News: Tagged as Typeface design

Interview with Mitja Miklavčič on FontFeed

‘Whenever I design a typeface, I learn something new. This is one of the best things about typography.’

FF Tisa Sans

Over on the FontFeed there is an exclusive interview with Mitja Miklavčič on his newest design, FF Tisa Sans.

Read the interview in full.

About FF Tisa
FF Tisa Sans is Slovenian designer Mitja Miklavčič’s follow-up typeface to one of the new-millennium favorites in the our library, FF Tisa. Whether used together or separately, both of his families are excellent choices for branding projects and complex editorial applications.

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“Standing at the bottom of Mount Everest wearing a swimsuit.”

At TYPO Berlin 2012, Nina Stössinger, designer of FF Ernestine gave a talk on the ‘Importance of Being Ernestine’.

In her highly humorous and regaling tale, she talks about her ‘tricky trip into the depths of detail’ as she set out on her journey to become a type designer.

Watch the talk in full screen on Vimeo or YouTube and find out more about FF Ernestine.

Thanks to TYPO for sharing this video with us.

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FF Scuba: Deep diving with Felix Braden

Following the release of Felix Braden’s first FontFont, FF Scuba we caught up with him to find out about his newest typeface, the design scene in Cologne and who his dream client would be. 

FF Scuba In Use

Felix, your Internet-persona is tied up with the identity of one of your websites, Floodfonts and your twitter. Your website’s been around for about 12 years now. I remember seeing your free fonts for the first time around in 2004. Will any of these be upgraded or expanded to commercial families some day?

I actually have the most fun with the first 52 characters when designing type. The chance that I extend an old alphabet is therefore slim as there only remains the hard and fiddly work. It must therefore be for a special occasion. Just recently Typekit approached me and asked whether they could offer Moby, Hydrophilia and Bigfish in their library and that was an opportunity. Their idea to look after the complete hosting of webfonts so that the web designer doesn’t need to worry about it, really enthused me. I still offer the extended printer fonts with the additional character sets free on my website.

FF Scuba is your first typeface in the FontFont library, but you have released other families through Fountain, URW++ and Volcano Type. What was it like working with FontFont? How are we different from other foundries?

Without wanting to suck up, the collaboration with FontFont was super. The intensity of the mentoring and the effort that was invested in the development of FF Scuba is really remarkable. Big thanks again to Andreas Frohloff who made numerous suggestions for corrections and who brought the font a gigantic step forward. During the two years that we worked together on FF Scuba I learnt so much about type design.

You studied graphic design at the FH Trier. In the past few years, the German type design scene has gotten to know several Trier students and graduates through their attendance at Typostammtische (German type meet-ups), or from the work of other designers like Stefan Hübsch and Sascha Timplan. Did you have any classes in type design while you were a student?

Unfortunately, type design wasn’t offered as a subject whilst I was studying in Trier. As far as I am aware this hasn’t changed. However, there is a great Typography teacher, Professor Andreas Hogan, who encourages students to engage with type design. He really encouraged me with the design of my alphabets. One had at least the possibility in Typography to design a typeface as a term paper.

Even before you started your studies, you had already created your first digital fonts. Were these typefaces just 1990s-era design explorations for you – like so many graphic designers who discovered Fontographer at that time – or was it something more deep … like love at first sight?

Somehow both – in 1993 after completing my secondary school studies I wanted to absolutely design and study Graphic Design. Without having a proper perception of what it was like, I looked for an internship at an advertising agency. With luck I got a position at Gaga – an ambitious Design office where exactly the experimental atmosphere of departure of the 1990s prevailed and opened for me a whole new world. There I met the designer Jens Gehlhaar who was before my studies a really good teacher in type design. The fact that Fontographer was at that time really hip, and every designer ‘played about’ with it, was of course helpful to reduce inhibitions. I created my first alphabet within a week for the demo tape of a friend’s metal band.

FF Scuba Outlines

FF Scuba Outlines
FF Scuba outline tests

Aside from typeface design, you also work as a graphic designer. How would you best describe yourself? As a type designer? A communications designer? Or are specific labels within design not something that you identify with?

