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We recently spoke with Martin Majoor, designer of FF Nexus, FF Scala and FF Seria, about his move into running type design workshops for students. He is a prolific Type and Graphic Designer, who has been designing type since the 1980s. His first FontFont, FF Scala was one of the first typefaces to be included in the library back in 1990. We caught up with him last week to discuss his motivation for running workshops for students and to find out more about the challenges and surprises he encounters when running such groups.
You rarely teach nowadays, instead you run workshops. Why is that? What motivated you to make the change?
A long time ago I was a regular teacher at two art schools in The Netherlands. After five years I came to the conclusion that most teachers, including myself, keep their teaching jobs too long. Their practical experience as a graphic designer gets under pressure and slowly they lose touch with the practice. So I decided to immediately quit both jobs.
Teachers who lead a workshop are doing this mostly out of practical experience. Workshops are short and extremely concentrated, after a few days of work there is an end result. This is highly satisfying for both the students and the teacher.
Do you give workshops on a regular basis and do you have different scenarios you apply dependent on factors like the experience of the attendees for example?
In my type design workshops I don’t differentiate between – let’s say – first-year students and post-graduates, or between Spanish and Korean students. The starting point is the same for everybody: a piece of paper and a double pencil.
Not surprisingly the experienced students go faster than first-year students or those students that grew up with other language scripts (like Arabic, Korean etc.). Strangely enough the end results often don’t reflect this difference. Experienced students tend to be more traditional in their shapes whereas new students come up with surprising ideas and unconventional solutions, they are not yet a prisoner of ‘how it should be’.
On the other hand, the more mature students mostly work cleaner, faster and more logically, whereas inexperienced students sometimes don’t understand what they are doing. In any case, it is my goal to make the design process transparent. My job is to steer the students through a process of writing (with a double pencil), sketching, designing and finally presenting.
Could you tell us more about the structure and length of your recent workshop in Warsaw?
The workshop in Warsaw lasted five days. There were no computers involved, all work was done by hand. The structure was, like in all my workshops, quite simple. All students start with a blank piece of paper and a calligraphic writing tool of two pencils that are tied together with two rubber bands. We call it the ‘double pencil method’, producing an outline shape of a letter.
A lowercase italic ‘n’ is the first letter to write. As soon as the outline ‘n’ is satisfactory this will be filled in with a black marker. Parts of its shape could then be used for the ‘a’ or ‘p’: in type design a lot of shapes can be copied, turned and used again. Much attention is given to the spacing between the letters, because bad spacing can ruin a good type design. The end result after five days was a word we made up ourselves: ‘galponks’.
Who were the attendees and what do you want these people to learn?
To be honest I don’t know from which year the students were. I believe half of them were from the first year, but then this is not important to me, anybody can join.
It is not my intention to deliver a new generation of type designers. What I do want is to show the students how they can judge their own work. Most students think that I, ‘the professor’, is going to tell them what is wrong (and what is right). In stead I ask the students to tell ME what is wrong and what is right in their own work.
Most of the students have better eyes than I have (I’ve got minus 4,5 and a certain degree of astigmatism). I am convinced they are perfectly able to see what is not well balanced in a lettershape. You must realize that most students have a good visual intuition, after all they all came to the art school because of their drawing skills that they already had developed in their childhood.
What is the biggest challenge for you in conveying knowledge?
I want students of graphic design to know where our letter shapes come from. These letters will be their main building blocks, graphic design and letters are inextricably linked. By designing a few letters most students will suddenly understand the construction of it, they will look at existing typefaces in a way they have never done so before. In the end, I hope they will see the beauty of letters.
Can you recall the last time you learned something from one of the attendees regarding type design? Does it happen at all?
Sometimes students surprise me with their original approach. They can make letterforms that are formally ‘wrong’, but these shapes can be inspirational, even for me. Thanks to teaching it is much easier for me to experiment with unusual shapes myself. More than ever before I can put things into perspective.
