New Additions: November 2022
30th November 2022
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:
You’ve written that your aim in designing Carolinéale was to create a legible, modern, sans-serif typeface with echoes of the writing from the 8th and 9th centuries referred to as Caroline minuscule. What inspired you to do this?
It all began in 2014 at the ANRT (National Institute for Typographical Research) – A post-master degree in Nancy, France, where I started to design a typographical system in order to typeset Carolingian chant. During the nine months spent there I designed both a digital version of the medieval musical signs, but also a single weight typeface to typeset the texts of the chants. The musical signs I designed were inspired more by their contemporary ballpoint pen versions, rather than the broad nib pen one of the medieval manuscripts.
I therefore decided to apply the same design principle to the alphabet, drawing some kind of monolinear Caroline minuscule. From this simple idea, the whole typeface grew until it became a distinct project. The more I was exploring the idea, the more I got excited by it, and the more I wanted to go forward. Seven years later, Carolinéale was released.
The most distinctive characters in Carolinéale are the ‘a’, ‘e’, ‘g’, and ‘4’; the other characters are close to their contemporary forms. Is that because you have updated them to keep Carolinéale legible, or because they haven’t changed much since the 8th and 9th centuries?
Indeed, those letters are distinctive and it was important for me to keep their identity. However, one can also find some more discrete elements in other characters. The ascenders and descenders are slightly marked at their ends, as are the shafts of certain letters at the x-height, for example.
On the other hand, the figures are completely extrapolated, as there were no Arabic numerals in the Carolingian script. The same applies to the humanistic capital letters of Carolinéale, which are anachronistic with their Carolingian equivalent. Monks from that time would have preferred to play with a mix of Merovingian, Roman, and Uncial models, something quite difficult to reproduce in a contemporary typeface.
But it is true that many of the minuscule letters of Carolinéale are quite familiar to modern eyes. The Caroline minuscule served as an historical model through centuries. One could consider it as the ancestor of our contemporary typographical model, with which it shares a lot of similarities. It is actually this familiarity which made me think that designing a contemporary Caroline could be a nice idea.
In Carolinéale you’ve provided six weights, plus italic versions. Presumably there was no concept of weights or italics in the writing of the Middle Ages, so how did you go about designing these?
You're right, Carolinéale weights moves the character away from its historical sources: while the existence of ‘black’ Carolingian minuscules is undeniable, a thin version is more fanciful and does not particularly find a medieval equivalent. The same goes for bringing everything together as one and the same family, one and the same whole.
To design the extra weights I decided not to look at manuscripts anymore, but to focus on the internal design logic of the family. It required finding the best formal compromises or radical solutions in a lot of situations, like in the black weight, or to accommodate nicely all the accents of the extended Latin character set used by PampaType.
The italic has also been a huge challenge. As you mentioned, the concept of an italic style accompanying the Roman is absent in the Middle Ages. I saw this situation as an opportunity to drift freely even further away from my historical model. Carolinéale Italic gets its inspiration mainly from the anglophone humanist cursive sans-serifs of the early 20th century, like Goudy Sans. This new style is thought of as a companion to the Roman. It seeks to distinguish itself and bring a new voice at the sentence level, while preserving harmony and coherence at the paragraph level. I tried to ensure that the italic letters of the family express themselves in their own logic, resulting in a more vivid, organic and lively form.
Ultimately, I sought in designing the different styles of Carolinéale to find a point of balance between the calm and stability of contemporary humanist sans serifs and the energy and warmth of Carolingian calligraphy.
If you want to know more details about it, feel free to have a look at the article I wrote in PampaType's scriptorium: https://pampatype.com/blog/the-design-of-carolineale.
Dreamboat is an example of a genre called “fat-bottomed scripts” still seen on product logos such as Campbell’s soup and Coca-Cola. What first inspired you to start developing your own take on this style?
It was also called “bold script” back in the day. It's a style I've been interested in for as long as I’ve been drawing letters. There are some fonts in that general style. Some of them have a kind of 1970s vibe (whether they were created in the seventies or not). Some have more of a sign-painting look, or they try to copy specific famous logos, like Coca-Cola or whatever. But none of them, in my opinion, captured the look of the classic, early 20th century examples of the style. So I decided to try my hand at it, hoping I could get closer to that.
You’ve written that you have been working on Dreamboat for nearly 20 years. What took so long?
I pitched the idea to House Industries in 2004. Since they usually did themed font sets, they added two other fonts to the project, a sans-serif and a serif. It would be a sports-themed collection. But after doing some preliminary work on the script (with the help of Ken Barber), they wanted me to put the script on hold and focus on the sans-serif and the serif. Unfortunately, House had a lot of things going on and the project started getting delayed and dragged out and eventually put on hold.