I am actually very happy that I don’t just do type design and also engage with editorial design, corporate design and illustration. The excursions into other design areas have always brought me a great deal and also the exchange with other people in other disciplines. If I was to classify myself then it would be somewhere between illustration and typography. My designer roots lie definitely in drawing and type is the topic that in the past few years has interested and engaged me the most. Lastly, I think that drawing and designing with type are very helpful skills if someone wants to draw letters and logotypes – so what I do now is inevitably a result of my background.

You live and work in Cologne, a city on the Rhine River and one of the oldest settlements in Germany. What is the design scene like there? Do you think that designers in Cologne work in a different manner than in other big German cities?

I don’t know, whether it is because of the times of Behance or the immense opportunities to exchange and share amongst designers, whether there actually is something like country specific styles, let alone city specific styles.

For me, the direct exchange with other designers is very important. At the moment, the type design scene in Cologne is very small and I don’t think I can find a typical Cologne style. We rarely get together for a Typostammtisch, but when we do, I spend weeks getting excited about it. There are always really interesting guests there, who are a great source of inspiration to me, such as Indra Kupferschmid, Dan Reynolds or Alex Rütten. Sometimes, I look somewhat wistfully at the design scene in Berlin and Munich, where every week there are opportunities to meet up. 

Yet when it comes to the history of the town, I find that Cologne is extremely interesting. As soon as you dig a bit deeper into a town area you find something spectacular. Alone in the Romano-Germanic Museum you can find so many magnificent classical typographical finds that it is really worth a visit.

When you compare your first sketches on paper with the final release-version of a typeface, how much of the original feeling remains in the finished design?

When it came to bringing FF Scuba to market, I fished out some old sketches and was very surprised at the similarity that the end result had with the first drawings. The double page spread ‘cobang’ is actually the first sketch that I did for FF Scuba (at that time it was called Adria). I removed some of the oddities, such as the tapered ascenders but other than that it is very close to the release version, isn’t it?

FF Scuba First Sketch

FF Scuba Sketch

FF Scuba Sketches
First sketches

I’ve read that part of the inspiration behind FF Scuba was to create an offline companion for Verdana. In which way do you think that FF Scuba is most similar to Verdana, and where is it the most different?

I think the biggest similarity that FF Scuba has with Verdana is at a distance or on a screen in small pixel sizes. Also when it runs closer together and the letters are narrower- you can compare Verdana and FF Scuba in size 12 in TextEdit, the fonts are differentiated through a number of letters such as I, J or M but the appearence is very similar.

As soon as the letters become bigger the details such as the tapered ends of the stems or the almost rectangular o are noticeable and then the two typefaces bear little similarity. Also with the bolder weights the differences are particularly apparent: with Verdana Bold the horizontals – through the orientation on the pixel – are only half as heavy as the verticals, FF Scuba doesn’t have this contrast, the horizontals appear study/massive.

Are there any specific design applications where you think that FF Scuba would be a particularly apt choice for graphic designers?

I think FF Scuba has a lot of character, especially for a sans serif optimized for long body texts. That makes it a good tool for branding. I believe that with FF Scuba I have succeeded in allowing a warm, human aspect to flow into a very dry technical design. A contrast that in my opinion also illustrates the uniqueness of the typeface - therefore is FF Scuba perfectly appropriate for firms with a high technical affinity but that see people at the heart of their business for example in the media or computer industry.

FF Scuba Corrections

FF Scuba Corrections
Felix Braden’s correction notes

Every type designer has their secret dream client. If you had to pick one “long shot” area for FF Scuba to be uses, where would that be?

Like many other type designers, I was shocked by the announcement a few years ago that Ikea was using Verdana as their corporate font and with that placed comfort and cost-saving above all design criteria. I can’t quite exactly remember, but I think at this time I began working on FF Scuba. I would be really excited if Ikea used FF Scuba as the corporate font for print media and Verdana for the screen – I don’t mind if they also used it for correspondence.

Aside from FF Scuba, do you have a favourite FontFont?

I love FF Absara by Xavier Dupré and FF Suhmo by Alex Rütten.

 If you were to give someone starting out in typography one piece of advice what would it be?

Don’t hesitate, just do it! With type design, plan-less work sometimes avenges itself later, but you don’t have to start with a super family.

