New Additions: March 2021
31st March 2021
From the hundreds of fonts we add to the Identifont database every month we chose a selection of the most interesting recent additions, and interviewed the designers about their approach to each design:
Messer – Inga Plönnigs (Inga Plönnigs)
You say that Messer was inspired by Emil Rudolf Weiss’s typeface Weiss Antiqua. What initially gave you the idea of doing an interpretation of that classic typeface?
I first discovered Weiss Antiqua in 2014, while studying graphic design. I liked it immediately, especially the italics, and thought doing a revival would teach me a lot about designing type. In 2017, after completing the Type and Media master programme at the KABK in The Hague, I found this old attempt at a revival. For the past three years I had done hardly anything apart from designing type, so I had developed my type designing skills quite a bit. After being shocked about what I had done to Emil Rudolf Weiss’s beautiful typeface, I immediately had some ideas on how to design a new version. I tried them out and it worked – most of those ideas are still in the current version of Messer.
Comparing Messer to Weiss Antiqua (compare the differences) you seem to have taken the features that give Weiss Antiqua its personality and apply them in a more general way. For example, you’ve applied the top-heavy design of his ‘S’ to the ‘g’, ‘&’, ‘3’, and ‘8’, and the pointed apexes of the ‘A’ and ‘M’ to the ‘W’. Was that a conscious design decision?
Yes, definitely. I really loved the original design for those features and wanted to emphasise them in my interpretation.
I had based my interpretation on a badly printed novel and did not work with lead type or original drawings in the design process. So I had a lot of room for interpretation, which I appreciated. My approach was to translate Weiss’s old design into the present, and what I found important was to make clear decisions either for or against certain design features.
My understanding of what is “redundant” or “interesting” must be seen in the context of time, but this also makes my interpretation a translation into the present time.
So far you’ve released Regular, Light, and Condensed styles. Do you have plans to extend this, such as with a bold style inspired by Weiss Bold?
Yes! I haven’t found the time to add bold styles yet, but it’s definitely on my to-do list. I’m actually really curious to see what Messer Bold looks like!
You chose to release Messer on Future Fonts, which gives us an insight into your development process from v1.0 in February 2018 to the latest version, v2.1, in May 2020: Messer Version Notes. Has a lot changed since v1.0, and do you find it useful to be able to get feedback on early drafts of your work in this way?
Most of the feedback is that they liked Messer as it is, not asking for anything specific. I did add small caps, and made the serifs of Messer Condensed longer and sharper as a reaction to customer’s feedback, but I think that’s about it. I would gladly hear much more constructive comments that help me figure out what people might want to use!
Since I released Messer first, I added the Light and Regular weights, and Messer Condensed Italic, because I really liked the styles myself or thought it would be a useful addition to the family.
Balbum Rolypoly – Alessia Mazzarella (Typeland)
Balbum Rolypoly is a typeface that definitely demands attention, and I can envisage it on posters or book covers. Did you design it with any particular applications in mind?
I didn’t design it with a particular application in mind – it was mainly an idea of impactful presence and a kind of rounded style that doesn’t shy away from sharp edges. I specially wanted to experiment with the idea of a robust playful rhythm across full lines of text, not just short titles. That said, Balbum would definitely make sense on posters, book covers, and other titles, or as punchy quotes and short messages somewhere!
Were you inspired by any earlier typefaces? The closest I can find to compare it with on Identifont is Barricada by Eli Castellanos.
When I started drawing Balbum, it was mainly an escape from working and looking at sans serif typefaces all day long. It began as a fun weekend project where I could draw the opposite of what I was drawing during the week. I didn’t really look at any specific pool of typefaces for inspiration: I had a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve with the design, and early experimentation determined the precise direction it would go in. But whenever I got stuck with a specific construction or a particular terminal or joint, I would look at sign-painting styles, especially the casual and script ones. But at the same time I would think what could be the basic movements to build the shapes without going too much towards handwritten forms.
An interesting characteristic of Balbum Rolypoly is the letterbox-shaped counters in the letters, such as in the ‘B’, ‘D’, ‘O’, and ‘R’. What inspired this feature of the design?
The counter treatment comes from this idea of folding and curling something semi-malleable and chubby – a bit like balloon folding but with sharp things very close by! While working on it, I realised that curling my fingers and looking at the internal shapes they make could work as a quick reference for the counters in Balbum – and it totally works. I’ve always thought of Balbum as an hybrid construction though, something that is constricted in a too-small-space and has this internal tension that is expressed through the rounded forms and the angles.
I love the style name Rolypoly you’ve chosen. Do you have plans to extend the Balbum family, or do you intend this as a stand-alone font?
Thank you! The name is a brilliant idea from Vaibhav, my partner, and it perfectly reflects the concept behind the typeface. I considered extending it to a more formal style, and even started working on a few extra weights. But I ultimately decided against it, as the design would lose its key characteristics and become somewhat forced. I am not completely excluding the possibility, but I have yet to find a way to translate the core concept to lighter weights without it feeling too contrived. On the other hand, I am planning to add other scripts to Balbum at some point; it will be interesting to see how the core structure might translate to scripts with less vertical emphasis.
