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.

previous: Sunday Type: vintage type

next: Sunday Type: garbage type

Typeface Categories

learn greek type desgin
font deals of the week
fonts on tape