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FontFont to sponsor Typo_Mad 2013

Typo_Mad2013

We are delighted to announce that we will be sponsoring this year’s Typo_Mad 2013, the Typographic Festival of Madrid, taking place 27 September – 10 October.

The event combines conferences, typographic workshops together with the Type Directors Club (TDC) exhibition and on-line exhibition. It is open to all professionals, students and type fanatics with the aim to showcase and strengthen design and typography in Madrid on an international level. The cast of Spanish type talkers include Andreu Balius, Pablo Abad and Sergio Jiménez.

There are still a few tickets left so dont miss out and get yours today!

Calling mad types!

If you cant make it to Madrid this year, you can still be part of the Typo_Mad action via the Typo_Mad Expo.

The theme for this year is “the experimental and the amateur”, with the expo taking form in two parts – the curated exhibition showcase at Central de Diseño in Matadero Madrid as well as a virtual online gallery.

The exposition will accept typographic pieces that speak to the theme through applications such as: typeface design (calligraphy, dingbats, lettering), identity design, digital formats (opening titles, websites, TV spots, on-line works, animations, interactive project), emerging projects and yet-to-be published degree final projects.

The deadline for submissions is tomorrow, September 20, so get in quick!

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New Release: FF 64

FF63 saw a FontFont milestone with the App+ license and this latest release is just as much an occasion as the last. With two brand new designs and Cyrillic language updates to three of our Pro packages, we have been counting down the days in high anticipation – we are simply super thrilled to bring you FF64.

New Designs

FF Mark

FF Mark

FFMark Showing

FF Mark Microsite

New meets old meets technic, FF Mark is more than just an average geometric sans. A special type project, Ze new Germanetric sans is a collaboration by Hannes von Döhren, Christoph Koeberlin, and the FontFont Type Department with creative support from Erik Spiekermann.

True to geometric tradition yet contemporary for today’s needs, the family of 10 weights ranging from Hairline to Black is designed with versatility in mind. Extreme weights have been engineered to shine bright in large sizes and middle weights optimized for body copy.

And to mark the launch of FF Mark, we are launching a new microsite to showcase and celebrate the thinking and creative process behind the typeface. Discover, interact with and download the exclusive Free Fönt at www.ffmark.com.

 

FF Kievit Slab

FFKievitSlab

FFKievitSlab Showing

Four years in the making and designed with utmost precision Mike Abbink and Paul van der Laan’s latest expansion of the FF Kievit superfamily has arrived.
The long-anticipated FF Kievit Slab has been carefully adjusted and fine-tuned in width and contrast to help make it an extremely robust and elegant typeface.

Much akin to its successful sisters, the new slab sibling comes in 9 weights from Thin to Black and matching italics, which makes it a perfect companion to other members of the FF Kievit family.

Typographical finesse has been delivered in the form of small caps, old style, lining, and tabular figures, and a mountain of OpenType glory.

The entire superfamily is well suited for editorial and book design, packaging and superfit for corporate branding and creative industries.

Language Extensions & Updates

Talk in even more type tongues with welcomed Cyrillic updates for FF Mister K Regular, FF Mister K Informal, FF Profile and FF Tisa Sans. Our extensive library also offer fonts for several scripts aside from Latin, including Greek, Arabic, Hebrew and even Armenian.

FF Mister K Regular Cyrillic

FFMisterKText Cyrillic

FF Mister K Informal Cyrillic

FFMisterKInformal Cyrillic

FF Profile Cyrillic

FFProfile Cyrillic

FF Tisa Sans Cyrillic

FFTisaSans Cyrillic

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Featured Web FontFonts, September 2013

We go green with FF Netto, inject a bit of FF Tisa Sans for culture, and touch on the discontent with FF Meta Serif in this month’s lineup of our favourite Web FontFonts in use.

The Green Building Converter – FF Netto

FF Netto_The Green Building Converter

More than half of the world's population live in major cities. Developed by Lend Lease, The Green Building Converter is a sustainability tool that takes users on an interactive journey allowing people to navigate and learn about green building development. Daniel Utz’s clean and rounded geometric FF Netto strikes the perfect typographic balance alongside the 3D diagrammatic pictorial renders and animations throughout the site and brand identity communications.

