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.
When designing a typeface, I prefer to explore a construction principle rather than revive an existing typeface idea. These principles or writing models are based on the tools and techniques originally used. Understanding these workings are often a great source of inspiration for me.
The starting point for my latest typeface Ode was the Textualis, one of the various broken script writing models. It has a strong modular build suggesting that it’s easily constructed. Albrecht Dürer further reduced it in his Underweysung der Messung, mit dem Zirckel und Richtscheyt, in Linien, Ebenen unnd gantzen corporen.
We see it every day on signs, billboards, packaging, in books and magazines; in fact, you are looking at it now — the Latin or Roman alphabet, the world’s most prolific, most widespread abc. Typography is a relatively recent invention, but to unearth the origins of alphabets, we will need to travel much farther back in time, to an era contemporaneous with the emergence of (agricultural) civilisation itself.
Robert Bringhurst wrote that writing is the solid form of language, the precipitate. But writing is also much more than that, and its origins, its evolution, and the way it is now woven into the fabric of civilisations makes it a truly wonderful story. That story spans some 5,000 years. We’ll travel vast distances, meet an emperor, a clever Yorkshireman, a Phoenician princess by the name of Jezebel, and the ‘purple people’; we’ll march across deserts and fertile plains, and sail across oceans. We will begin where civilisation began, meander through the Middle Ages, race through the Renaissance, and in doing so discover where our alphabet originated, how and why it evolved, and why, for example, an A looks, well, like an A.
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Part 1: the snare of authenticity
How much should a revival of a typeface look like the original? Well, just as with performing an old song—an analogy Matthew Carter has made—there is something you have to like in the original in order want to revive it. And you can’t depart from the original too much, or you lose the charm of the old song that appealed to you in the first place. But if it is too much like the old versions, it might be stale and dated, irrelevant. So what do you keep and what do you change? And change in what way? That’s the challenge every revivalist faces.
A biome in nature is essentially an ecosystem. It’s also the name for my new typeface family. The 14-weight Biome™ Wide family is now available on fonts.com. Now that the design is complete, I’m able to look back on the process.
The drawings that led to Biome (previously known as Nebulon) were completed in 2006, but I discovered, when I uncovered the drawings recently, that I had been thinking for a long time about various unconnected concepts that eventually worked their way into the same typeface. I was surprised to realize how many different ingredients went into this design. Obviously, other type designs were considerations throughout the process, but things besides typefaces tended to make their way into the stew of ideas that eventually got synthesized into the new typeface. Continue reading this article
I have published this article as a page. You can read it here.
The impetus for Founders Grotesk originally came from Duncan Forbes of The International Office. We had often discussed the nature and usefulness of the classic grotesks, and the possibility of creating a new one. After trawling through my 1912 Miller & Richard specimen, he became enamoured with their series of Grotesques, particularly the No.7 all-caps showing.
Why would anyone in his or her right mind start a type foundry now? Well, to begin with, it’s often said that it’s a good idea to start a business in a recession. However, the type marketplace has gotten very crowded—there are more foundries and distributors of type in all sizes right now than at any previous time. Even the pre-machine setting peak of typefounding in the 19th century had a smaller number of foundries by many orders of magnitude. Notwithstanding all of the small foundries, a handful of large distributors dominate the general market, leaving the rest of us scrambling to find ever-shrinking niches. Why not just climb onboard with one of the big players and leave the business side to people who know what they’re doing? Would that be too easy?
Though I have the utmost respect for Massimo Vignelli, and am a fan of his work, his we use too many typefaces is just plain wrong. It’s by no means the first time Vignelli has voiced these views. If you have no idea what I’m writing about, then watch this video: Continue reading this article
Dan Reynolds’ review of Bibliothèque Typographique’s
first book, José Mendoza y Almeida
Teaching on a postgraduate course feels very much like a spiral: the annual repetition of projects, each a vehicle for a journey of education and discovery for the student, blurs into cyclical clouds of shapes, paragraphs, and personalities. There seems to be little opportunity for reflection across student cohorts, and yet it is only this process that improves the process from one year to the next. Having passed the tenth anniversary of the MA Typeface Design programme was as good an opportunity as any to reflect, and ILT’s offer to publish the result an ideal environment to get some ideas out in the open. Although my perspective is unavoidably linked to the course at Reading, I think that the points I make have wider relevance.
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