News: Miscellaneous

The Making of FF Dora

‘You can make a beautiful book using only one style and one size of the typeface.’

Slávka Pauliková’s headstrong FF Dora is the newest addition to our library — A type family consisting of five styles; as the weights expand, the contrast increases but still retains the characteristic handwritten personality of pen-flicked strokes and culminates in its most playful face, FF Dora Display.

We spoke to Slávka about the making of FF Dora, where the name comes from and how her experience in book design has contributed to her type design.

FF Dora

The process behind FF Dora started out as a study of today’s handwriting styles and transforming them into a serif text typeface. For some the easier (or perhaps more obvious) option would have been to turn the handwriting styles into a script face. What was it that made you decide to explore the serif text form?

I had the idea in my mind for a long time, even before my studies at Type and Media began. I dedicated several self-initiated book projects to the topic of today’s handwriting and was fascinated by how everyone develops their own handwriting and how it differs from the form we were taught at school as kids. The results I came up with through my research were pretty interesting. Some handwritten letterforms completely change their forms from the handwriting of a grown-up person. People formulate their own visual language which is sometimes not readable to anyone else but themselves.

FF Dora Sketch

The 15th century typefaces are based on calligraphy and handwriting. There is a fascinating translation of the fluid calligraphic letterforms into a serif typeface which had to be designed because of the letterpress technique. My initial idea when I started designing Dora, was to explore the boundaries between the transition of a handwritten letterform into a serif typeface. After many trials and tests of combining handwritten letters with serif letters, I decided to minimize this relationship to increase the balance of the typeface. However, I think my starting point is still visible in letters such as the italic ‘k’.FF Dora

The name Dora is derived from the nickname in Slovakian for a headstrong girl. Was there a particular girl or woman you had in mind when designing FF Dora?

Naming the typeface took me really long time and I actually named it at the very end of the design process, right before my graduation. I picked the name because it was short and clear and it suited the character of the typeface. I also find it fitting because I was quite determined to finish it the way I wanted it. Since I named the typeface after drawing it, there was no person I was particularly thinking of while designing.

FF Dora Sketches

FF Dora suits small sizes but its qualities and styles, especially the display style brings a certain playfulness to the larger text. Where would you love to see FF Dora being used?

I would love to see FF Dora being used in any kind of printed or web material. FF Dora is suitable for longer amounts of text, editorial design, non-fiction books, any selective types of reading I designed the type specimens for FF Dora very simply without any graphic styles or colour suggestions. I am really curious as to how people will use it.

FF Dora

What has the experience of book design taught you and how has it fed into your own type design?

Editorial and book design taught me that the use of small type families is generally sufficient to achieve well-designed books. You can make a beautiful book using only one style and one size of the typeface. Except newspaper design, book and editorial design allow a typography in which small type families can play an important role. I am working with content-heavy books that need to have different levels of information emphasized typographically. Even a couple of styles or combining two different typefaces is plenty to distinguish different levels of importance in such books. I think this also explains why FF Dora is a small type family.

For more images of the process behind FF Dora, visit our Behance profile.


FontFont to sponsor ISType 2013

ISType 2013

We are delighted to announce that we will be sponsoring the third ISType Conference that takes place in İstanbul from 13 to 16 June 2013.

Over the course of four days, there will be a series of nine lectures and five workshops, all focused on the theme Stroke, which was inspired by Gerrit Noordzij’s book The Stroke. The speakers line-up includes the likes of Akira Kobayashi, Robert Bringhurst, Yves Peters, Erik van Blokland and Luc(as) de Groot.

You can still register for their seminars and workshops online, but hurry as places are filling up fast.


FontFont takes part in the Long Night of the Design Studios Berlin

Long Night of the Design Studios

The second Long Night of the Design Studios by Create Berlin takes place on Thursday, 6 June and we are delighted to be taking part with our office friends at FontShop Germany! Come along to Bergmannstraße 102 in Kreuzberg, Berlin (2nd Entrance, 3rd floor) from 19.00 – 23.00 to have a peek behind the scenes and hear about what we do.