Jüdische Kulturage – FF Tisa Sans

FF Tisa Sans_Judische Kulturtage

Last week, Berlin hosted Jüdische Kulturtage 2013 (“Jewish Culture Days”), Germany’s largest festival of Jewish art and culture. The diverse programme of culture, music and literature features the four basic weights of Mitja Miklavčič’s FF Tisa Sans for headlines through to body copy across the site as well as festival collateral.

The Great Discontent – FF Meta Serif

FF Meta Serif_The Great Discontent

Designed and curated by Ryan and Tina Essmaker of Designing Monsters, The Great Discontent is a journal of interviews focusing on creativity, risk and what connects people as artists. A simple, clean, responsive and impeccably editorially considered site, the choice to use Erik Spiekermann, Christian Schwartz and Kris Sowersby’s FF Meta Serif as body is a great complement to “The Great Discontent”. 

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What Can Layer FontFonts Do?

Type is typically one-color. Of course, after it’s set, a user can manipulate letters with a texture or a gradient; but out of the box, a font is usually capable of a single color. This is where layer fonts change the game. With glyphs that are designed to be overlaid on top of each other, layer fonts make it easy to apply multiple colors and other effects without extra steps or leaving the comfort of your typesetting or layout app.


Layer_Hero_FF_Identification

 

Multi-layered type is not a new concept. “Chromatic” wood fonts for printing large headlines in two or more colors were common way back in the mid-1800s. Polychromatic type continued to be readily available in the photocompositing era when graphic designers sent their text to specialized typesetters to do the precision work required to line up the layers. When digital type took over, there was a noticeable lull in layered type. There were few chromatic fonts available, and making them work was now the complicated and tedious task of the designer who was suddenly given the additional role of typesetter.

But now, thanks to new typefaces (and rediscovering some old ones), better software, and time-saving tricks made possible by OpenType, chromatic type is back! Just a casual glance at graphic design blogs or Pinterest boards is enough to see that layer fonts are in fashion again.

There are plenty of interesting and useful multi-layer typefaces in the FontFont library — it may surprise you to learn we have more than 50 families with layering capabilities (even some Free FontFonts like FF Pullman and FF Koko) — but they are often overlooked because online samplers are optimized for standard, single-layer type. So let’s take a closer, multicolor look at a few and see what they can do.

What Can Layer FontFonts Do?
Make things pretty.

The most obvious use of type layers is to add decorative elements in multiple hues. A variety of FontFonts take advantage of layers to enhance their display qualities, from playful to grungy. Here are a few:

Layer FontFonts 
FF Beadmap, FF Minimum, FF Letterine, and FF Flava demonstrate the coloring possibilities of FontFonts with layers.

What Can Layer FontFonts Do?
Add depth and dimension.

FF Profile Layers 

One of the more powerful benefits of layers is transforming type from an element that simply sits on a surface to one that has a three-dimensional shape of its own. A single layer font with built-in shadows or faceting can only go so far in simulating depth. With a layer FontFont like FF Primary you can use color to give each surface an appropriate shade, making the type pop off the page or recede into stone. Over at the FontShop blog, David Sudweeks wrote a good tutorial on using FF Primary (and most other layer fonts).

What Can Layer FontFonts Do?
Add realism. 

FF Kipp Layers

FF Kipp, inspired by a worn set of wood type, is one of the most popular typefaces with a rough, weathered contour. Still, users often overlook its layer variations which can make it an even more convincing emulation of imperfectly printed or painted letters. The extra fonts in the set offer a variety of degradation when overlaid over the base fonts. These extras can also be colored slightly different than the bottom layer resulting in an uneven, painterly effect.

What Can Layer FontFonts Do?
Give text meaning.

FF MisterK Features

Layers aren’t only useful for visual appeal. Among the many smart tricks in FF Mister K are scribble, strikeout, and underline features that can enhance the meaning of text all while staying true to the informal handwritten aesthetic of the typeface. The OpenType-powered annotations are easy to apply, work with words of various lengths, and of course offer the ability to easily adjust coloring. Read more about how to use FF Mister K’s special effects in this info guide.

What Can Layer FontFonts Do?
Clarify text.

FF Jigger Overlays

One of the graphic designer’s often encountered but seldom discussed challenges is overlaying readable type on a photograph or video. This is particularly tricky when the background has varying values of light and dark. Common hacks include drop shadows and strips of color, but it’s often more engaging when the element backing the type is in harmony with the typeface. This is where FF Jigger shines. Because there are separate fonts for front and back, each can be colored independently. And because it’s type, changes to content or color are easy to make.