Felix BradenFelix Braden studied communication design at the Fachhochschule Trier with Prof. Andreas Hogan and worked as assistant of Jens Gehlhaar at Gaga Design. He was one of the founders of Glashaus-Design and has worked as Art Director at MWK and freelance type designer in Cologne since 2003. In 2000, he founded the free font foundry Floodfonts and designed numerous typefaces which are available as webfonts via Typekit. His commercial fonts are distributed by Fountain (Capri, Sadness, Grimoire), URW++ (Supernormale) and Volcanotype (Bikini).

For a limited time, FF Scuba Regular OT and Web are available for free download.

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On our reading list part two: Best Graphic Design Blogs

On our reading list
Image: Sven Hagolani (ƒStop 877.004)

In the second part of our series, ‘On Our Reading List’, here’s a quick round up of the blogs and websites that we read on a regular basis to quench our thirst for design inspiration.

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Are you the next FontFont designer?

The stories and faces behind some of our FontFont Designers

Have you got a tremendous typeface design up your sleeve? At FontFont, we are driven by our love for type and typography and are always on the lookout for new typographical talent. When we started back in 1990, our mission was to create ‘fonts for designers by designers’. Since then, designers from across the world have contributed to our library. Twice a year, the TypeBoard, a committee of internal and external experts come together to review submissions.

Our submission policy continues to be as open as ever; we look for original designs and judge all submissions based on their aesthetic, technical and practical merits. If accepted your design will join the ranks of typographical triumphs such as FF Meta, FF Scala, FF DIN, FF Ernestine, and FF Tisa.

From the well-known to the newly discovered, our designers come from all walks of life. Here are the stories and experiences of three different FontFont designers, who have recently released their typefaces through us.

A lengthy love affair | FF Spinoza

Max PhillipsMax Phillips, a New York–based art director, illustrator, toy designer, and novelist (of the award winning ‘Fade to Blonde’), released his first ever typeface as a FontFont. His first beautiful typeface FF Spinoza was developed over a period (on and off) of eleven years. An elegant workhorse, FF Spinoza is a classic text family with individual character to hold its own in display sizes.

We asked Max what it was like to become a FontFont Designer:

‘Basically, I was asked to join a club whose members include Kris Sowersby, Tobias Frere-Jones, Akira Kobayashi, Jean-François Porchez, LeTeRror, Hannes von Döhren, Martin Majoor, Nick Shinn, Jeremy Tankard… the list goes on. And, of course, Neville Brody and Erik Spiekermann. It was the greatest honor of my professional life.’

When describing what it was like to work with FontFont, he said,

FF Spinoza

‘FontFont took tremendous pains with the work. When Andreas Frohloff returned his first edits on Spinoza, I was a bit dazed.  He’d altered almost every glyph in every font.  In some cases he'd clearly improved things.  In some cases I felt that he was correcting real problems, but that I wanted to correct them in my own way. Andreas was there to help. And that's the way things went. FontFont put a lot of work into Spinoza, but they left the final design decisions to me, even though I was a first-timer and they're the world's foremost independent foundry.’

Joining forces | FF Basic Gothic

Hannes von DöhrenIn contrast to Max, Hannes von Döhren has been designing typefaces for a number of years and set up his own foundry HVD Fonts in 2008. He became well known for his highly successful releases such as Brandon Grotesque, Brevia, Livory, ITC Chino, and Reklame Script. 

In 2010, working with Livius Dietzel, he joined forces with FontFont to release FF Basic Gothic.

FF Basic Gothic

‘On the one hand type design is all about creativity, optical decisions – the visual, but on the other hand there is a lot of engineering behind a font. Therein, I believe, lies the strength of FontFont. There are many type designers who would prefer to concentrate on the visual. FontFont takes over the visual and technical quality testing of font production and with that guarantees an high level of quality for their fonts.’

Fulfilling a FontFont dream | FF Ernestine

Nina StössingerNina Stössinger was also one of our designers who released her first ever commercial typeface design, FF Ernestine, through us. Having studied Multimedia Design and later Type Design, Nina set up her studio in Basel in 2008. Ernestine was born from the search for a versatile monoline text typeface; it's warm with a serious overtone, feminine with an underlying rigid assurance, above all it is charmingly sturdy. She first drew the Roman as a study project at the postgraduate Type Design programme in Zurich, and the Italic in dialogue with Hrant Papazian’s Armenian design.

