The making of Acorde

the DECK

After five years of intensive work, my type family Acorde is finally on the market. It is a reliable workhorse for large, demanding design projects. The typeface’s name is derived from a corporate design typeface. However, Acorde is not only suitable for corporate design programmes but for information design and editorial design too.

The making of the typeface Acorde


Overview of Acorde. The type family consists of 14 styles, with 925 glyphs per font.

Work on Acorde began back in 2005 as part of my graduation project in the Type and Media course at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. Recently several magazines, writing about the type family’s release, asked me about the booklet I created in which I outlined Acorde’s early development. I had not looked at the booklet in years and was surprised to find that the aims outlined in the booklet have been met.

First sketches for Acorde, dating from January 2005, The Hague.

For such an ambitious project, with 14 styles and 925 glyphs per font, my time at Type and Media was of course too short. But the time I spent studying type design there was so full and intense, that I continued to profit from what I had learned during the following months and years. I wasn’t able to immediately put it all to use, but in time those skills developed, along with my eyes.

Longevity

One of the goals I set when I started designing Acorde was to make it long-lasting. It is especially important that a typeface conceived for the corporate field is able to last for a long time and keep up with the longevity of a good logotype.

Of course a typeface designed for corporate use should have enough character and personality to differentiate it from the competition. But at the same time the shapes should not be too loud and expressive at the expense of becoming quickly outdated. The design of such a typeface (like the design of a good logotype) should not be caught up in current tastes. Its qualities should lie in well chosen proportions and a well balanced ensemble — it should be timeless.

That Acorde was developed and designed over a long period, probably contributed to Acorde’s ‘timelessness’. I guess that if the the letterforms — over the course of five years — did not bore me, then perhaps others too would not see them as the product of any particular time.

Corrections on a print of Acorde Extrablack, dating from January 2008, Vienna.

For all sizes

Acorde was designed for settings at a broad range of different sizes, from continuous text to large headlines and even larger signage. Acorde’s characterful details become more visible in those styles where personality is desired and needed. In big sizes, in headlines, the typeface appears strong and expressive and makes short and distinguished messages very powerful. In small sizes and in the lighter weights those details become less noticeable; they do not ask for too much attention but rather add to legibility and to the balanced appearance of the typeface. These are characteristics that make it a real workhorse.

Various styles of Acorde. This sample gives a good overview of Acorde’s diversity. Plenty of character at larger sizes, smart and legible in small sizes.

Professionals and amateurs

A corporate design typeface is used by various people. In contrast to, say, a book typeface which is primarily used by the book designer. A corporate design typeface is used by the graphic designer who chooses it, knows how to use it and who develops the corporate design. But the typeface is also used by other employees in the company, those without a knowledge of graphic design; therefore, it needs to be easy to use and set.

True Italics

By the time of the graduation exhibition for the Type and Media course in The Hague, Acorde did not have an italic. What did exist though were sketches for the Italics based on writing with a broad nib pen.

True italics

The development of Acorde Italic. Top: Writing with a broad nib pen; middle: sketches based on the handwriting; bottom: final version of Acorde Italic.

The influence of the broad nib pen is still visible in the final Acorde Italic. Acorde’s characterful details, which have flavoured the typeface since the very beginning, are even more visible in the Italics and the heavy weights developed most recently. The heavier the style, the more visible, or prominent the details become. The Extrablack Italic probably shows the character of the typeface best. The mixture of hard edges and curves is very noticeable, and I think the typeface is most dynamic in this particular weight and style.

Acorde italic

Acorde’s details are most noticeable in the heavy weights, especially in the heavy Italics.

Proportions

While the proportions of the Regular were chosen to guarantee optimal legibility without consuming too much space, the heavier the weight becomes, the more suitable it is for headlines. The heavy weights are relatively narrower than the lighter ones — most of the extra weight is added towards the inside of the letters (the counters). This maintains the type’s space saving (economical) qualities and gives the heavier weights a very strong and solid appearance. To balance the small counters inside the weightier letters, the spacing in the heaviest weights is very tight.

