Drawing Line

In the spring of 2012, Stefania Malmsten became the new Creative Director of Swedish fashion & culture magazine Rodeo. Stefania was living in New York at the time, working with Swedish and American clients from the collaborative workspace Studiomates in Dumbo, Brooklyn. She had decided to move back to Sweden where she had started her career with designing iconic magazines like Pop and Bibel.

Stefania is known for the attention to typography in her design work:

“I’m very passionate about photography and I’m very passionate about typography. I never wanted to choose between being a graphic designer and an art director and that’s why I love working with magazines and titles for film. Working with Göran on this project has been very luxurious, creating almost like a main character for the magazine.”

Line Passion

For the redesign of Rodeo Magazine Stefania chose Lyon and Benton Sans, two stylish yet traditional text faces. In contrast, she needed something more expressive for headlines, drop caps and graphic elements.

“I created a strict 12 column grid and nice legible styles for the main typography but I felt I needed something to interfere with this. Rodeo wanted to keep it’s big format (245 x 330 mm) and there was something about these big pages… I got this idea of a line that went through the whole magazine, like someone had been writing with a thin pen over the grid system.”

To explain her ideas, she made a mood board which became the creative brief for the typeface. The plan was to create a monoline script, but definitely not a traditional one.

Monoline letters, Arabic shapes, scribble, graffiti & tags, lettering, swashes, and different types of handwriting — all of this became inspiration for the new Rodeo Magazine typeface.
Line ornament

When the project started Göran Söderström was on parental leave and had limited time to work with the project, but this was a rare opportunity he couldn’t pass up. Göran explains:

“I’ve always admired designers and art directors who have the courage and vision to not settle for existing type and instead work towards something new. This is quite uncommon in Sweden, but suddenly it happened.”

Göran jumped at the chance to work with Stefania, whose work he holds in high regard. In the beginning he received photo updates with inspiration Stefania had found on the streets of New York.

Inspiration from the streets of New York.
Inspiration from the streets of New York.

After some time Göran responded with some sketches he thought could work. Stefania, who was still in New York, replied with more sketches and comments — the collaboration was in motion.

One of Göran’s first drawings.
Swashes had to look different from traditional script typefaces. Stefania made this and it became a point of departure for more.
Sketch for the type composition on the cover.
Rodeo Magazine
Testing how thin the lines should be.
Rodeo Magazine
The result on the printed magazine.
Rodeo Magazine
Inside the first issue.

This project needed a font editor where the letters could be drawn with open contours (rather than closed shapes) and with a possibility to test different line thickness live while editing. The new font editor Glyphs had a function that could work but it was not behaving quite like Göran wanted. Amazingly, Georg Seifert (the inventor of Glyphs) added the missing functionality in a matter of days and suddenly the whole project became more concrete. Now letters could be drawn with just a single stroke and exported with varying stroke weight.

Stroke weights in Glyphs
Left: open contours. Right: closed.
Stroke weights in Glyphs
Glyphs made it possible to draw with just a single stroke.
The letter P

Every idea was tested, but somewhere the line had to be drawn; was it supposed to be a typeface or a set of illustrations? Naming this typeface was also bit tricky, but in the end it was named after what it was – lines.

Stroke weights combined
The formula.

Line comes in 5 super thin styles. With the formula 100, 65, 40, 25, 20 it’s easy to create compositions with same stroke weight across different point sizes. This was also a feature from Rodeo. Stefania was working with three styles in three different sizes, looking as if they were coming from the same pen.

Stroke weights combined
The 5 styles in Line.

We deliberately avoided making an OpenType showcase out of this font. There’s an exquisite joy in unpacking a new font, similar to that of a Lego set. Rather than large, extravagant glyphs, the final typeface consists of a basic character set with some alternate letters, plus a large number of modular embellishments which attach to letters in different ways. The embellishments (or krussiduller in Swedish) are perfect for starting or finishing words, and some are flexible enough to do both. And just like the possibilities with Legos, this brings huge variation to the typeface.

Rather than hundreds of alternate letters, these are simply kerning pairs.
Four different s
How alternate versions of ‘s’ connect to ‘a’.
Four different s
Lowercase h, m and n also have “normal” versions (stylistic set 04).

Letters from Sweden has a new website in the works and Line will be available from our new webshop very soon. Until then you can send us an email if you’re interested in licensing Line for desktop, web or apps.

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Stefania Malmsten is an art director and a graphic designer with clients mainly in the fields of art, fashion and film. She was one of the founders of Pop and Bibel magazines in Sweden and is a former art director at Vogue Hommes International in Paris. Stefania Malmsten received The Berling Prize, Swedens most prestigious graphic design-prize, for 2006. On the fourth of July 2013 Stefania founded the new design studio Malmsten Hellberg together with designer Ulrika Hellberg. Stefania is currently the Creative Director at Rodeo Magazine in Sweden.

Göran Söderström is the founder of Letters from Sweden and has been designing type since 2006. He is self taught and has previously published his work through Psy/Ops, Fountain and Font­Font. At FamiljenPangea Göran has designed custom typefaces for ATG, ICA, LO, SEB, WyWallet and others. His commercial typefaces are used pretty much all over the world by companies like Red Bull, Pitchfork, The New Republic, SVT and Expressen. One of Göran’s typefaces has been carved in stone.

Text, photos and illustrations: Copyright © 2013 Stefania Malmsten & Göran Söderström. All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the authors written approval.