What Can Layer FontFonts Do?
Simplify iconography. 

FF Dingbats2 layering

Maps, infographics, UI design, and wayfinding systems ask a lot of iconography. To get the work done efficiently, icons must be easy to apply, easy to edit, and easy to change. That’s why working with symbol fonts makes so much sense. FF Netto Icons and FF Dingbats 2.0 offer frames and backgrounds to enable icon customization. Because these icon and border elements are separate characters they can each be colored separately. In FF Netto, key in the desired frame, apply its color, then key in an icon to align it perfectly inside the frame. FF Dingbats 2.0 uses an OpenType-powered layering feature to allow coloring of multiple elements in each pictogram without switching fonts (see above). Read more about this and the packages other features at the official FF Dingbats 2.0 site.

Using Layer FontFonts on the Web

You don’t need to limit your layer typography to print and images. Our friends at Typekit have written a simple CSS tutorial on using layer fonts in web design. For his article, Tim Brown demonstrates a chromatic typeface revived from the wood type era, but the technique will work with Web FontFonts like FF Prater Block, FF Advert Rough and parts of FF ThreeSix too.

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FontFont to sponsor TypeTalks 3

TypeTalks 3

We are very happy to announce that we will be sponsoring TypeTalks 3. The date is set for 6-7 September 2013 with the symposium stage heading back to its hometown, Brno.

The two-day symposium will be preceded by a three-day information design workshop led by Finnish designer Jasso Lamberg, as well as an evening of ‘extrashort’ type presentations aka TypeShorts™. Speakers for this year include Erik van BloklandLaura Meseguer and Radoslav Večerka.

TypeTalks was created as a collaborative activity, designed to raise awareness and draw attention to the importance and power of typeface design and typography amongst graphic design professionals and students. Three years on, it is now more than a conference just for typographers and type fanatics. TypeTalks aims to bring together creatives from across the entire design spectrum including graphic and web design, historians and even programmers. 

Normal bird registration is open until August 9, but places are limited so book now!

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At Home With: Erik Spiekermann

In our latest ‘At Home With’ series, we caught up with our founder Erik Spiekermann as he takes us through the Berlin townhouse he shares with Susanna Dulkinys and talks about printing presses, his most hated typefaces and what led him to become a typomaniac.

At Home With ErikAt Home With Erik

You have an enormous printing workshop packed with extraordinary machines and all kinds of type. Can you talk us through what you have in your workshop?

I have a small proofing press, a Korrex Nürnberg 38 by 55 cm. It prints letterpress from wood or lead type, woodcuts, polymer plates or anything higher than its surroundings. I have lots of metal and wood type, from 8 point Akzidenz Grotesk to 33 line wood type, plus all the other stuff needed to set type. And also two table-top platen presses which in German we call Boston-Pressen.

At Home With Erik

Can you recall how your interest for paper, type and the smell of (ink) color – the aphrodisiacs of printing – first came into being?

Yes. When I was around seven or eight, we had a neighbour who was a printer. I remember him showing me a piece of white paper. Then he showed me a printing forme – ­ some columns of type and all the furniture around it – which looked very complicated and messy to me: a lot of metal and ink. Then he took a proof from that forme onto the white paper, and like magic it showed only a few precise black marks, while the paper was still clean and white. Those marks were letters that I could read and the whole process was a miracle to me. That is when I fell for type and printing. Now I come back to that original technology of putting marks on paper: letterpress printing.

At Home With Erik

You had a printing workshop back in the seventies but unfortunately it caught fire. It must have been absolutely devastating … Now looking back with healed wounds: do you think there was something positive about it?

After my workshop, presses and type burnt down, I had only pencil and paper left, plus my brain and experience with type – all the tools a graphic designer needed at the time. I was forced into a career that I had no formal training for. And still don’t. But in a situation like that it didn’t matter. I just sketched type for other people to set and became knowledgable about photosetting and type design. Two years after the fire in 1977, I designed my first typeface for Berthold, LoType.

At Home With ErikAt Home With Erik

When working on a project for the press, what criteria do you have for choosing the right typeface? What are the differences with working on a computer?