A funny thing happened in the last workshop. Two students came up with a new ‘construction’ of the double pencil: instead of putting a small piece of eraser in between the pencils they had put a third pencil there in the opposite direction. Brilliant! From now on I will make the double pencil in this way.
How can our readers take part in one of your workshops and what material should they bring along to participate?
I don’t have time to organize workshops myself. It is mostly done by art schools who invite me to lead a workshop for three, four or five days. But if other organizations (like design conferences or a professional association) would like me to do a workshop, I would be happy to do so. And don’t forget, anybody can join!
Photos by Marianna Paszkowskapermalink
How does the extension of a font family influence the overall concept? Started as a graduation project in 2002, FF Utility was entirely reworked and expanded towards the end of 2014 with the addition of two new thin weights. We spoke to Lukas Schneider about his reasons behind the extension.
Designing a typeface seemed like an obvious thing for Lukas Schneider to do. During his studies they “were dealing with type all the time”, and he had six precious months to spend on his graduation project. One day Lukas found a notice from Linotype on the bulletin board (“it was like a revelation for me”): Akira Kobayashi was looking for a student assistant. “I immediately grabbed that note before anyone else could see it”. This meant Lukas enjoyed the mentoring from the famous type designer while developing Gazoline, the typeface that would ultimately become FF Utility. But after graduating “it laid around for quite some time”.
Lukas, does the name “Utility” have any deeper meaning with regards to the design?
“Not really. If I remember correctly Stephen Coles made a couple of suggestions for a name – to me Utility suited the design the best. Sometimes you approach this pragmatically. While designing I was reminded of those 50s faces seen on gas stations in the US. I found the image quite powerful. Unfortunately the name Gazoline was not available anymore – I guess it was already in use. Moreover, the aesthetics of the typeface had changed during the design process.”
Why this extension now? What was your motivation?
The extension – or more precisely the idea for an extension – was already floating around when FF Utility was released in 2008”. This sounds as if FontFont pushed you. “Well… yes.” (laughs) “For example they always want the four figure sets. We initially made five weights from light to black. Then I thought it would be nice to have something thinner for big headlines, or a condensed series. I did some tests in 2008, but these ideas ended up in a drawer. I felt it was time to pick those up.”
Lukas explains “Now I can concentrate more exclusively on type. I realized that if you don’t, it simply doesn’t happen. Otherwise your project lays around for so long that you start questioning every single aspect. Earlier this year I said to myself: ‘Now you do it’. It helps that the people from FontFont are always looking ahead. Ivo keeps asking questions like ‘what about adding Italics?’ and so on. So we created two light weights – I drew a very thin one, and then we interpolated the extra light”.
The process turned out to be surprising on a conceptual level. “It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Back then I didn’t plan those two thins. This means that if I had simply drawn them following the existing concept, the overall proportions would not have been harmonious. This forced me to go back and rework the proportions of the original fonts as well, which I had not intended. I never planned to even touch the old weights”. Lukas chuckles. “You start seeing things you never saw before. And then you don’t want to leave the characters the way they were. I think the adaptations have made the font family more modern, and the extension of the character set – for example the addition of small caps – has also made it more versatile.”
Lukas, why not an italic after all?
“When writing about FF Utility some people think it doesn’t need italics because you can use a heavier weight or small caps for highlighting. Now that the latter is also available you can use both techniques”. Lukas’ reasoning is pragmatic – and honest. “For me it was simply too much work back then. You must not forget this was my very first typeface design after all, and it was not planned to have them. Maybe I will add italics at some point”.
Do you think there is a tendency to do without italics? “When I look around I must say I haven’t seen see any trend of that kind. Even current monospaced typefaces tend to have italics.”
Lukas doesn’t exclude the possibility. “Design-wise the family certainly is geared towards it. Also, in general I am very critical about my own work. I invested a lot of time reworking FF Utility. These days users expect a typeface to have at least 16 variations. However I think sometimes less is more. It makes sense to publish the upright versions first before looking any further”.
