Making waves with Magasin

I’ve always been fascinated by typefaces based on fluid handwriting, and as an amateur calligrapher of copperplate, I decided to design a display font based on this experience.

Origins and background
My first approach to this project began with the lettering I designed for BoMo, a graphic design studio, in spring 2011. It’s based on a brief: feminine, professional and sensibility. The solution came as a well-crafted series of ‘calligraphic letters’ with high contrast, the B, the M and the o, combined as two connected syllables. During the design process I discovered the significant potential that this idea could have if it were developed as a typeface. Thus, almost one year later, I began to sketch it, and two years after I released it!. It evolved from the initial three letters of the logo but with differences: slightly less condensed proportions, different designs for the two upper case letters and a new construction of the connecting strokes.

It combines a sense of script with geometric and slightly condensed structure resulting in idiosyncratic curves, yet with a retro-chic twist. These might probably be the most attractive features, because all together they give a very strong identity to words.

During my research I review a lot of previous & excellent typefaces sharing a similar idea, but any of them had this sense of a connected and upright script. Somehow, Magasin explores and pays tribute to the charm and playness of typefaces that were designed during the 1930s. Some inspiring references are Corvinus, released by Bauer in 1935 (designed by Imre Reiner in 1934), Quirinus (Alessandro Butti,1939) and Fluidum (1951), a kind of non-connected script version of Quirinus, also designed by Butti for the Nebiolo foundry.*

Left: Cover of a catalogue published by Nebiolo in the 1950s; top: Cover of a catalogue and a Qurinus specimen, a typeface designed by Alessandro Butti in 1939. Both published by Nebiolo in the 1950s; bottom: Detail of the cover of a catalogue published by Nebiolo in the 1950s; below: Detail of a catalogue published by Nebiolo in the 1950. It shows Fluidum, a typeface designed by Alessandro Butti in 1951.

The design principle
Magasin is based on the idea of designing a display typeface inspired by the pointed pen calligraphy with geometric, upright and connected construction and high contrast. What I wanted to show is the obvious accuracy that can be seen in any calligraphic work, but with a close attention to the creative combination of linked letters when creating words, bringing a lettering flavor.

Construction principles:

1. the wavy shapes to emphasize the rhythm
2. four different ways of linking letters, always merging at half of the x-height
3. loops and drops reminiscent of pointed pen calligraphy
4. the angled ending stroke

Magasin font construction principles

The process
The first versions of Magasin were more experimental; I gave an extraordinary leadership to the connection strokes, and characters as ‘m’ and ‘n’, had a different starting stroke, but soon I found it problematic.The following versions were based on the exploration and refinement of some characters and the different connection possibilities, with the goal of balancing the spacing, a process that also led to the design of alternative glyphs.

magasin font construction principles
Early versions of Magasin shown in black; final solution(s) in color

At a certain point, I was not sure if it could become something usable or just a personal amusement; some connections were looking really weird but others just came automatically and in a very beautiful way. So I wrote a list of necessary ligatures to balance the text flow, and another of the non-convenient combinations that later became ‘exceptions’ in the programming. I also designed a reduced set of secondary alternates (ss02) and an out-strokes version of the ‘c’, ‘ç’, ‘e’ and ‘q’, to gave a better ending to sentences or words. Therefore, it implied a bunch of OT programming for a correct use and performance. I’ve explained this all in more detail in the PDF specimen I designed.

Top: Magasin, regular lowercase character set; bottom left: Magasin, lowercase contextual alternates (ss01); bottom right: Magasin, lowercase contextual alternates (ss02)

Capital and Swashes
The capital letters appeared much later, they are a bit experimental and very much inspired by the copperplate calligraphy mixed with some cancelleresca features.

While testing it, I discovered that Magasin could be very useful in a lot of applications, and for many various moods; moreover, the swash capitals were intentionally designed to ‘pimp’ words and provide many possibilities, but regular capitals can also perform better in certain situations.


And finally… why this name?
I only chose the name at the end of the process. It sounds like ‘magazine’ in English, but actually Magasin is the word for ‘store’ in French, because I always imagined Magasin used in magazine headlines, but also for brands and packaging. I’ve enjoyed working on Magasin immensely, and I have learned a lot, as always happens with every typeface I design. Because I love and collect old specimens, my typeface and the specimen are also a celebration and a tribute to all those works of art and their designers.

*See more specimen images on the flickr collections by Indra Kupferschmid, or see also the special Corvinus set from the Herb Lubalin Study Center, and the ‘caratteri nebiolo’ set by :nike

Author: Laura Meseguer