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.
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.
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’.
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 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.
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.