New Additions: April 2023
30th April 2023
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:
Michael Gills – Rahere Informal (ULGA Type)
Rahere Informal is a flowing, script-like companion to Rahere Slab, which you’ve also released recently. Did you design them in parallel, or was Rahere Informal evolved from Rahere Slab?
Although I conceived the idea for both Rahere Informal and Rahere Slab at the same time, I didn’t begin working on Informal until I’d finished Slab (I duplicated the final Slab Glyphs App file to start Informal). In this instance, Rahere Informal was derived from Rahere Slab, which was derived from Rahere Sans.
My original idea back in 2019 was to design an expanded family comprising an eclectic mixture of text and display typefaces which could all be paired with Rahere Sans, and so far (April 2023) there are six typefaces. As for future additions, I have some bold condensed variants stuttering along, and I’m also playing around with a wedge-serif design.
When I first saw Rahere Informal it reminded me a bit of ITC Forkbeard, which I subsequently realised was designed by you too! Did you consciously refer back to that earlier design?
The design of Rahere Informal was, abstractly, influenced by some calligraphy doodles using a broad-edge nib I did a few years ago. I imagined drawing the shapes using a pen and flicking the end stroke. Then I re-imagined the same process within the confines of the character shapes, taking care to ensure the overall design stayed within the confines of the Rahere family skeleton. There are a few characters where I deviated, but they still work – including ‘f’, ‘g’, and the happy ‘e’.
To be honest, I rarely look at my old typefaces, but having just checked Forkbeard - along with two of my other designs, Spidercave and Gilgamesh – I can see why there are similarities. I think I’ve always drawn letter shapes (whether digital or by hand) in a slightly quirky, off-kilter way and a lot of my older typeface designs also incorporated a calligraphic vibe. Whilst my newer designs are more polished, Rahere Informal unintentionally harks back to that era.
Most of the typeface designers I admire – Hermann Zapf, W. A. Dwiggins, Oldřich Menhart, Fred Goudy, Berthold Wolpe – had a distinctive style. I feel each one injected some of their own personality into their designs, an influence that’s stayed with me.
I’m interested in the observation that Rahere Informal seems just as legible as Rahere Slab, even though it’s missing features, such as serifs, that you might think would aid legibility. Why are such fonts called “informal”?
When I designed Rahere Sans, legibility was an important consideration and for a sans serif I think it works pretty well. Perhaps because Rahere Slab and Informal (Rahere Roman Display too) share Rahere San’s DNA, they inherited its legibility too. However, readability is a different matter. I'd say for long pieces of text, Rahere Informal is a bit elaborate and after a while the design gets in the way of reading.
I define informal as casual, relaxed, and easy-going. In this context, it’s informal compared to the other members of the Rahere family. My intention was to create a design that looks trustworthy, like Rahere Sans or Slab, only more casual and charming (I thought about naming it Rahere Charming but Informal sounded better). To crank up the charm factor, I added ligatures, swash capitals, and alternatives.
Did you have any applications in mind when you designed Rahere Informal?
I envisaged Rahere Informal being used for a wide variety of applications – both as text and display – on signage, packaging, advertising, brochures, catalogues, particularly where a sans-serif might look a little mundane or a slab-serif a tad stern. To quote myself: “Rahere Informal is lively and friendly without being whimsical, great for messages that need a casual but credible tone with a bit of zing in the mix.”
On a personal level, I’d love to see Rahere Informal advertising an arts event, an opera festival, or a cabaret. I worked at The Folio Society for nearly ten years and I’d consider it a badge of honour to see Rahere Informal (or any of my typefaces, for that matter) used on one of their stunning hardcover books. Rahere Informal was a fun typeface to design. I really enjoyed the process, and I think it shows.
If you’re interested, this is the story behind the naming of the Rahere typeface family: Rahere Sans and how cancer helped rekindle my type design mojo.
Joël Carrouché – Ando Round (JCFonts)
Ando Round is a rounded version of Ando, a typeface you released in 2011. What made you decide to do a rounded version now?
Ando is a special typeface to me: it was my first success, and also the typeface that made me realize that maybe I could design typefaces for a living. When I redesigned and extended the original family in 2020 with new weights and an inline style, I also started working on this rounded version, but at the time I also had other ideas that took priority, so these files were put aside for a while.
These days, I am focusing on revisiting and improving my existing typeface library, so I decided it was time to come back to Ando Round and finish it.
In Ando Round you’ve subdued some of the quirkier features of Ando, such as the curl on the ‘k’ arm, and the curl on the ‘v’ stroke. Did you feel that these wouldn’t work in a rounded version? Compare Ando Round and Ando.
This was not an easy design decision, and it’s also part of the reason the typeface was not released earlier. Making a rounded version of a font is not as simple as it looks: I first tried to keep these fancy terminals, but rounding strokes with small elements like these just doesn’t work in the heavy weights; the radius of the ‘rounding’ would need to be reduced to a point where it doesn’t feel consistent with the other characters.
I finally realized that the most elegant solution was to get rid of these features. The two typefaces are not meant to be used together after all, so having a few differences here and there is not an issue. Ando Round still looks very much like the original without these quirks.
The rounded stroke ends work particularly well with Ando Round, because they echo the rounded shapes of the characters like the ‘A’, ‘M’, ’N’, ‘p’, and ‘q’. Have you thought of doing a rounded version of your typeface Surimi, which has similar rounded shapes?