“I guess the planning of the family was maybe a little naive back then. For future typeface designs I would also plan italics in the initial phase, or at least consider them and make rudimentary sketches.”
We could leave it at that.
Lukas Schneider seems to be alleviated. “It is difficult for me to talk about a typeface – or maybe especially this one.” With FF Utility Lukas made his first steps into type design, which at that time he approached “without any conceptual motives”, without considering specific applications, basically making things up as he went along. Interestingly enough, his FF Utility carries its name with appropriate dignity.
So what does Lukas Schneider do when he is not creating? He seems surprised by this question. “Oh dear… that has become less and less frequent recently. I like to ride my bike; a little more intensely than most people: I have a racing bike, but … hm … that is always really difficult”. I am not sure if he means “always” these questions, or “always” finding spare time, and I don’t want to torture him any longer. Lukas concludes: “I like crafting, upcycling bulk trash, a designer sofa for example – I recently rebuilt an old plotter. And beyond that… much of it has to do with letters anyways. I walk around with eyes wide open, taking pictures, collecting.”
We look forward to seeing him continue crafting and tinkering with FF Utility.
Thanks a lot, Lukas!permalink
Towards the end of 2014, FF Meta Condensed was recognized in the Modern Cyrillic Type Design Competition.
FF Meta Condensed is part of Erik Spiekermann’s superfamily FF Meta. One of the foundations of the FontFont library, FF Meta was released back in 1991 and it quickly became one of the most popular typefaces of the computer era. With numerous extensions and companion families, FF Meta is now a highly flexible superfamily.
The Modern Cyrillic awards are held in memory of two eminent members of the Russian type design community Vladimir Yefimov and Emil Yakupov. This year there were 356 entries from 26 countries.permalink
In need of a little font inspiration for the festive season? We asked Inka, one of our Font Engineers and Type Designers, to come up with her list of favorite festive FontFonts. Inka talks us through her choices:
FF Acanthus is a beautifully drawn typeface, one that invites you to tell a story. If you look closely in the OpenType features you can even find Rudolph the Reindeer’s nose!
FF Nexus Serif is a real hidden gem and the added swash features give it a real festive feel.
Hans Reichel’s first FontFont, FF Schmalhans is simply splendid. Graceful and space-saving, it’s very legible. Perfect for Christmas Card greetings or a long Christmas wish list.
FF Prater Script is fresh, jolly and hip.
FF Kievit Thin set in large text is a real delight for the eye.
How to compile your own favorites list
- Browse our FontFonts and find something you like
- Then just ‘heart’ the single weight or the entire family and it will be added to your favorites
To share your list with others, just tick the box ‘link is public’ and you can send the link to friends or colleagues. To edit your list, you just need to make sure you are signed up for an account on our site.permalink
We are hiring! If you have a passion for type and typography and would like to work with us in the heart of Berlin, read on.
We are looking for a highly skilled and experienced Type Designer & Font Technician for our Font Development Team in Berlin (formerly Fontshop International). We hope to welcome our new colleague as soon as possible.
- Coordinate font development projects for new library fonts as well as customer-orientated font solutions, in collaboration with type designers and QA staff
- Take on type design tasks to accelerate defined projects
- Work independently on fine-tuning tasks such as definition of OpenType features, mark positioning, and font administrative core data.
- Develop macros or scripts to automate manufacturing processes
- Continuously extend knowledge about current font technology trends, Non-Latin scripts and corresponding writing systems, as well as general typographic aspects
- Provide support to our sales and marketing teams on request
- Bachelor or Master Degree in Visual Communication or a software oriented technical course of studies; ideally combined with 2–5 years experience as a font engineer or type designer with a technical background
- Very good font editing skills using standard font tools (i.e. Fontlab, Adobe FDK, RoboFont, Glyphs, DTL Font Master, etc.)
