arizona Text, the sans-serif font Arizona Sans, and the fonts Arizona Mix and Arizona Flare. The first three are fairly self-explanatory, but how would you characterise Arizona Mix and Arizona Flare?
One interesting aspect of creating Variable Fonts is the intermediates of the transition. The three styles lying on the axis between the extreme points, Text, Mix, and Flare, were a result of this. Arizona Flare could be described as an Optima-like sans-serif typeface, characterised by the flare serifs that give this style a humanistic feel. Arizona Mix is exactly between Sans and Serif. It features smaller, heavier serifs and lower contrast between the horizontal and vertical stems. It could be classified as a “glyphic serif typeface”.
You’ve also made Arizona available as a single variable font file. What are the axes, and is there an online page where you can experiment with it?
The idea of creating a super-family of (in total) 50 individual styles in one single font file was the conceptual idea and drive behind Arizona. We wanted to go full circle with this – although this came with a lot of technical challenges along the way. The axes within this system are: 1. Serif, which lets you change the overall genre of the typeface, spanning from Sans to Serif, 2. Weight, spanning from Thin to Bold and 3. Italic. You can experiment with the axes directly on the Arizona page of the Dinamo Typefaces website.
I was interested to see that Arizona was used by A. A. Trabucco-Campos in his redesign of the website for the Glyphs Font Editor for Macintosh, and I gather you used Glyphs to design Arizona. Which came first, or did you work on the font in parallel with the website design?
Yes, I used Glyphs to design Arizona. It was already quite far when they reached out to us. It came quite as a surprise and we loved the idea that one of Arizona’s first applications is for the software it was designed with itself! Not only does Arizona look really good on the design, which makes use of its full range, but also the decision to utilise a typeface that spans over different genres, and tests the technical boundaries of the software itself, seems somehow fitting for the application.
Even though I was the one working on Arizona, it definitely is the result of hundreds of feedback rounds, discussions, and tests with the team at Dinamo. Alongside many other aspects I think it would not even have been possible to draw it without the use of Dinamo Font Gauntlet, an online tool that lets you test Variable Fonts in real time, which was also developed at that time by Dinamo’s Robert Janes.
Olli Meier – Vary (Monotype)
What led you to design Vary? Was it designed for a particular project?
I never thought that Vary could eventually be released commercially; I just wanted to design a typeface for myself. It started when I was doing an internship at Monotype in 2016. I was blown away by the announcement of the new Variable Fonts technology at the ATypI conference in Warsaw 2016, and I started experimenting with this new technology immediately. Vary eventually became one of Monotype's first 20 variable fonts.
It’s interesting that typeface designers often choose to make the letter ‘g’ individual to give their font a bit of personality; other classic examples are Kabel, Legothic, Castle, and Brighton, and that’s also definitely true of Vary. Where did the inspiration for that come from?
My brother's wife is from Bulgaria. In February 2017, we traveled together to her home country – not for the first time. Sofia, the capital, is really a great metropolis, with many warm people and a lot of creative minds. You notice that right away when you walk through the city and look at the graffiti on the walls. The beautifully designed bars and restaurants reminded me a lot of Berlin.
For a whole week I was surrounded by the Cyrillic script, or more precisely, Bulgarian Cyrillic. The characters fascinated me. My niece, then 6 years old, had just started learning to read and write both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets and we were both equally interested and fascinated by the letters, yet looked at the glyphs quite differently. One night, as I was walking past a storefront window in the center, I noticed a strange sign that looked like an asymmetrical B. Turned by 180°, it looked like a funny lowercase g. This was the initial inspiration for many more characters.
You’ve also made Vary available as a variable font with 10 instances. Did you design Vary as a variable font from the outset, or did the design of the regular weight come first?
As I mentioned in my answer to the first question, I definitely got influenced by the new technology and its possibilities.
From the beginning, I designed every character, every OpenType feature, and every interpolation to work as a variable font. I built the variable font first, before exporting the static fonts. Again and again I checked: What happens in the STAT (Style Attributes Table)? Why do you need an AVAR (Axis Variations Table)? How is the support in common apps? Can I build it so it works in Word? And I think I'm just starting to understand HOI (Higher Order Interpolation) by Underware. The guys from Underware are just awesome.
It’s interesting that the shapes of some characters change as a function of weight; one example is the ‘$’ sign which goes from two bars in Vary Hairline to one bar in Vary Regular to no bar in Vary Bold and heavier. How does this work in a continuously variable font?
Technically there are three dollar glyphs in the font, one for each design. Each glyph must be point-compatible so the interpolation works well between the instances. But depending on the font variation settings it switches from the one design to the other. Nowadays it is common practice for the dollar to lose its bar, especially when it gets bolder and you don't have enough white space for the bar, but the two bars switch is special. And it's again related to my general interest in type.