Overlaying the seven weights of Acorde clearly demonstrates that the typeface puts on most of its weight toward the insides of the letterforms.

Acorde’s capitals are not particularly prominent, but are designed to blend well with the lowercase, making for an even colour of the text en masse. This improves legibility in Acorde, especially for the German language where capitals appear frequently.

Balanced and even. Acorde’s capitals and small caps blend nicely in the overall colour.

Motivation

I now live and work in Vienna as an independent designer. I have been teaching Design and Typography at the Höhere Graphische Bundeslehranstalt in Vienna since September 2009. I am very pleased that Acorde has finally been released, and I am curious which path it will take and where it will show up. And of course I also enjoy using it myself. It is a great reward for a designer not only to design a type family but also to design with it once it has been released.

Stefan Willerstorfer was born in Vienna in 1979 and studied design in Austria, in the Netherlands and in England.
In The Hague (NL), at the Royal Academy of Art (Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten - KABK), he completed the Type Design course »Type and Media« with a Master of Design degree. At the University of Reading (UK) he completed the course in Information Design with a Master of Arts degree.

Naturally, as a graphic designer doing corporate designs I was able to use much of that knowledge — knowing exactly what is required of such a typeface — in creating Acorde. Similarly, my experience working for more than two years with the international newspaper designer, Rolf Rehe, led me to design a typeface specifically developed to meet the requirements of newspaper text. I started working on this typeface about a year ago and what I learned working with Rolf has proven invaluable.



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  1. Acorde is a beautiful typeface. I love the round strokes. Great Job. Congrats.

  2. Design principal

    This is where type design frustrates me. 630 euros is not feasible for anything but the highest budget projects, or a major commitment to using it across multiple projects.

    Type design needs a new model for distribution and sales to drive per unit sales prices into reasonable territory.

    Best wishes with the launch and congratulations on the beautiful work.

  3. Design principal, you are right that 630 euros puts this family outside of the scope of many design projects. But right in the beginning, Stefan Willerstorfer explains that Acorde is a corporate identity typeface. A proper company of just about any size should be able to make an investment in their design’s brand image. Take a company that, I don’t know… is in the financial advisement sector. Even if they have between 10–100 companies, which still makes them a small company, how much do you think that they spend on licenses for Microsoft Windows and Office? My bet is that this typeface is for corporate use, and not for graphic design studios that do low-budget projects.

  4. (between 10–100 “employees” not “companies” ;-)

  5. Looks fantastic! Nice work Stefan!

  6. Martin Tiefenthaler

    talking about money: even if you won’t use it as a corporate face and not buying it for a company (they could afford such a font easily, real easily) but only for you as a designer earning about 3000 euros a month: this font stays with you for the rest of your life and if you use it for setting only a single book, it’s worth the buying. speaking for me: if the next signage job has to be done, i’ll buy acorde, i think it will be great on signposts and the likes.

  7. FV

    Gorgeous!

    Will this be the next Myriad? :)

  8. CJR

    Absolutely stunning

  9. Very nice work, Stefan!

    I made a note and definitely will think of Acorde the next time I need to choose “corporate” typeface.

  10. jan

    630 euros can always be said to be reasonable for a single long term investment, especially for corporates.

    But you do bet your success on corporates then.

    And everyone, no matter corporate or not, they always consider between products to be bought. Is it easy to convince Acorde to be useful enough to be used all the time? It’s a challenge and I hope you all the best.

  11. erik

    Love your font; will never buy it. Not allowing people to embed your font via Cufon or @font-face won’t stop or even slow it down from being pirated. All it does is piss off people who are willing to pay for a license, myself included.

    I’ve spent upwards of $5000 in my career on type - probably more - but as of a few years ago have stopped buying ANY type that has a usage restriction other then “you can’t embed this in a template for resale”.

