New Additions: August 2021
31st August 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:
Companion Old Style – Steve Matteson (Matteson Typographics)
You have written that Companion Old Style was originally designed in 1928 by Frederic W. Goudy for the popular American monthly magazine "Woman’s Home Companion”. To what extent was it used in the magazine, and what sizes was it used at?
Goudy produced matrices for 12–48pt, though a copy of the magazine I have doesn’t have quite so many sizes used. The captions for illustrations tend to be in 14pt italic. The headings are naturally larger: 36pt and 48pt.
Were you able to work from Goudy’s original drawings for the typeface, or did you work from samples of the metal type?
Drawings for Companion Old Style would have been lost in the fire that destroyed his studio in 1939. The matrices, however, turned up in a typesetting shop in Niles, Illinois, in 1976. The Hill and Dale Private Press and Foundry cast the type in 1979, giving it a second life in hot metal. They produced beautifully printed repro-proofs from which I digitized the letters. This, for me, is the most accurate way to revive a hot metal typeface. There is no need to guess about how much ink squeeze to add (like you would have to do digitizing a metal pattern or drawing) and you have the original letter-fitting to work from as well.
Companion Old Style shares many characteristics with his more famous typefaces, such as Goudy Old Style, but Companion Old Style is far more flamboyant; I’m thinking of the elongated serifs on the ‘C’, ‘E’, ‘G’, and ‘S’, the flourished tail on the ‘Q’, and the asymmetrical bowl of the ‘O’ and ‘Q’: compare Companion Old Style and Goudy Old Style. Did he purposely aim to give it a distinctive personality?
Goudy writes about this in his book “A Half-Century of Type Design and Typography” saying that he really made an effort to make this design distinctive. He broke the unwritten rules of the angled stress found in Renaissance-influenced letterforms. He made numerous swash characters which may appear mid-word – which was quite unconventional. He seemed very intent on creating an elegant design for display impact. What I find remarkable is how well it reads in text despite the idiosyncrasies. It seems to work best around 14pt, imparting a very lively texture for enjoyable reading.
In addition to the design innovations he explored with Companion he actually learned how to manufacture his own matrices with this typeface. His long time friend and matrix cutter, Robert Wiebking, had died by this time. By executing the entire process for creating Companion, Goudy had pioneered the way for the many type designers today who draw, manufacture, publish, and market their own type designs.
Sonar Sans – Hannes Famira (Famira Fonts)
What led you to design Sonar Sans; was it for a particular project?
In 2005 I was commissioned by the Studio Peter Miles to create a corporate typeface for the French fashion label Céline. It was based on a typeface called Semplicità, created in 1931 for the Fonderia Nebiolo by Italian type designer Alessandro Butti; see Céline in my blog.
Before this project I felt the geometric sans was somewhat antithetical to the craft of type design as it negates so much that is essential to good letterforms, especially in the bold and italic cuts. Spending time with these zesty Italian glyphs opened my eyes. I fell in love with the very human way it deals with the paradigm of the geometric sans, and I guess I came out of that project liberated from my dogma and wanting to try my own hand at the genre. So yes, the Celine job was a big influence.
You released an original version of Sonar Sans through Kombinat-Typefounders in 2011. Have there been any changes between that version and this updated version you released on Famira Fonts this year?
So much has changed. I have kept working on it all these years. Some are tweaks and refinements and others are big structural changes. I went from three masters to two and then back to three, and the size and alignment of the figures changed. I have to give Jill Pichotta from Type Network a huge shout out for patiently and meticulously guiding me through tidying Sonar Sans up, and after all these years making sense of it again. I think the current incarnation is the best it has ever looked.
Slandic – Philip Lammert (Vibrant Types)
Slandic is a handwriting font, but it’s unusual in that the curves have straight segments as if they were constructed with strips of black tape. What led you to this style?