If I had to print letterpress, longer text – which I would never do – but if I had to, obviously then you pick what you have and when I used to work in printing in the 60s and 70s, a printer had a certain amount of typefaces and you would pick from those. And if you didn’t have a 9 point you would pick 8 or 10 and make it fit somehow. That was both inhibiting and also at the same time ...  maybe these days, I realize how liberating it was. Lack of choice just made your day a lot shorter because you just didn’t have to think about, you just took whatever was there.

Now of course we have all these choices and I’m spending a lot of time trying to keep updated  with what’s going on and I have no hope of being updated at all ever. I have some friends, like Stephen Coles who is younger and therefore even more in touch than I am, but I call people, I ask people, I try to look at everything. When it comes to picking a typeface I still do what I always did, I look at the potential (font) size, the size of the page, the readership, the way it’s printed. Does it need to be heavy or light? Is there a lot of copy? Is it 9 and a half point, is it 10 point? And then you narrow down your choices and in the end you take something that fits the copy.

I just did a book that is kind of like a diary where somebody wrote about her parents who both lived in the 50s and 60s. So I didn’t want to use a nostalgic typeface because the 50s and 60s stuff was mostly ugly, but I didn’t want to do something that was too fashionable. Obviously it couldn’t be Bodoni or Helvetica, so I ended up using a typeface that was made for magazines/newspapers that looks fairly ordinary and has a little edge to it maybe and I picked a slightly heavy version which does exist and is not so thin on the paper. The paper is even a little yellowish, so the whole book has a slightly… not nostalgic, but period feel about it. It’s not brand new, it is not glossy white but it’s not nostalgic either. In the end it’s down to the length of copy, form and the size. I first set the book in 10 point on 14, and then it was just too long. It looked too big on the page, because of the page size given. So I went back to 9 and a half on 13, and it looked perfect. So it’s always a mix of things. There are also some faces I don’t like at all and some stuff I’ve always loved and I’m always waiting for an opportunity to use them. And luckily, this face is Lyon and I finally could use it.

At Home With Erik

Which typefaces don’t you like?

I don’t like typefaces that everybody uses. I don’t like Helvetica, because it’s boring and it’s not a typeface, it’s an attitude. Or lack of attitude. And I would never use it in a million years except romantically. Ironically, I said to my wife, that I want my tombstone  to be set in Rotis, because that would be ironic and my friends would get it. That is sort of the last word. And I don’t like mannered typefaces,  those typefaces that are designed on a principle like Avant Garde Gothic. Everything is meant to be geometric. Those don’t work. Same as Rotis. I like the ones that are a new take on an old classic. Lyon is a take on Times. Like FF Scala is a take on Garamond – it’s not a re-creation, but it’s that same kind of thinking, it has the same kind of feel, it just makes it new. Not in details, it’s not about having a triangular serif or some corners cut off – it just has a different feel to it. I like bread. And I try different breads all the time, they’re all made from wheat or rye, but they are all slightly different. You don’t know what’s different but the taste is different. I don’t care how they make it. I just like the choices. In German we call it Brotschriften – the daily bread of type.

At Home With Erik

In a lot of your projects you use your own typefaces, such as FF MetaFF Unit or FF Info. Do you sometimes miss them in your (metal) typecase? If so, do you want to do something about it?

No, I think they were made digitally and they should remain digital. It would be totally ridiculous to cast them in metal. I might have a text that would look good in one of those typefaces and then I would maybe make a polymer plate – a nyloprint as we call it in Germany. I don’t even think I’m going to print books because everybody prints books. I’m not sure what I’m going to be printing. I like bigger size stuff. It may just be words. Single letters, words. I like a poster that just says RGB – in black of course. That is some sort of stuff I want to do. I actually have a project where I want to print a series of sixty or a hundred three-letter words in English. And then you can make sentences from it. I might even do two-letter words. Or in German I might have to do twenty five-letter words, whatever. I’m just want to explore language, because if you print a word on a poster, it has a different life. It’s different from just writing on a piece of paper.  People want it to make sense. If you put twenty words in front of somebody, they try to make sense. They try to build a sentence, because that’s how we are. We want to read stuff. That interests me. Using my own type is sometimes due, because they are there, I don’t have to pay for them anymore, I get a free sample when I license them through FontFont, and I know them well and they usually work. Sometimes it’s a little embarrassing like in this case with this book. I would have never done it in one of my typefaces. It would have been quite appropriate, but it’s kind of embarrassing. Oh yeah, here is Spiekermann using his own typefaces, bla bla bla, boring boring boring. No, it wouldn’t be right, just because it’s mine. I do use them whenever it’s appropriate but not all the time. There is too much stuff out there. It’s too boring using my own stuff. 