Andreas Frohloff, the Head of our Type Department will be running an open calligraphy workshop from 19.30 until 22.00 (8 spaces available in rotation), you will also get the chance to hear from Christoph Koeberlin, one of our Font Technicians, about the production of a font and maybe pick up a FontFont treat or two.


Featured Web FontFonts, May 2013

This month’s round up of our favourite sites featuring Web FontFonts including Travis Kochel’s groundbreaking FF Chartwell, Mike Abbink’s bestselling FF Kievit and Max Phillips’s elegant  FF Spinoza.

Kerem Suer  — FF Chartwell Web

Kerem Suer 

Kerem Suer is a designer of digital products based in San Francisco and his portfolio subtly features Travis Kochel’s innovative chart-making font, FF Chartwell. Kerem uses FF Chartwell Lines Web on the contact page of his website.

St. Gallen Symposium — FF Kievit Web

St. Gallen Symposuim

The St. Gallen Symposium takes place annually in May in Switzerland and is a gathering of leaders organized by students from the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. A number of weights of Mike Abbink’s FF Kievit Web appear in the headlines and titles of the site, including FF Kievit Light and FF Kievit Medium

Pitchfork Guide to Summer Festivals 2013 — FF Spinoza Web

Pitchfork Guide to Summer Festivals 2013

The Pitchfork Guide to Summer Festivals 2013 features Max Phillips’s FF Spinoza throughout the body copy and GT Pressura from Grilli Type in the headlines. Pitchfork is an online guide to independent music.


TYPO Berlin highlights

Erik Spiekermann print workshopOur feet have just about touched the ground since the wonderful whirlwind that was TYPO Berlin 2013 last week. So, we thought wed share some snippets and snapshots.

Taking place over three days and reaching it's eighteenth year running, this year’s TYPO Berlin was one of the biggest yet with design superstars such as Jessica Walsh, Neville Brody, Albert-Jan Pool and Ken Garland.

This year’s conference also played host to the first ever Type Review that took place on Friday 17 May. Members of our official TypeBoard, Erik Spiekermann, Stephen Coles, Erik van Blokland, Andreas Frohloff, Jürgen Siebert and Ivo Gabrowitsch were let loose on stage to critique, commend and appraise typefaces in public. 

FontFont Type Review

FontFont Type Review We were also delighted to meet up with a number of our FontFont designers who were at TYPO Berlin.

The quality of the speakers was fantastic and highlights included Simon Manchipp and Neville Brody. There was a number of workshops to take part in, including Erik Spiekermanns print workshop and the Calligraphy and Lettering Workshop by our Head of Type, Andreas Frohloff.

If you missed out on the conference, have a peek at our Flickr profile for more visual delight, have a read about the conference on the TYPO blog and watch the videos. Designer Drinks  



ÜberFontFont FF QType

Based on a square, FF QType is the latest rising star of our library – our so-called ÜberFontFont for the past quarter.

Traversing the somewhat tricky balance between pure geometry and legibility, FF QType is the brainchild of Achaz Reuss. It contains a vast 20 styles comprising of five subfamilies (Compressed, Condensed, Semi Extended, Extended and Square) each with five weights.

Following firm rules, it is geometric yet optically balanced; the horizontals are thinner than the verticals. The E and C terminals are at angle giving the typeface a lively, more playful character. 

FF Q Type

FF Q Type

FF Q Type


“FontFont has really given FF Chartwell an amazing second life.”

Our next TypeBoard takes place on Wednesday 15 May, so the time to submit your typefaces for consideration is fast approaching. But what’s it really like being a FontFont designer? We caught up with one of the newest designers to join the FontFont family, Travis Kochel (designer of the groundbreaking FF Chartwell) to find out about the path that he took to become a type designer and why he chose to submit his already successful typeface Chartwell to our library.

Travis Kochel 

You studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, graduating with your BFA in 2008. What did the design curriculum there look like? Did you have a lot of typography coursework?