It was not easy to find a solution for two substitutions, and I was helped by my mentor Steve Matteson, the designer of the most famous Google font Open Sans. He told me that a dollar with two bars is a bit old school, but possible to do when you have enough white space, which is the case in the lighter weights like Vary Hairline. I am very grateful for that kind of feedback from experienced designers.
Fabular has the look of classic fonts from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Is it a revival, or an original design in that style?
Fabular is a revolt against a trend that was popular on MyFonts a while ago. As it goes, once someone releases a font family that becomes a top seller we soon have tons of copy-paste similar typefaces, in the same style. I’m talking about display serif fonts inspired from the 70s and 80s, with gentle, curvy terminals and fat serifs. Fabular was my reaction to that trend – it’s an original but slightly strange family with serifs in unexpected places and stems that aren’t high contrast.
Its design does incorporate some of the typographic elements from the period you mentioned, but there was no direct inspiration for Fabular. I just created it having in mind the trend I wanted to avoid, playing with serifs and letter shapes.
As far as the Nick Curtis fonts are concerned, they both contain calligraphic strokes whereas I’d say Fabular is more typographically constructed, closer to modern font construction.
I look for inspiration in vintage typefaces, mostly in books from my collection. There are a couple of books that really turn me on with ideas, like Taschen’s “Type – A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles” or “Euro Deco: Graphic Design Between the Wars” by Steven Heller and Louise Fili. I've never done a revival, as it requires a decent set of samples, documentation, and time which is not just straight designer’s work, but I like to analyse vintage typefaces, looking for details and different solutions that could be updated.
As a designer, whatever genre I'm working in even if it’s geometric sans, I want to easily identify my font when I see it in use, and not have it confused with other fonts. I think that’s the main quest of a creative designer, not just to reproduce, but to be able to bring something fresh and distinctive to customers.
Most period fonts were only designed in one weight, or at most two, but with Fabular you’ve provided a generous range of six weights, and italics. Were there any particular issues with extending the design to such a wide range of weights?
Yes, there were some problems with the darker weights, especially with letters that ended with a serif. Letters such as ‘a’, ‘c’, ‘s’, and ‘r’ were initially too dark because the serif was enclosed in the letter shape. I solved it by visually adjusting them to give the same tone and harmony as the other characters. An interesting aspect of the italics was that I didn’t want to condense the characters in the manner of usual italics, because I thought Fabular should retain its display personality and still be clearly recognisable in the italics.
What inspired you to make the Bakemono family?
The genesis of the Bakemono type family stems from a simple idea of monospace by mixing the retro technological typewriter design with the fixed block rhythm of the Japanese writing system (katakana and kanji). It takes inspiration from the Japanese Yōkai: creatures described as being able to freely change their form between human and animal. Literally, the term means a thing that changes, referring to a state of transformation that fits the metamorphic nature of the Bakemono type family.
It has three different variants: the monospaced version Bakemono Mono; the proportional version Bakemono Text which maintains the fixed-width characteristics of mono; and in the middle, there is an intermediate version, Bakemono Stereo, which combines the two sources, and is distinguished by strong readability, with a mono feeling, but is functionally proportional.
Bakemono Mono and Bakemono Stereo have a number of quirky features that give them a much more playful appearance than classic monospaced fonts such as Univers Next Typewriter: for example, the slight backward slope on the ‘G’ spur; the spurs on the ‘E’, ‘F’, ‘K’, ‘P’, and ‘R’; the trident-shaped ‘W’ and ‘w’; the symmetrical ‘y’; and the frisky ‘2’ and ‘7'. Did you aim to show that “mono” doesn’t have to mean monotonous?
Exactly! The association with typewriters made monospaced typefaces synonymous with journalism and document writing (with a neutral appeal); then fixed-width fonts were also widely used in early computers and computer terminals, which often had extremely limited graphical capabilities.
But far from their utilitarian reasons, monospace fonts also share a peculiar, almost-brutal look, forcing some letters (notably the lowercase ‘m’ and ‘w’) to shrink while making thin letters like ‘i’ and ‘l’ gain serifs. This is why, in the evolution of the design, the proportional version was born.
What applications did you have in mind for the Bakemono family?
The Mono version was born from design research that aimed at reevaluating the use of monospaced fonts for display, while the aim of the Text version was to exploit the mono width design, which can bring flexibility and ease of use even in proportional fonts, allowing you to change the weight of a word without losing the alignment of the text.
The different weights in each style of Bakemono are equal-width (see Equal-width fonts), so text does not change size when the weight changes. This is useful both in layouts and in interfaces; on the web, a button in Bakemono can become bold in rollover without shifting the block.
I am sure that designers will have the opportunity to have fun exploring the possibilities of this peculiar type family.
Do you plan to expand the Bakemono family?
Bakemono is already born with a multicultural nature (given the extended set of Cyrillic and Latin characters), and we would like to extend this to add support for Arabic and Japanese Kana.
But in the shorter term we are working on expanding the set with italic versions, which will be especially useful in the Text version.