- Font technology knowledge with respect to different font formats, OpenType layout features and Unicode. Ideally Python scripting know-how and solid knowledge of XML.
- Ideally basic knowledge of at least one complex script or writing system (e.g. Arabic, Chinese, Devanagari, Hebrew, etc.)
- Project management experience. Well-structured work methodology and capability to handle multiple projects in parallel
- Good to very good communication skills in English. German language skills is a plus
- Berlin, Germany
- Be part of an enthusiastic team working closely with type designers, established and new talent, from all over the world
- Lots of opportunities to learn as well as determine the future of font making
- Close cooperation with the web development and marketing teams
- Attractive salary package
Please send your application with CV to Andreas Frohloff: firstname.lastname@example.org
The FontFont library is part of the Monotype family. Monotype is a leading global provider of type, technology and expertise, enabling optimal user experiences and brand integrity. We offer one of the world’s largest and most highly regarded typeface libraries, as well as innovative solutions that bring the power of type to life. We help creative professionals distinguish their work by employing exceptional type and advanced technologies in service to their imaginations.
Read all about the team in Berlin.permalink
A creative and contemporary sans serif, Lukas Schneider’s FF Utility has acquired Thin & Extra Light weights to its now seven weight roster. Both new weights are perfect for anyone working with larger text such as headlines.
The original design grew out of Lukas Schneider’s graduate thesis project, a small family of typefaces named Gazoline, designed while he was studying at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach (HfG) in Germany.
With its Thin to Black weights there is no real need for italics, as it is customary to use weight to create emphasis in this type of design—Bold for text set in the light weight, or Black for text set in regular.
Each FF Utility font contains four figure sets, small caps, as well as an alternate ‘a’ and ‘g’ to increase its typographic flexibility.
With the additon of Thin and Extra Light, the family now contains seven weights. Thin and Extra Light were designed to be set in larger sizes and work great as headlines or for display use.
Each weight has a corresponding set of arrows.
The alternatives of the ‘a’ and ‘g’ give you the option of a more streamlined look.
FF Utility Thin
FF Utility Extra Light
FF Utility Light
FF Utility Regular
FF Utility Medium
FF Utility Bold
FF Utility Blackpermalink
Working together with Jesse Vega, designer Mike Abbink has been developing FF Milo Slab over the course of several years in order to make a new perfect companion for the Milo family.
Adjustments include increased contrast, longer ascenders and descenders and modified glyphs in the heavier weights. All these changes go on to create a typeface that feels similar to the rest of the Milo family but with its own personality.
FF Milo Slab Thin & Thin Italic
FF Milo Slab Extra Light & Extra Light Italic
FF Milo Slab Light & Light Italic
FF Milo Slab Regular & Regular Italic
FF Milo Text & Text Italic
FF Milo Medium & Medium Italic
FF Milo Bold & Bold Italic
FF Milo Extra Bold & Extra Bold Italic
FF Milo Black & Black Italic
The FF Milo Superfamily
Mike Abbink began work on FF Milo in 2000 with the goal of creating a compact typeface with very short ascenders and descenders. Because of its compact design FF Milo is a workhorse typeface suitable for magazine and newspaper typography. It has modern bones with a touch of detail for distinction (especially in the italics). The designer named the typeface after a resilient grain because, much like corn or grain is for many cultures, FF Milo is intended to be a solid staple of any typographic diet.
With the help of Paul van der Laan for kerning, spacing and production, Mike Abbink went on to develop FF Milo Serif as a companion to the FF Milo family.
In comparison with its siblings, the slab has a more horizontal feel, due in large part to the adjustment of its terminal angles to accommodate the slabs. FF Milo Slab also takes a few cues from classic Egyptian style slabs rather than looking to the sans or serif for inspiration. You can see this in the italic ‘v’, ‘w’ and ‘y’ where slabs take the place of the flared terminals present in both the sans and serif.