Typography was drilled into us. Even in classes not explicitly labeled typography, good type choices and typesetting practices were stressed. At the time it felt more like boot camp, and I actually tried to distance myself from it. It took a few years of real world experience to fully appreciate and understand the value of it. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but it just sort of clicked one day, and turned into an obsession.

What inspired you to start designing type? Did your client work at Scribble Tone help while you started your first typeface?

At the time, my first explorations in type design felt more like a curious exploration of letterforms, and a way to take a break from client work. I think what keeps me coming back to it is a strong desire to control every detail of a project. Type is one of the most basic building blocks of a design piece, and there’s an interesting power that comes with controlling that.

FF Chartwell Radar

You first released FF Chartwell in 2011 under the TK Type label and it was received really well. As Chartwell was already successful in its own right, what prompted you to submit the typeface to FontFont? Do you think it fared better as a FontFont?

Releasing typefaces on your own comes with self doubt, and the nagging question of how it would fare with the feedback and marketing power of an established foundry. After the initial success of Chartwell, I started working on a few additional styles of charts and thought it would be a great opportunity to see what someone else could bring to it. I’ve always had a great admiration for FontFont, and they’ve taken on many experimental releases in the past, so it seemed like a good fit.

Admittedly, I was a little nervous about making the transition, but it has outperformed my expectations by far. FontFont has really given FF Chartwell an amazing second life. I’m also extremely happy with the team’s solution for the web version. It was a brilliant approach to break free of the font format, and instead focus on the interface.

What was the main advantage working with FontFont? Would you publish future type designs through FontFont again? If so why/if not why not?

I will definitely consider FontFont again if I have a design that fits well into the catalog. The biggest advantage is the feedback and insight from the team. It’s comforting to have experienced eyes looking over everything, and offering outside perspectives. It’s also quite apparent that they care every bit as much as you do about the work. 

FF Chartwell

The nuts and bolts of FF Chartwell’s features really push the boundaries of the OpenType format. Are you tempted to continue experimenting and pushing OpenType technology even further?

There’s a lot of opportunity to push OpenType technology further, and it’s definitely something I think about a lot. I haven’t quite found another opportunity where an OpenType solution makes sense, but I’m keeping my eyes open.

How do you spend your day? Can you carve out regular chunks of time for type design? How does your work/life balance look? 

My schedule is very erratic, and it usually comes in weeklong chunks of time being focused on one thing. A rough estimate of my time in the past year:

A day in the life of Travis Kochel 

Chicago, New Zealand, Portland … you seem to get around a lot! Do you think that your geographic location feeds into the results of your design work?

The designers and community in each city have definitely influenced the way I think about and approach design. It brings new ideas and perspectives, but also forces you to think about where you stand on those issues.

What’s next for you? Do you think you will release another typeface in the near-future?

Type design will definitely continue to be a large part of my future. But I also really enjoy having a variety of types of projects to work on. It keeps the days interesting, but also brings new perspectives. FF Chartwell was one of those moments where two seemingly unrelated fields of design happily overlapped.

If you could offer a single piece of advice to an aspiring type designer, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just be sure to learn from them, and keep an open ear to feedback, even after releasing.

FF Chartwell

Keen to find out what its like being a FontFont designer from other designers, read the FontFont stories of Hannes von Döhren, Nina Stössinger and Max Phillips.


FF Tundra takes a starring role in the newly redesigned ‘stern’

Newsstands in Germany have looked a little different since March 14, 2013 – the day the redesigned stern magazine premiered. A weekly news magazine, stern is one of the major journalistic publications serving the German-language market. Whenever a well-established brand changes its appearance, typography and typeface selection are two of the many factors to be considered. In this case, stern decided to use FF Tundra as its main text face. While this is just a small element of the magazine’s new guise, it plays the most essential part of its reading experience.