But you have a wood type version of FF Meta, right?

Yes, a student from Vancouver cut it. There is only one letter each, so it’s going to be difficult to use it. Well, you can set “Hamburgerfonstiv” from it and some pangrams, where you have only one letter each. But I haven’t used it yet. I will do, now that I’ve got all the big machines together. I’m trying to move into a big space and then I’m going to have 5 proofing presses, or maybe 6 proofing presses. I think I’m going to get in the Guinness Book of Records for having the most proofing presses in one shop. And they are all going to be painted gray: RAL-Lichtgrau 7035, like this place.

You have a passion for numbering stamps. Can you tell us more about that?

Essentially, it is a little device that prints a number and then on the next print a plunger comes down, moves a number on a wheel and it prints the next number, so you’re numbering the prints that you do.

I like the mechanical device. It is incredibly beautiful. It has those generic numbers. It’s difficult to print because you really have to give it a lot of pressure, so the plunger goes down, and then moves to the next number. Also it means I keep track, because you always forget how many numbers you’ve printed. Was it a 110 or 120 I never know. This counts it. Also, if you’re printing letterpress, you do tend to print limited runs. And this is a good proof. Because you can’t forge that. Well, you can print 200 and then you can print 200 again, I guess. But for me it is a good reference and it’s genuine and I like the fact that it always looks a little messy. They’re very mechanic and I have 20 stamps and I’m going to buy another 20. Then I’m going to make a poster that has only 40 numbering stamps on it and they are all going to be set to a different number and they all change every time I print them, for instance, 20 to the power of 20 minus 1, which is pretty cool. So I have to print over a million posters before they repeat themselves.

At Home With Erik

The structure and layout of your house is pretty interesting and unusual for German conditions. It is rather narrow, tall and deep. Floors also separate the rooms, instead of walls. Are there any major benefits compared to living on a classical single floor layout with walls separating each area? 

No, there are only disadvantages. A quarter of the house is taken up with staircases. Its a total waste. This is the townhouse model that in Berlin we dont usually have but some planner decided that this area will be rebuilt using the townhouse model that we have in Hamburg, or Bremen, or London, or Amsterdam, but not really in Berlin. So, we got one of these spaces and built a house and its 6 and half meters wide and 13 deep, so its a double square, which is kind of nice. And there is a limit of 22 meters tall in Berlin. So we managed to squeeze 7 floors in, while youre allowed to do 5 floors, so we did 2 floors under full height, so they dont count as floors. We actually have 8 floors, if you include the cellar. So you come in on floor 1, or floor 0 as we say it in Germany; 1 and 2 are rented to an office, so it gives me some income; floor 3 is the printing press and the washing machines and the storage and stuff; floor 4 is my studio, where we are now; and floor 5 is the living room/kitchen. Floor 6 is the bedroom. There are 7 floors altogether plus the basement. Its a little wasteful but its interesting to run up and down, and its nice to have the division, so you have different kinds of spaces but its still very unpractical but kind of romantic. It is essentially a box. A Schubladenschrank, this is what this is.

At Home With Erik

You were pretty hard on Otl Aicher’s Rotis. You called it a “Kopfgeburt” – something that is born from the head and is not useful in application. Yet you actually own a Bulthaup kitchen, and funnily enough Otl Aicher was integral in shaping the design during the 80s and 90s. In your opinion was Aicher a better kitchen designer than a type designer?

Yes. Because a kitchen has a maybe romantic appeal but it is very practical. You can define the way a drawer works, where everything is. People have sort of all the same height and the same processes when you cook. You cut stuff up first, and you throw away rubbish and then you need to boil water. That is pretty obvious. Whereas a typeface is a lot more emotional. It is significant that Aicher helped to design kitchens but not design cooking. Because cooking is like designing type. The result is always different. You give the same ingredients to different people, it’ll come out different. Even if you give them the same amount of ingredients, it’ll come out different because you can cook longer or shorter, you can cut onions thick or thin, the same happens for type. It’s always A to Z but it looks different and Aicher had so much theory behind his letters  that they became very unemotional. It’s almost like you would design a lab instead of a kitchen. A kitchen has still to be a little messy and there are elements in that kitchen we did ourselves and the way it is arranged. We use the elements from Bulthaup but we arranged it ourselves. I think kitchen design and letter design can’t be compared which is the mistake that people like Aicher always made. They thought that it’s something  you can totally and utterly plan. But you can’t plan the emotional aspect of a curve or of letters when they come together. Because a letter doesn’t exist on its own. A knife does, but not a letter.