All three members of this must have superfamily come with features essential for serious typographic composition: nine weights, small caps, old style figures, lining figures and tabular figures as well as some alternative glyphs to stir things up. Each member works well both united and alone.
FF Milo was selected by the ATypI as one of the best typefaces of the first decade of the 21st century during their Letter.2 competition in 2011.
FF Milo Slab
FF Milo Serifpermalink
FF Bauer Grotesk is a revival of the metal type Friedrich Bauer Grotesk, released between 1933 and 1934 by the foundry Trennert & Sohn in Hamburg Altona, Germany. The geometric construction of the typeface, infused with the Art Déco zeitgeist of that era, is closely related to famous German designs such as Futura, Erbar, Kabel and Super Grotesk that debuted a few years earlier. However, Bauer Grotesk stands out for not being so dogmatic with the geometry, lending the design a warmer, more homogenous feeling. The oval ‘O’ is a good example of this approach, as are characteristic shapes like the capital ‘M’ or the unconventional varying stroke endings on the ‘c’ and ‘s’ which give them a less constructed look.
Thomas Ackermann and Felix Bonge equipped FF Bauer Grotesk with a large variety of alternate characters in the upright and italic weights respectively, e.g. a lower case ‘e’ with two different stroke endings, ‘t’ with a straight and a round terminal. It also comes with playful umlauts such as the dots in the bowl of the ‘Ü’.
All fonts come in eight astonishing sets of figures, including playful numerals in square or circular outlines—both positive and negative. All these sets have alternative shapes for figures ‘1’, ‘2’, ‘4’ and ‘7’.
A selection of shapes, arrows and even hands (with little sleeves) round off the font. What’s more, note the selection of “Hanseatic features”: an umbrella, an anchor and the coat of arms of the city of Altona.
True to the historic examples of Friedrich-Bauer-Grotesk and Genzsch-Grotesk, FF Bauer Grotesk is equipped with both pointing and flat climaxes in ‘A’, ‘M’, ‘N’, ‘V’, and ‘W’.
While ‘G’ and ‘R’ feature a high “art-deco-waist” in Friedrich-Bauer-Grotesk, they have been digitized in that historic model as well as in more contemporary shapes. ‘Q’ also comes in its original appearance as well as in two new alternative forms.
FF Bauer Grotesk features all ligatures in demand. Of course some of them have different sets of stroke endings. Unfortunately the ‘fff’-ligature cannot be used in German words such as Sauerstoffflasche or Schifffahrt—that would be considered a typo.
FF Bauer Grotesk Light
FF Bauer Grotesk Light Italic
FF Bauer Grotesk Regular
FF Bauer Grotesk Regular Italic
FF Bauer Grotesk Book
FF Bauer Grotesk Book Italic
FF Bauer Grotesk Medium
FF Bauer Grotesk Medium Italic
FF Bauer Grotesk Demi Bold
FF Bauer Grotesk Demi Bold Italic
FF Bauer Grotesk Bold
FF Bauer Grotesk Bold Italicpermalink
We are excited to introduce our final release of 2014! As usual it is jam-packed with typographic treats: From the revival of a hidden gem to new weights for a FontFont favorite to a slab serif sister for one of our most in-demand typefaces. And if this wasn’t enough, our newly updated Web FontFonts raise the bar for enhanced web typography again.
First off, we welcome FF Bauer Grotesk – the highly anticipated revival of the Friedrich-Bauer-Grotesk typeface – originally released in 1934 by the Hamburg-Altona-based foundry, J. D. Trennert & Sohn. Friedrich Bauer designed his Grotesk with a nod to famous German designs such as Futura, Erbar, Kabel and Super Grotesk; its geometric construction is infused with a touch of Art Deco. Fast forward eighty years to Thomas Ackermann and Felix Bonge’s warmer and more homogenous adaptation FF Bauer Grotesk. It is ideal for those looking for something with historical weight to use across editorial, packaging, publishing, and ephemera.