I kept working on the script on my own anyway while I was waiting for the project to resume. Finally, in 2017, House agreed to let me release the script myself. Of the three fonts, it was the one I had brought to them and cared about the most. The next five years is when I worked most actively on it and expanded the weight range. I have to say, though, that Ken’s feedback and advice in the early stages was very valuable in firming up the concept and raising my standards.
There are a few earlier examples of fonts in this style, such as Leslie Cabarga’s Casey, but none of them offer the range of six weights that Dreamboat provides. Was your aim to offer the definitive answer to this genre?
The original concept was to do only one weight (now Dreamboat Bold). But a few years ago, I started exploring the idea of doing a range of weights, going from light to black, since I’d never seen that done before with this style of script. I’m really glad I did because I think it offers a lot more flexibility to designers. With only the single weight, if it’s too bold, or not bold enough, you have to look at other fonts that may not have the qualities of the one that wasn’t the right weight. It was also just really fun to see how bold and how light I could push it.
The capitals took the most work. I had the lowercase worked out pretty early, when I was working with Ken. Some of the caps were easy, with lots of historical examples to use as models, but with others were more difficult, if not impossible, to find reference, especially in a consistent style. One of the problems with a lot of the existing fonts in this genre is lack of harmony and consistency in the capitals. I wanted to avoid that, and spent a lot of time and research working out the forms that worked best with the other capitals, but still felt true the the classic bold script style.
I also included small caps — plain caps that could be used in all-caps settings, since the normal caps don’t work for that; for instance, for roman numerals or acronyms. There’s also a set of tails of different lengths, a feature that is very frequently seen in this script genre.
This style of script was popular at the start of the 20th century, and was then revived in the Sixties. Do you think it’s time for another revival?
I don’t really know. I try not to guess whether “it’s time” for a particular type style. Instead I try to make fonts that don't exist yet, fonts that I would want to use if they did exist. If I’m lucky, I’m not the only one.
Sirenia is a soft, sans-serif font with rounded terminals. It seems to be an evolution of your 2015 experimental font Sadness; is that correct?
Yes, it is. Sadness is one of my first ever type designs and was created during my design studies in the late nineties. The font was originally released by Fountain Type around 2000, but after the unexpected death of its founder Peter Bruhn in 2014 I had to re-release it under my own label, Floodfonts. Expanding the family and reworking my old letters last year changed the design so much that I decided to rename the typeface “Sirenia” – a reference to the hanging snouts of manatees.
No, the origins are more experimental. Using the Blend Fonts feature of the archaic type design program Fontographer, I tried to interpolate different type styles and take inspiration for new letterforms from the fragmentary results. By blending an unpublished script typeface by my mentor Jens Gehlhaar with a sans-serif typeface, I developed the idea of an upright cursive that combines rounded, teardrop serifs with the upstrokes of a handwritten script.
The characters of Sirenia have a very flowing, hand-drawn look about them. Did you originally sketch the characters on paper before digitising them?
Yes, I totally enjoy drawing by hand. I'm much faster and feel less limited when sketching by hand than drawing Bezier curves. Besides, it's nice to get away from the screen for a while. Only when designing geometric type do I start right away on the computer. Sketches and a detailed description of the design process can be found at https://floodfonts.com/sirenia.
The family includes a range of nine weights, plus italics. Was it difficult preserving the essential character of the typeface across all the weights?
Yes it was. I actually do think that the character of the family varies in the different fonts. If the light weights appear elegant and filigree, in the medium weights the typeface changes its character to a dynamic brush type, and in the heavy weights it merges into a fun, almost psychedelic bubblegum aesthetic. Yet, obviously, all the fonts are based on the same skeleton.
Monden is quite a quirky font; what led you to create it?
To be honest, as with many previous releases, I just sat and made it without any previous plan or idea of what it should look like at the end. I agree it's quirky – it combines a sort of Didone style without bottom serifs with display elements, and it looks surprisingly distinctive in my opinion; even more than it should be. I think its distinctiveness probably limits its area of use.
There were no design influences that I'm aware of. Packard Patrician NF might be closer by design to my other release – Bottled Moon – as Monden gives the impression of less freedom in terms of some of the calligraphic elements that Packard Patrician NF and Bottled Moon contain.
A distinctive feature of Monden is the teardrop on letters such as the ‘C’, ‘G’, and ‘S’, and the italic ‘s’, ‘w’, and ‘x’. What inspired you to incorporate this feature?
Instead of inspiration, I'd say it was more the urge to add something that would make it more unique, and the teardrops gave a dose of contrast to the strict stems; they visually added more flavour in words composed with Monden. Those teardops, the curvy endings, and the really decorative italic shapes, are all visual characteristics of Monden.
The teardrops caused some complications during design, especially in the heavier weights as they were positionally close to some parts of the letter which could cause letter blackness and visual stuffiness.
In retrospect I would describe Monden as a Didone with hairstyle bangs in a couple of colours and asymmetric cuts.