At Home With Erik

Alongside printing, you played bass in bars when you were studying. Now that you have revived your printing passion, when will we get the chance to see you performing bass on stage?

No, it won’t be bass. It’ll be guitar. I have a couple of guitars and I intend to get back into guitar playing next year when I retire. My Martin is over there and I have all the good intentions into playing guitar – and I will.

At Home With Erik

For more pictures of Erik in his home, head over to BehancePhotography by Max Zerrahn.

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New Release: FF 63

Our latest release FF 63 not only contains a beautiful new Slab addition to the FF Marselis family but it also marks a new era in licensing for FontFont.

App+

New License
We want you to spend your time making sure the typeface is the perfect fit for your project. To make it as easy as pie to get the font you need, we’re launching a brand new license, App+.

Comprehensive, affordable and available online, it’s now really simple to license FontFonts for apps, games, editable PDFs and more.

Whether you want to use FF DIN in a mobile app, enhance a car interface with FF Meta or embed your PowerPoint presentation with FF Scala, with App+ you can. What’s more, you don’t need to buy a license for every app or device, the one App+ license will cover them all. So, using FontFonts just got even easier and frustration-free!

FF Marselis Slab

New Design
FF Marselis Slab is the newest addition to Jan Maack’s FF Marselis superfamily. With revised letterforms and rounded inner corners to make the serifs more subtle, the Slab version also has more closed counters, a slightly reduced horizontal thickness and uneven diagonals compared to the Sans. FF Marselis and FF Marselis Slab are highly practical typefaces apt for corporate identities and numerous other branding projects.

Bundle and Save

Bundle and save
Now, when you purchase any combination of OpenType, Office, or Web FontFont formats from the same typeface family. Make sure you have every format you need for all present and future projects and save money too!

 

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Featured Web FontFonts, July 2013

Our July round up of Web FontFonts in use features the likes of FF Typestar by eBoy’s Steffen SauerteigMitja Miklavčič’s subtle yet graceful FF Tisa and Michael Abbink’s ever so popular FF Kievit. Silvio Napoleone’s FF Hydra Text and Ludwig Übele’s FF Tundra also make an appearance. 

Rob Meek – FF Typestar Web and FF Tisa Web

Rob Meek Website

Rob Meek is an information architect, interface designer and developer with a fair few typography-related projects under his belt. His portfolio site features the geometric but typographically refined FF Typestar Web as headers teamed with the softer serifs of FF Tisa Web as body copy. 

Lean Day: West – FF Kievit Web

Lean Day:West Website

Portland Oregon will be playing host to this year’s Lean Day:West – a series of events focusing on implementing and practicing lean startup in the enterprise. Both thicks and thins from the FF Kievit family are used extensively throughout the site including FF Kievit Black Web as headlines through to FF Kievit Regular Web for copy.

Woodtype Research – FF Hydra Text Web and FF Tundra Web

Wood Type Research Website

Is wood your type? Wood Type Research is a blog dedicated to current research in wood type design, manufacture and use circa nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The sans of Silvio Napoleone’s FF Hydra Text Web along with the serifs of Ludwig Übele’s FF Tundra Web is fitting to set the tone for this homage and documentation to all things wood type.

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FontFont to sponsor Granshan Conference and Festival 2013

Granshan

We are delighted to announce that we will be sponsoring the Granshan Conference and Festival for Non-Latin Typefaces taking place in Bangkok from 24 to 27 July 2013.

Over four days, explore the world of script through a series of workshops, presentations, exhibitions and a symposium. Renowned designers, researchers of script, and typographers worldwide including the likes of Robert BringhurstProfessor Lars Harmsen, Stefan SagmeisterGerard Unger, and Anuthin Wongsunkakon, will come together to illustrate and express the beauty of language through type.

Granshan is the first and only conference and festival focused on non-Latin typefaces.
Event registration is still open but get in quick before you miss out!

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Ludwig Übele on the origin of FF Tundra

Definition of Tundra: sub-polar regions found north of the Arctic timberline and characterised by permafrost

Ludwig Übele on the origin of his FF Tundra typeface. The original article, in German, appeared in Typographische Monatsblätter.