FF Milo Slab is the newest member of Mike Abbink’s FF Milo super family. Singularly distinct and yet reassuringly solid, the slab retains many similarities of its sans and serif counterparts,but has undergone a wide range of careful adjustments from increased contrast, longer ascenders and descenders and modified glyphs in the heavier weights. All of these changes amount to a typeface that feels like FF Milo but with an identity of its own. The result of several years development between FF Milo designer Mike Abbink and Jesse Vega, FF Milo Slab comes with similar features to its siblings including nine weights, small caps, old style, lining, and tabular figures as well as some alternative glyphs to mix it up.
A perfect workhorse typeface suitable for headlines, posters/banners, magazines and advertising.
A creative and contemporary sans serif, Lukas Schneider’s FF Utility has acquired Thin & Extra Light weights to its now seven weight roster. An extremely legible typeface, FF Utility sets a mean line of text and can be used for almost anything. Both new weights are perfect for anyone working with larger text such as headlines.
New Functionality: Web FontFonts with OpenType Layout Features
We are delighted to announce that as of today the majority of our Web FontFonts now include OpenType Layout Features. This means that you can spice up your web identity through the magic of ligatures, stylistic alternates, figure sets, fractions, small caps and even swashes (if available in the font). With these advanced typographic features, specifically built for the web and supported by all desktop browsers (except Safari), OpenType gives you endless opportunities to bring online type to life. See them in action on our microsite and watch the video we created in collaboration with Stark Films.
What’s more, we’ve streamlined and improved our webfont formats and fully updated the free Subsetter tool so that you can customize your Web FontFonts for optimum performance.permalink
Introducing: Web FontFonts with OpenType layout features, streamlined formats and the new and improved Subsetter
We are delighted to announce that our Web FontFonts now include OpenType Layout Features. What’s more we’ve simplified our webfont formats and updated the free Subsetter tool, so you can now customize your Web FontFonts for optimum performance.
OpenType Web Magic
With OpenType Layout Features, you can spice up your web identity through the magic of ligatures, stylistic alternates, figure sets, fractions, small caps and even swashes (if available in the font). Thanks to a selection of 1,600 Web FontFonts, your typographic toolbox is bigger and better equipped than ever before. With beautifully advanced typographic features that are supported by all desktop browsers (except Safari), OpenType gives you endless opportunities to bring type to life.
It may seem like an obvious question, but what are OpenType layout features?
Essentially it’s the ‘technology behind good type’. It’s a standard font format that provides you with a typographic toolkit (layout features) to enrich and enhance type. For many years, you could only really use OpenType technology in a few select desktop publishing applications, but the time has come to bring these features to life on the web.
Up till recently typographic gems such as FF Mister K were not able to function as a Web FontFont, in fact many script fonts wouldn’t work well without OpenType features. However with this latest update, we can now welcome FF Mister K Web to the webfont family. Other FontFonts that have benefited from this update include FF DIN, (you can now use the famous alternative @ sign online) and FF Duper. All FF Duper weights contain three versions of each glyph, which when put into a text the stylistic alternative OpenType feature uses all three alternatives in succession. It treats vowels and consonants separately and even recognizes spaces between words creating a lively and hand-made appearance of the typed text. You can find out which particular features are included in specific fonts on single weights’ OpenType Layout Features tab.
Improved Formats and Subsetting
What’s more, we’ve now streamlined and improved our Web FontFont formats. Now you will receive a single webfont format only — WOFF, which provides the most up-to-date compatibility and includes OpenType features. Using our improved Subsetter website you can customize your Web FontFont to make the files lighter and faster to load and thereby save on bandwidth costs. You can produce Web TTF and EOT formats using Subsetter should you need them (these formats are suitable for older, outdated browsers). However, bear in mind that EOT won’t contain OpenType layout features nor kerning and that whilst TTF contains these features it is only supported by older browsers.
Want to see what your website looks like with a Web FontFont before you buy? Head to FontShop’s Webfonter.