I Love Typography

Anivers — birth of a typeface

by Jos Buivenga

When I was asked by Smashing Magazine (SM) in 2007 if I could release a free font to celebrate their first anniversary I first thought that the release of Museo could very well be that font. However, it was nowhere near ready and, not wishing to rush things, I started to play around with some sharp elements I liked to see if something could grow out of it.

Anivers, the beginning

Still far too constructed of course, but the sharp elements did offer nice connections which I decided to keep and transpose to other characters as a key feature of Anivers.

Anivers, the beginning


To give more attention to that detail I changed all other finishing strokes to angular ones.

Anivers, the beginning

When I e-mailed the first images for response to SM and revealed the name Anivers they were really thrilled and that was a great motivation. Working on Anivers was in this case a little different, because it had to remain a secret. Usually at some stage I post previews on my blog to get feedback and to get an idea if a font is worth finishing.

Anivers, the beginning

Refining and expanding

Still lots to be done. I only had a base, a feeling of how it should look. In the first print tests I did, the x-height was too small and the whole image of the font looked too fat. Once adjusted I worked out the other (basic Latin) characters, tested spacing and did some preliminary kerning runs. When all was to my liking I fitted Anivers with CE and Esperanto language support (also a Versal ß) and expanded kerning.

Anivers, the beginning

Besides ligatures I designed and scripted contextual alternates for the f (and ff ligature) to prevent undesirable collisions.

Anivers, the beginning

Finally it was time to send her out to some people who tested the font on different systems with different programs. Anivers was released on September 5th 2007 and quickly became the second most popular/downloaded font of mine (after Delicious).

PART II — The Anivers family

It started with italic

In February 2008 Hans Lijklema, a Dutch designer living in Poland, contacted me because he was working on a book called the Free Font Index (to be published by Pepin Press later this year) and wanted my free fonts to be part of the book. Because Hans decided to set the book in Anivers, I asked him if he didn’t want an italic to set the interviews in.

Anivers, the beginning

I condensed the italic slightly and made it a tad lighter for better contrast with the regular weight. With the italic almost finished I decided that it would be nice to do a bold and a small caps version too and make it an official release.

Anivers, the beginning

With the extension of the Anivers family, the regular has undergone a major update. First it needed the same language support (Latin / Central European / Croatian / Romanian / Icelandic / Turkish / Esperanto) as the other fonts, and I improved several character shapes. I also took a fresh look at the numbers and currency signs. If you use the OpenType case feature together with stylistic alternates set 1, numbers can be easily processed. The case feature changes the currency signs and puts them and the numbers on a fixed width; and stylistic set 1 offers space, period, comma and hyphen that are half the width of the numbers. All weights and styles have family-consistent (equal) widths.

Anivers, the beginning

Igino Marini and iKern

Still in the middle of things and absolutely not finished, I got an e-mail from Igino Marini with a reworked version of my previous Anivers. He had spaced and kerned Anivers with his iKern app and it looked really great.

Last month I read this quote on Jos’s blog: “I work 4 days a week”. I felt in it the dichotomy between a job and a passion. Maybe because I was feeling the same. That’s why I sent him the iKerned version of Anivers telling: “My understanding now is that fitting is not a matter of art but just a technique. So I’d prefer to think you designing new faces than losing time in such a boring task”. He liked the prospective of a new workflow. Maybe because he’s struggling with time, like me. But I think because he didn’t feel dethroned as a designer. Building metrics is not a creative task. I can state this because iKern reconstructs the “rhythm” of letters extracting data from the outlines themselves: a way to follow the glyphs’ nature. I think Jos has been happy not only for the results. I think he understands that quality and productivity are main keys to “survive” today. — Igino Marini

My first question to Igino was if I could license iKern, but because that wasn’t possible (iKern is a service), I decided to have a go with Anivers to see how iKern could stand out, because I had seen how well the app performed with his own Fell Types. The font files were reworked by Igino and then send back. We did some test runs to determine spacing (family wide) and the level (tight <-> loose) of kerning. In the process of the test runs I adjusted character shapes that needed a better fit. All still (fortunately) has to be judged by the human eye and in the final release I adjusted a (very few) things manually. iKern makes it own classes for kerning and is extremely flexible. It really did the job for me.

The final family

The new Anivers has been expanded into a small but very rigid, reliable family. I’m very pleased with the end result and I’ve enjoyed every moment of the whole process.

Anivers, the beginning

The new regular weight is still free. You can download or purchase Anivers at MyFonts.