It’s not in the works right now, but it is something I am considering, for sure. I already know I would have to solve similar design problems: how to deal with the short spur of the ‘a’ or the ear of the ‘g’ in the Bold and Black styles. Getting rid of these does not seem like an option here, as these elements are not just decorative. That’s the fun part of designing typefaces: solving self-created problems, and trying to find the ideal balance between consistency, legibility, and style.
Julien Fincker – Royalis (Julien Fincker)
Did you design Royalis with a particular application in mind?
During the early phase of developing the font, the focus was definitely on its use in display sizes. I wanted to create a serif typeface with a strong character that could be used for editorial, packaging, and branding.
In the later stages, the idea was to add a text version so that it could support the display version and offer Royalis a combination of display and text sizes. So the users don't have to search for another font to combine, but have the possibility to start directly and holistically with Royalis in their project.
I think the most striking feature of Royalis must be the extremely long serifs on characters such as the ‘E’, ‘R’, ’T’, ‘a’, ‘h’, ’m’, and ‘&’. Compared to the most extreme example I can find on Identifont, Monotype Modern Extended, Royalis turns the serifs up to 11! What was the inspiration for this?
The inspiration for the long serifs and exit strokes came more from an experimental background. I wanted to find out how far you can push the extremes without losing too much functionality and aesthetics. At the same time, I also wanted to bring in a very extravagant and expressive characteristic, so it came to these expansive shapes. It was very exciting and fun to find out how far you can go.
The family also includes Royalis Text, which subdues the serifs and reduces the contrast, but it retains distinctive features such as exit strokes on the ‘m’ and ’n’. The closest I can find to it on Identifont is Stefan Hattenbach’s Oxtail. Was that an inspiration for Royalis?
Actually, I take as little targeted inspiration from another font as possible. Simply to avoid copying a font. Of course, when I have problems, I look at one or other letter from other fonts and see how this or that problem was solved. But I also compare the respective letter from several fonts and try to find the most suitable solution for me from the different influences. I think this is normal. In this case, however, the text version was created on the basis of the display version. Therefore, the character features were of course already predefined, such as these long exit strokes. These should of course not disappear, but be retained in a reduced and functional form.
To accompany Royalis you’ve provided Royalis Oblique, an optically slanted version of Royalis. Why did you choose this rather than a more traditional italic with script-like character shapes?
This decision was actually not an easy one for me. From a formal point of view, I could have imagined true italics with this characteristic. However, since I'm currently also working on a variable font version of Royalis, it was important to draw the italics based on the upright. So I had to decide between a formal and a technical solution, and the decision fell on the technical solution. But I'm very excited to see what you will be able to do with Royalis as a variable font; I think there will be some very exciting possibilities for use there.
Daniel Utz – Netto (TypeMates)
Netto is a sans-serif font family with rounded stroke-ends and geometric forms, reminiscent of template lettering like Isonorm. What originally motivated the design?
I always liked Isonorm's minimalistic geometric letter shapes. However the spacing and kerning of all the existing Isonorm versions was really bad. At the time I was rather frustrated with my daytime job so I decided to give it a try and create an improved Isonorm version. As a rookie in type design I just started off in Illustrator and drew the basic glyphs. Quite soon the forms differed a lot from the very constructed technical origins and became more fluid and organic. That's how the whole Netto project started.
Netto is a update of your earlier family FF Netto, released by FontFont in 2008. Has much been updated? At first sight the character shapes are identical, apart from the ‘4’: Compare FF Netto and Netto.
The update is rather an extension than a modification. There are minor improvements in kerning and spacing, and we also added some additional glyphs like currency symbols and another alternative ampersand. But essentially the new version is all about icons. A lot of icons for a broad range of publications. And what was really challenging: all icons now match the full range of the weight axis of the typeface.
Netto is now available as a variable font, with weight and slant axes. To do that did you go back and start the design process again as a variable font, finally regenerating the static weights from fixed points on the weight axis? If so, did you discover any quirks in your original designs?
Thank goodness no! I went through this whole process in 2012 when I did the first big FF Netto update together with FontShop. At that time we had to throw away all existing weights. Instead of the light weight I drew a thin weight, and beyond bold a black weight was added. Everything that existed and drawn by hand before was now interpolated. The italic styles were also challenging because of the thin round stroke endings that had to match to the underlying units-per-em (UPM) grid of the font. The only positive aspect was (and is) that Netto works without intermediate masters.
The slant axis allows you to vary the angle from upright to 11°, matching the Netto Italic style. Why might someone want intermediate slants?
Almost nobody ;) but for reasons of data compression in the variable font format, an interpolatable axis makes sense.
FF Netto was popular with websites that wanted a high-tech feel (see Rettifica Due B and Erased Tapes Records). Do you anticipate similar applications for Netto?
Some of my friends and colleagues around Stuttgart at Intuity and Milla use Netto for their technology and interface design offices. Netto definitely has a certain technical appearance and I really appreciate that. But I'm also happy to see it in use in examples from completely different areas. My current highlight is the new pasta packaging from Barilla. I hope that the Netto will be requested for other language areas so that we can gradually expand the glyph set beyond Latin: Greek, Cyrillic, Arabic, Hebrew …