The making of Acorde

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.


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 But at the same time the shapes should not be too loud and expressive at the expense of becoming quickly outdated.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 flavored 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 color 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.