An interview with Alice Savoie

Alice Savoie started out with a foundation course in Applied Arts and then studied graphic design and typography for four years in Paris. She then set sail for the UK to follow the MA in Typeface Design at Reading University. Upon graduating in 2007 she relocated to London to work as a graphic designer. In March 2008 Alice joined Monotype Imaging as a full-time type designer.

alice savoie typeface designer


I think at every stage of my studies I was taught by people who were very fond of type, so it turned out to be quite an obvious path. During my first years of graphic design studies in Paris I had a teacher who was absolutely passionate about letters. He was crazy about Zuzana Licko and forbid us to use Helvetica! He gave us a real eye and interest for type. From there, I decided that I had to learn more about letterforms. I had the opportunity to follow a course that combined both typography and typeface design, and again I was taught by passionate people. Among them was Franck Jalleau, a very skilled stone carver and type designer of the French Imprimerie Nationale. The course was a bit old-school with endless hours of calligraphy and hand-drawing on tracing paper. It was great. When I graduated, I knew I wanted to work as a type designer, but did not feel confident enough to get started professionally straight away. This is why I went to Reading. The approach there was quite different from the one I had experienced in France, but it was complementary.

All together I feel that I came to type design rather naturally. I started by using type in graphic design projects, until I realised that what I really wanted to do was to design the type itself!

You’ve already designed several typefaces. What do you like most and least about designing type?

The beginning of designing a typeface is always very exciting. At that stage it is impossible to know what the typeface will look like eventually. Experimenting with weights and italics is also a lot of fun. On the non-Latin side, I really enjoy drawing Greek.

capucine greek sketch

And what I like least… I find kerning a bit tedious, although it’s always satisfying once you’ve done it well and your typeface is well spaced and kerned.

How do you usually start designing a typeface? Can you describe the process? Do you start from a specific letter?

When I sketch or start a design in FontLab I always start with the letters ‘a’ and ‘n’. I think they are nice letters to start with, through them you can express a lot about a design. Then I expand to letters such as b, e, h, o, s, d, r, p, and uppercase H and O. The next stage will be to write “Hamburgefontsiv”. I think it is better to keep a rather limited set of glyphs to start with, as the design will be changing a lot and it can be time-consuming to implement the changes in a wider character set.

Ysobel_sketch

Fairly quickly I will also experiment with weight and width variations to see how it could work as a family. I think it is important to do that, it can quickly give you an idea of the things that can and cannot survive in a design. Working on extreme weights can be very inspirational too.

How long does it take to create a typeface?

4 months, 3 days, 8 hours and 20 minutes! No, this is a difficult question; it can take a couple of days for a simple display face with a small character set, up to a few years in some other cases. In fact most type designers I know work on a few different projects at the same time — you rarely work full-time on one typeface. Type is a long, slow process, occasionally you need to take a bit of distance with what you produce and then come back to it with a fresh eye.

What are you working on now / future plans?

Recently I’ve been helping Robin Nicholas on a new addition to the Monotype library, a serif type family named Ysobel that should come out soon.

Ysobel

I worked more specifically on the display faces. I’m also working on custom font projects for Monotype Imaging that I can’t really develop here, and that are keeping me pretty busy. More personally, I am still working on finishing Capucine, the typeface I started developing when I was studying in Reading.

Capucine

Your favourite type designers / typefaces?

It’s hard to choose! I really like the work of Cyrus Highsmith, my personal favorite is Prensa. In a different style, I think František Štorm produces great typefaces; I am always looking forward to his new releases. I am also very much attracted to script typefaces, and being French I can only admire some of the things that came out of France between the 1930s and 1960s: typefaces by Marcel Jacno, Roger Excoffon, Joan Trochut Blanchard… I’m a big fan. I also love the work of Alejandro Paul.


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  1. Ysobel looks great! Also, I had the great opportunity to study under Cyrus Highsmith for Type 101. We were all given Prensa to work with for each assignment. I love it still!

    Johno, I dig the lightbox effect. It was nice to see her sketches larger.

    Cheers!