When asked about what it was like working with FontFont she said:

FF Ernestine

‘To be honest, I have for a long time dreamed of one day not only designing a typeface, but releasing it through FontFont! Ambitious dreams – and I’m still amazed that they have actually come true. I am both proud and humbled to be part of this great library which in my perception sits right at the crossroads of relevance and innovation, utmost professionalism and agile freshness, trustworthiness and openness to experiment.’

Now it’s your turn …  

With the next TypeBoard happening on May 21, you still have time to submit your designs.

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Faces and characters in our Type Department

 Our Type Department
The FontFont Type Department (l-r: Jens, Andreas, Inka, Christoph)

Have you ever wanted to find out about the faces and characters in our Type Department? In January, for our ‘Not Quite An Annual Report’ we interviewed Andreas, Christoph, Inka and Jens, to find out about their favorite FontFonts, their taste in music and what their biggest challenges last year were. Here’s the interview in full.

Andreas Frohloff | Head of Type Department

  • If you were a FontFont which one would you be and why?

FF Amman because the family is well designed in the sense that it’s not so digital smooth and glossy. The characters of the fonts have character :)

FF Amman

  • What’s your favorite music?

I like a broad range of music e.g. Jethro Tull, Neil Young, Keb’ Mo’ or Norah Jones …

  • What was the biggest challenge for you in 2011?

The biggest challenge was to successfully perform the calligraphy workshops at TYPO London.

Inka Strotmann | Chief Font Technician

  • If you were a FontFont which one would you be and why?

I would be FF Schmalhans Bold. FF Schmalhans is a very condensed typeface with a large x-height and was first drawn in the 70s. Like me, I was born in the 70s. I have wide legs, I am not really fat but I am broad in the beam so I look like condensed bold. Schmalhans is very clear and I am also very straight in the things I like to do.

FF Schmalhans

  • What’s your favorite music?

My favorite band is, for over 20 years now, Current 93.

  • What was the biggest challenge for you in 2011?

I had to draw my first uppercase German double s. It will be interesting to see if this glyph will be used and which form will be the favorite.

My big private event in this year was my first individual time trial. I trained a lot with my triathlon bike to achieve a good result and I was very happy with my time at the end.

Christoph Koeberlin | Font Technician

  • If you were a FontFont which one would you be and why?

FF Quadraat Sans SC Web Pro Condensed Extralight Italic, DirectWrite rendered at 31 px—for obvious reasons!

FF Quadraat Sans

  • What’s your favorite music?

Gebrüder Marx, currently.

  • What was the biggest challenge for you in 2011?

Answering these questions!

Jens Kutilek | Font Technician

  • If you were a FontFont which one would you be and why?

I actually had to ask my wife about this, it’s always hard to compare yourself to something like a typeface … I would be FF Spinoza. At first sight, it looks quite sober and not very fancy, but once you get to know it better, you will discover interesting details and how it can take you a long way. I’m also more book than display type. FF Spinoza

  • What’s your favorite music?

My all-time favorite band has to be The Magnetic Fields, for their stylistic experiments and unparalleled lyrical wit. Earlier this year I kept listening to the various Johnny Cash concerts recorded in prisons. It was fascinating how different the atmosphere and performances were between them.

  • What was the biggest challenge for you in 2011?

To move into a new flat. I had completely forgotten how time-consuming and work-intensive that was.

To see the team in action, check out the following video:

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Win a copy of ‘Explorations in Typography’

 Explorations in Typography Book

Carolina de Bartolo’s and Erik Spiekermann’s visual textbook Explorations in Typography: Mastering the Art of Fine Typesetting became quite successful right after its release in summer 2011 (see review on Typographica). We have ordered a few that we would like to give away with a little lottery drawing. All you need to do is send us one or more examples from the projects where you have used FontFonts. Five participants who win the lottery will get a free copy. The in-use examples can be sent as PDFs or images with a minimum size of 1000x200 pixels to info@fontfont.com until November 28, 2011.

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