The aesthetic of Slandic derives from a style of connected script handwriting called “The Icelandic Method”. It is based on a method developed by Nan Jay Barchowsky and reworked in 1985 by calligrapher Gunnlaugur S. E. Briem to teach italic handwriting to Icelandic children. It originates in 16th-century chancery cursive, but has a more movement-based approach to italic, with a zigzag flow which forms triangles and stems. While all characters fit in a rectangle, oval characters also fit in there and have a more squarish shape.
Most of my inspiration came from a lovely 20-page booklet called “Cursive Italic News – The Barchowsky Report on Handwriting” which explains the method using text handwritten by Briem. I studied his writing from these pages in detail to find a way of creating my own neat design with non-connected construction. What makes it so playful is the synergy between the quite narrow lowercase letters and the wide uppercase letters. It exemplifies humanist style to the core.
Did you sketch the letters on paper first?
I am rather less of an analogue person, so I really enjoy drawing paths digitally from scratch. I shifted proportions directly on the screen to find a balanced rhythm. For my approach it made absolute sense. Most handwritten and script font families offer just one weight, but I wanted a range up to a heavy weight to make it applicable for a range of purposes. Scans of heavier weights would have needed a lot of editing, because it would be necessary to use inktrap-like counters to avoid blobs and find an even grey tone.
Did you have any particular applications in mind when you designed it?
It's probably the opposite of what you would use for a wedding invitation or beauty product packaging, so I always saw Slandic in applications that call for an outspoken or unvarnished attitude. Compared to freehand scripts Slandic’s curves confidently shape angles, its low contrast forms solid words, and its strokes end straight, so it easily combines with any sans-serif or serif. For informal editorial content in magazine design it adds a personal note without giving it a comic spin.
Salsero – Rodrigo Saiani (Plau)
Where did the inspiration for Salsero come from? Is it a revival of existing lettering, or did you invent the design?
It all started during the 2018 World Cup. I was in Italy to pursue my dual citizenship so I was by myself (wife and daughter in Brazil) and had a lot of free time. I decided to start a lettering sketch project of all the teams that Brazil faced in the elimination rounds while the game was happening. Great way to deal with nerves :)
The rules were to sketch the name of the team all at once, no preliminary roughs and only pencil/eraser. When Brazil faced Mexico in the round of 16, I sketched this México (with an acute as in Portuguese spelling). It came out super clichéd but also very fun and outside my usual style of lettering. I especially liked the exaggerated tops and that weird ‘x’ that kind of looked like a ‘z’.
Salsero is also inspired by PhotoLettering's display pages. I have “Photo-Lettering's One Line Manual of Styles” laying around and always leaf through it. There has been so much inspiring work coming out of that book and they are way beyond the boundaries of legibility and readability. I couldn't help but try it too.
The work that DJR is doing with inverted contrasts, House Industries with Plinc collection, and James Edmonson’s drawing sense in general definitely contributed to me wanting to try my hand at something more funky and curvy with an inverted contrast.
Salsero looks a bit like one of the fonts evoking the Swinging Sixties, such as ITC Bottleneck or Doobie. Is the resemblance accidental?
Not accidental at all. I am aware of them all. The version of Cheee that James drew in a crazy variable version definitely captured my attention. Over time, I thought of making very expressive typefaces as moments where I could simply draw a single style and each of these would one day make up a collection of very display, super-heavy-weight fonts. Primot, Manteiga, and Salsero are part of this collection so far. It's usually quite the opposite in my daily work, designing custom typefaces for brands and branding projects.
Because there’s nothing geometric about the characters in Salsero I imagine they must have been difficult to draw using Bézier curves on the computer?
I guess solving the light/dark puzzle and deciding the shape of certain characters was a more daunting task than the Bézier curves themselves. I sketched a lot during the process. Salsero wants to occupy as much room in the em quad as possible, but needs to feel balanced overall. Deciding where the weight goes, and the relationship between uppercase and lowercase, were decisions that I thought a lot about.
Letting loose, as I discovered, is quite different from letting go. I guess I was able to do both in this project.