Yink – Dave Rowland (Eclectotype)
When you start on a new typeface design do you have a project or application in mind, or does it just start from an abstract idea?
The vast majority of the time they stem from an idea, an experiment, or a quick doodle, and quickly take their own direction as the design process goes along. I'll work to a set brief for custom jobs, but for my retail fonts, it's far freer. I generally don't have a concrete idea of how the finished font will look when I start, which can be both liberating and frustrating. I'd probably see more success commercially by actually thinking about what a font could be for before making it though!
The flowing curves of Yink makes one think of the psychedelic fonts characteristic of the 1960s, such as Peace Solid and Doobie. Was its design inspired by classic sixties fonts, and if so, any in particular?
Yink grew from a quick doodle of a few letters, and it was the ‘y’ in particular that stood out to me, with the bulbous terminals in the black being echoed in the white. This is the main conceptual framework that informed the design, and I guess this inevitably led to very organic, flowing lines, reminiscent of psychedelic fonts. Although not directly inspired by them, I did look to this genre for ideas of how to deal with some more troublesome glyphs.
When you’re working, do you sketch each letter on paper first, or do you work directly on the screen with Bezier curves?
With Yink I did a quick doodle of a handful of letters that served as the initial inspiration but, looking back at them, bear little resemblance to the finished font. Normally, I wouldn't even do a doodle. I like to get to pushing Beziers around as soon as possible, and even for very handmade-looking fonts, I find that the analogue stage is a waste of time for me. Very occasionally, I'll quickly scribble down a few ideas on paper if I'm really stuck on how a particular glyph should look. It helps sometimes to get away from the computer just to stop me pushing control points around for hours on end waiting for it to look right!
You recently changed the name of your foundry from Schizotype to Eclectotype. Does that reflect the fact that you’re taking type design more seriously?
I've always taken it seriously, despite appearances! I chose the name Schizotype by searching for words ending in type, and naively didn't think too much about the wider implications of that. I'm older now and hopefully wiser, and I think Eclectotype is far more descriptive of where I see myself in type, without any controversial undertones. I also like that it sounds like it could be a forgotten phototype foundry from the 70s.
Prego – Dušan Jelesijević (Tour De Force)
Prego has a distinctive Art Deco look to it, a bit reminiscent of Morris Fuller Benton’s Parisian, or Holly Goldsmith’s ITC Vintage. Were Art Deco fonts an influence on the design?
Yes, they were. I find the Art Deco style very inspiring, very open for design experiments in typography, as it can fit into almost every design project and bring a classy look to it. It's always in fashion, no matter what the current typographic trend is. With Prego we tried to avoid the more highly decorated Art Deco styles, so you can compose paragraphs with it and not worry that it will visually attack other content on the page or get all the attention of the reader.
Prego looks like it would be suited to display use in applications such as fashion advertising, magazines, and book covers. Did you have applications in mind when you designed it?
When I designed Prego I had a picture in mind: it's a sunny summer day, late afternoon, you are at the Italian seaside, lying on an easy chair on a second-floor terrace, with fresh salad on the table and good wine, good cheese, and thin slices of prosciutto – you get the feeling! Prego is the font I would use on design materials to conjure up that atmosphere – pure hedonism.
Prego has some unusual features, such as the low junction on the ‘N’, and the ‘Q’ tail. What gave you the inspiration for these features?
It's a feature of many of the letters that they tend to have stability closer to the baseline; for example, the ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘E’, ‘G’, ‘H’, ‘K’, ‘X’, etc. The tail on the ‘Q’ is a little touch that adds a decorative element to Prego's design. It was inspired by script fonts, and more examples are available in the Contextual Alternates.
I understand that Serbian uses both Cyrillic and Latin alphabets, and so as a Serbian font foundry your fonts usually include both character sets. With a font like Prego do you design the Latin characters first, and then create matching Cyrillic characters?
Yes, we in Serbia use both alphabets equally (the term of using more than one writing system is known as digraphia). In practice, because of the Internet and globalization that's present everywhere around us, Cyrillic is almost totally overpowered by the Latin alphabet. There is another reason why Cyrillic is fading away in Serbia: there's no national plan or idea about it, and to me as a type designer, it's almost a waste of time to develop Cyrillic typefaces. In the long term, there's no positive outlook for Cyrillic in Serbia, at least as far as I can see.
Back to Prego. I always design the Latin characters first, not because I like Latin more than Cyrillic, but because we primarily design Latin typefaces. To a native Cyrillic designer, it's not big job to design Cyrillic versions; most of the basic shapes are in the Latin characters, although on average Cyrillic letters are a bit wider than Latin ones. The main problem when designing Cyrillic is localization – are you designing Cyrillic for Serbs, Macedonians, Bulgarians, or Russians? As the biggest country, Russia is the biggest Cyrillic font market, so it would be logical to design Cyrillic for Russians. Until we get official Unicode values for all the Cyrillic variations, things will probably remain messy.
There's a blog post on our website, Serbia and Yugoslavia between WWI and WWII, where we gave a short introduction about how things worked in ex-Yugoslavia politically and economically, and how Cyrillic looked between WWI and WWII in this area.