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  1. Wow, a typeface that was born by tweaking another type. Fascinating story behind a great type. I liked all those events that happened and brought Anivers and the entire family to life. Well done, Jos. Marvelous job!

  2. Very nice. Case in point that someone should develop a type design/typography based reality TV show.

    uh… maybe not.

    Great post. Thanks!

  3. Anivers is still one of my favorite fonts and it will stay there for ages! I need to buy this family ASAP.

    Great work Jos and awesome post John!

  4. Great post. Jos, you’ve done a wonderful job with this face. Love seeing its conception and progression. And thanks for releasing the regular-weight for free. We appreciate your efforts!

  5. Great work!!! I’ll bookmark this over at Neuehaus:

    http://www.neuehaus.com

  6. Andre

    Thanks for the fonts

  7. Thanks for showing us your process Jos!
    I particularly liked the imagem with the character shapes in development!

    Keep up the good work!

    PS: I can’t wait for Calluna!

  8. Thank you, Jos, for this peek behind the scenes and for the work you do.

  9. Wauw, geweldig Jos! Thank you for this very insightful article about the birth of the anniversary font Anivers for SM. Maby a good tip for John to release a free font with the 1st Anniversary of iLT in August: iLoveAnivers :-) Good luck with your future type projects!

  10. @ everyone:
    Thank you all for your heartwarming comments. I’m glad you all like the article this much. It was a joy for me to write about this process.

    @ inspirationbit:
    Well spotted. The sharp elements are indeed based on Diavlo.

    @ evan:
    That would be the day. America’s got Type Talent? :-)

    @ Cody:
    Nice to hear. Glad you like the rest of family.

    @ Pedro:
    Calluna will take a while … First up (after I’ve finished Fertigo Pro) is Museo Sans.

    @ Sander:
    Thanks! Nice idea :-)

  11. Thanks for a insight in your works Jos, is so inspiring and helps understanding the process in designing a font.

    A couple of days ago, I tried to play around with @font-face embedding, just for the fun of it and of course I was using one of your designs. But something stroke me about your license agreement, that it didn’t cover font embedding with @font-face. I would really love to hear how you feel about the issue, because Its only a matter of months before @font-face embedding is a reality. :-)

    Perhaps I shouldn’t bring the issue up here, but I just couldn’t help myself :-)

  12. Wow! Insights into a master at work! Thanks so much for detailing some of your process, Jos. Anivers is beautiful.

  13. haracas

    Nice!

  14. @ Esben:
    All my free fonts have info on @font-face embedding on the pages where you can download them. For the new Anivers and Museo however @font-face embedding isn’t allowed.

    @ Alec:
    You’re far too generous. The last thing in this world I consider myself is a master, but I’m pleased that you think Anivers is beautiful. :-)

    @ haracas:
    Thank you.

  15. Anivers is simply perfect: a high quality and very affordable font. I’m already saving for Museo Sans and Calluna!

    Thank you, Jos! Thank you, John!

  16. Roel

    Jos!

    Wow, this thing reads like a novel. Thanks for all your great work… or should I say passion.

    cya mate,

    Roel

  17. I always love to see the whole process, great article :)

  18. Thanks Roel and Robert.

    @ Philipe:
    You will have quite an exljbris collection in a while :-) Thanks in advance!

  19. Igino Marini is right. Fontmaking is plagued with uncreative tasks similar to the way computer programming is, although in the case of fonts I think a mechanized solution would be more welcome than in programming. (That’s not meant to be funny, but sad.)

    I’ll add this: I’d rather Marini keep his algorithms a trade secret than that they be patented without a free software patent grant like Raph Levien’s. I don’t want to see any new capabilities out there that aren’t doable in fontforge. :)

    It’s interesting that the squarish shapes arose from a construction method. I hadn’t suspected. I guess I didn’t think about it, even though I did some of the same kind of stuff for my Prociono (which BTW, unlike Anivers or Museo, isn’t good enough for me to use it, only good enough to inflict it on others). :)

  20. I think that Igino will stick to the service solution for the time being. So no worries about FontForge missing capabilities. BTW … we (FontLab users) don’t have Spiro ;-)

    It’s a great compliment that you hadn’t suspected the constructed start of Anivers. Thank you.

  21. You’re welcome.

    Probably I was thinking of Bonveno, which is made mainly out of circles and lines, rather than Prociono.

    I didn’t even try to make Bonveno good. :)

  22. Nice font :)

  23. Davekos

    Oh my… Anivers is very beautiful! Are you inspired by any legendary fonts out there?

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