    It makes me sad when I see excellent work I’d gladly fork over a few hundred dollars for but the license makes the font useless to me.

  12. That really is a beautiful font, but I echo what Erik has said - I will never buy it. The reason being that I am using @font-face and Cufon more and more every day to embed these fonts and when designers prevent this from happening, it’s very off-putting.

    Great work on the typeface though and I hope it sells really well, I’d imagine it’s attractive to illustrators more than web folks purely because of the reasons mentioned mainly in this comment and erik’s comment.

  13. This series of articles with designers presenting their new typefaces has become one of my web favorites, it is always extremely interesting.
    Acorde looks excellent and I think it could work on many more applications and not only corporate stuff. It could become the new Myriad (as FV says) but for one reason: no Greek and Cyrillic.
    The absence of Greek makes Acorde unusable for half of my work so the price is indeed very high for me. However, it is not higher than other similar typefaces.
    I wish every succes to Stefan and Acorde and hope to see some typefaces of equal quality including Greek characters.

  14. Wonderful typeface.

    Please don’t use inline styles on the website. Your bio is black on black in Google Reader due to this. Use css classes instead.

  15. This was a very fun read. Thanks so much for not only talking about the font but talking about the whole process. I loved seeing your hand drawings too! This font is beautiful the years of work were well worth it. I hope it sells well, I plan to buy it.

  16. Beautiful! It definitely has a solid structure and feel to it.

  17. This is really beautiful. I think I like the italic face the most. Something really fluid about it. I have started sketching a lot more and hope to come up with my first typeface in the near future. It always looks like a fun yet challenging project!

  18. AMAZING !!! Thank you for sharing this !

  19. Inline styles are perfectly valid, it’s Google Readers’ fault if it doesn’t read it correctly.

    Nice typeface and the cost is the usual debate item. Someone who considers this a ‘corporate’ font may be willing to pay the price, but if wide ranging use is your target then this will price many people out of the range.

    What price can you put on someone’s labour of love?

  20. Nice work. I love the rounded edges - “curves in all the right places” as one song puts it.

    Plus you don’t have to buy the whole font. Each weight is €75 to buy alone.

  21. Lauren

    Have you seen the movie Typeface?? I just came across your blog and it seemed like you would like it, if you haven’t.

    Here’s a link to the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/user/Kartemquin#p/u/2/LX6z9shjeGQ

    Great blog! I’m really enjoying it! :)

    Lauren

  22. Acorde for sure is one of the best typefaces for corporate design, but it is appropriate for so much more. As a texttypeface just as a displayface with a strong character and it fits so well into expressing in so many languages.
    Designers and Art Directors, please play with this font and find out more about these great characters!
    This font will have success, congratulations Stefan.

  23. Gorgeous work. Congratulations.

  24. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t one of the most delicious typefaces I’ve seen in a long time, and reading/seeing the process is a great insight.

    Really love the annotated print out shot too.

  25. Charles Cousins

    Nice type face, congratulations.

  26. Really nice! Would love to use it one day.

  27. Great font - and really interesting to read how it developed. Thanks for the post!

  28. Peter Wagner

    You did a great job! If the eyes are the doors to the soul, Acorde is the key.

  29. Mind Blowing Stuff. Congrats :)

  30. Thanks to all of you for the congratulations and for writing such positive feedbacks.

    @erik and @Luke Jones
    Never say never. Just wait for the screen optimised webfonts.

    @Dimitris K
    I understand your point, but you can’t do all at once. But as soon as there is enough demand, Acorde’s character set will of course be expanded to Greek and Cyrillic.

  31. Its amazing how much work goes into the making of a new font. 5 years of hard work. It looks fantastic. Well done.

  32. Congratulations, Stefan. Great work)
    Time to draw some serifs)

  33. Marianne

    Your photo made me flash back to design school in the 80’s and having to “scrub” type when there were no computers. I miss it. Thanks for the memory.

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