  2. It was interesting to learn that most type designers work on different typefaces at the same time. How long does it take to get back in mood and concentration from working on one typeface design to another, I wonder? Is it as simple as closing one file and opening another?

    “…in Paris I had a teacher who was absolutely passionate about letters. He was crazy about Zuzana Licko and forbid us to use Helvetica!” - loved this :) Was he giving bonus points if you used Mrs. Eaves in a project? :)

    Merci beaucoup!

  3. wow, great article! :)

  4. Rob

    Alice is the best! So is Capucine :)

  5. Jess

    How do we get our hands on Capucine?! it’s so beautiful!

  6. Ysobel is a really beautiful typeface, very impressive and lovely.

  7. Great article. I really love the interviews with type designers. Keep up the great work. Alice’s work looks really lovely, too! I look forward to seeing more of Ysobel!

  8. Ysobel is a marvelous typeface. Id love to buy that!

  9. ….I also love the work of Alejandro Paul.

    Come on Alice! I amost love Capucine more than I like my work (anyway it could fit perfect at Sudtipos :P ).

    Best,
    Ale

  10. Ysobel’s awesome. Luv her typo!!!

  11. Good work, Capucine is very simple, beautiful and refreshing. It’s also good to hear how typographers work, you guys do an outstanding job.

    MPC

  12. beautiful work!

  13. L30

    Awesome interview!

  14. Yeah, Alice you’re a star! So is Capucine! Hope to see you again to talk about french type ^^

  15. Inspiring to say the least. I always enjoy hearing how and where people that design for a living have pursued their goals.

    Thank you much for this interview ILP and Alice Savoie!

  16. Beautiful stuff! I’m really liking the heavier weights of Ysobel.

  17. Alice S.

    Thank you all for your comments!

    @inspirationbit:
    I can’t speak for other type designers, but for me switching between jobs isn’t the case of “just closing one file and opening another”. I need a bit of time to get back into a design before being able to work on it “at full speed”. How long it takes partly depends on the nature of the typeface I am designing and how long it has been since I last worked on it.
    But switching between different jobs gives me a fresher eye, and helps me spot problems I had not seen before. So even if it can be a bit time-consuming, I would say it’s worth it :)

    @Jess and Jeff:
    Ysobel and Capucine are not available for sale yet but should be released in the next few months. So keep an eye for it!

    @Ale
    Thank you, I take your comment as a real compliment! I might have some South American blood in my veins I didn’t know about ;)

  18. Alice, very good. Congratulations!
    Saúde e paz!

  19. The Process Type Foundry has been excited about Alice’s work for some time now - so much so that when Capucine is finished, we’ll be releasing it (sorry Ale!).

    If you want to know the minute it’s released, sign up to receive our email alerts (at our website: processtypefoundry.com). Or there’s always our twitter account.

    Congrats, Alice!

  20. I’m really looking forward to using Capucine when it gets picked up. Any idea on when the release date might be?

  21. nicole d
    Thats cool! Beautiful font for a beautiful foundry!. Congrats!

  22. Vim

    excellent article, Alice Savoie seems very talented in what she does, its good to look at this for inspiration.

  23. I like the Capucine. It is very beautiful. Thanks for the article.

  24. Bravo Alice!!!
    Je suis ravie de lire cet article depuis le Pacifique!
    Excellent travail: comme toujours :D
    Cheers.

  25. Awesome typography, great post!

  26. Tyll

    Alice, I’m glad you still work on Capucine — I was so excited about the Greek characters of the font when I first saw it, it’s great! Please create a polytonic set while you’re at it. :)

    Cheers, Tyll

  27. Alice S.

    Good news! for those of you who are interested in purchasing Ysobel, it is now available on fonts.com:
    http://tinyurl.com/kjo45z

    And thanks again for all the great comments. Tyll, I promise I will look into the polytonic Greek and see what I can do ;)

  28. pramod

    hi…… Alice …
    m pramod from India . now m working as 2d animator and m very interested in typography so i wann some information about this … where we get job , career and al about typography so please do help me …….

  29. Zoe

    Great interview, thanks for sharing!

  1. Interviewz » Alice Savoie by I Love Typography—Jun 14, 2009

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