FF Tundra for stern magazine

The typography of the redesigned stern appears quite objective. A number of typefaces are used throughout its pages, but each font has a specific role to play. The magazine is printed on brilliant white paper, with most text being either black or red. Aside from FF Tundra, stern also uses Kris Sowersby’s Metric typeface. That family may be found in sub-headlines and image captions, for instance. A condensed sans serif with rounded corners, Soft Press by Patrick Griffin is used on the magazine’s cover and for the drop-caps at the start of articles. This has something of a woodtype poster feeling, but the letters’ rounded corners also tie into several currents common to contemporary digital design.

FF Tundra for stern magazine

The headlines for most of articles inside the magazine are set in Nimbus Roman by URW++. Like Metric, Nimbus helps root stern’s typography in a German graphic design tradition. It calls to mind the paperback covers designed by Willy Fleckhaus for the Suhrkamp publishing house in the 1970s.

FF Tundra for stern magazine

FF Tundra itself is a rather new creation. Designed for FontFont by Berlin-based Ludwig Übele in 2011, FF Tundra was intended for magazine-setting right from the drawing board. The principal tenant of its design is its stress on horizontal movement. FF Tundra’s letterforms are rather narrow, but their long, flat serifs seem to stretch them out somewhat. The curved elements of some letters have been simplified and flattened. This increases the size of the letters’ counterforms, which is a common method to improve legibility, as well as strengthening the horizontal-ness of the typeface. A pleasant effect of FF Tundra’s reinforcement of the horizontals is that its letters appear to push the reader’s eye forward across lines of text. 

Since FF Tundra is stern’s new text face, it appears throughout the magazine in just a single point size. The features of its family are however employed in full. FF Tundra’s Italic is used in articles when necessary, as is the Bold weight and the fonts’ oldstyle figures.

FF Tundra for stern magazine

As is common for European magazines of its kind, stern is printed on gravure presses, instead of with an offset lithography technique. Gravure printing really allows colour photographs to look their best, giving them more depth than offset presses typically would. stern uses a thin coated paper stock, like that seen in many gravure-printed magazines. While the combination of gravure printing and this stock are great for images, they can really kill text; offset printing allows text to be printed much more clearly and sharply. Designers specifying typefaces for gravure printing must be extra careful, and it is here where the decision to apply FF Tundra to the redesign really pays off. Despite all of the little dots that appear around each letter – a typical hallmark of gravure printing – the images of FF Tundra’s letters remain clean and readable.

FF Tundra for stern magazine

This redesign of stern was coordinated by the magazine’s editorial team and supported by the art director, Johannes Erler (a FontFont-designer in his own right), as well as by Luke Hayman from Pentagram’s New York office. Ludwig Übele also revised the new logotype for stern. We’d like to congratulate the stern design team on the successful stern redesign, and for selecting FF Tundra in the process.

Learn more about the redesign process on Pentagram’s website.


Talking Types #03 with Peter Biľak

Peter Biľak

Whilst at TYPO San Francisco, we were delighted to be able to spend time with one of our FontFont designers and founder of independent foundry Typotheque, Peter Biľak.

In our third Talking Types, we spoke to Peter about how he manages to work on such a vast range of projects, what it’s like teaching at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague and about his newest typefaces.

Listen to the podcast now and subscribe to Talking Types on iTunes.


The story and history behind FF Videtur on I Love Typography

FF Videtur

There is a fascinating article about the history and story behind FF Videtur – our newest FontFont by Axel Bertram and Andreas Frohloff  over on I Love Typography

Read the article in full.

FF Videtur

About FF Videtur

FF Videtur is based on bitmap fonts that were created by Axel Bertram, one of East Germany’s most legendary designers, for the state television broadcaster GDR-TV. Bertram spent a great deal of time researching and testing the display conditions of 625-line television screens. His findings prompted the creation of Videtur, a functional open serif with moderate contrast and a highly unique shape. Fast forward two decades later and with a helping hand from FontFont’s Head of Type, Andreas Frohloff, the whole character set has been completely re-drawn and reinvigorated. The best characteristics of the earlier forms were kept but the typeface’s vertical proportions, serif shape, and stroke contrast have been carefully reconsidered.

FF Videtur