FF Tundra

“Five years ago, I saw a page of text from St. Augustine’s The City of God. It was hand set in the Bremer Press’s 12-point Antiqua face and had been printed in 1925 at the Bremer Press in Munich. I was thrilled. The even colour of the text on the page fascinated me, as did the balanced lines of readable text and the liveliness of the letters. How did this typeface manage to do all that? How should a typeface be designed so that it can lead the eye so perfectly along each line of text?

Two years later, I picked up the question again. At that time, I was thinking about condensed text faces. Condensed types are popular because they save a lot of space; they can bring about a better line-wrap in narrow columns. For headlines, they are naturally advantageous, because they can pack more information into a line. Admittedly, condensed faces are usually more difficult to read, since their narrowness allows for less differentiation of form. They squeeze the text image too much and present a more monotonous appearance.

FF Tundra

Generally speaking, a typeface has two directions: the horizontal movement of the line, which helps move the eye forward during the reading process, and the vertical ‘picket fence’ effect. Vertical strokes in close proximity to one another are so loud, visually, that a monotonous grid develops automatically. This looks very much like the fences found around gardens or yards. Too much emphasis on the verticals bores and tires the reading eye and slows down its natural movements, because too much information is pressed into a line (with extended typefaces, the opposite occurs: the eye travels at a faster speed than it can actually read at). My conclusion after this consideration was as follows:

A condensed type must suppress the dominant vertical strokes by emphasising horizontal movement. In order to preserve their specific character, particular detail must be paid to the rounded forms.

How could I bring both directions – the horizontal and the vertical – together in the best possible way? The question brought me back to the Bremer Press’s Antiqua, because in my opinion, this typeface did just that.

The beauty of The City of God is primarily brought about by its perfectly-tuned typography: point size, line-spacing, and line length. The typeface itself is relatively broad and spaciously set. Due to multiple width versions of the letters f, r, s, t, ch and ck, word spaces could be more easily balanced. Asymmetrical serifs in the reading direction lead the eye forward and support the band-form effect of the lines. Flat shoulders and open apertures emphasise the horizontal. Would it be possible to bring these features over to a condensed type, and minimise the dominance of the vertical strokes?

FF Tundra

FF Tundra is not an extremely narrow typeface, and it should not ever become one. Rather, it is intended as a versatile and usable serif face. It is compact and space-saving, offering great readability in small sizes. Short ascenders and descenders allow for tight linespacing, which is particularly advantageous in magazine design. Like the Bremer Press Antiqua, I gave the letters in FF Tundra’s first draft asymmetrical serifs. These looked pretty good on the lowercase letters. Uppercase letters are constructed differently, however. They are more static, and do not have the same written dynamic that lowercase letters do. For the uppercase letters, it did not make any sense to only have serifs on the top-left and bottom-right sides; the letters looked mutilated, and the missing serifs contradicted the logic of the uppercase forms. I decided to give the typeface serifs on both sides of each stroke, as is typical.

Rather untypical for condensed typefaces, however, are the serif forms that made it into in the final typeface. These are strong – almost cantilevered. The round bracketing on the serifs gives the vertical strokes an elegant conclusion and diverts the eye towards the reading direction. The serifs tie the individual letters together, so to speak. And – perhaps more importantly – they limit the vertical extent of the typeface. Particularly along the baseline and the x-height, they form the edges of a band that gives the lines of text a calmer feeling.

For the reading process, the area between the baseline and the x-height is the most important: this is where the most complex parts of the letterforms are found, and these are the elements that give the typeface its unique character. In order to further strengthen the horizontal flow, the letters’s shoulders and joining stokes have been flattened. The apertures of the rounder letters are robust and open. Due to their minimal stroke contrast, the c and the e appear as if they have come out of a sans serif design. The rounded outstroke of the t is sturdy and flat. The outstrokes of the a, d, and u run directly to the baseline. The thickest parts of the curves are not at the left and the right, but have been pushed to the top and the bottom, in order to create a light northwesterly axis.

Overall, the forms have been drawn to fill up as much space as possible. Because of this, when the typeface is set in small point sizes, FF Tundra appears larger than it actually is. The r is not a cropped n, but rather an independent form. Contrary to the other letters, the transition from the tail to the stem is rounded. This references related forms, like the c and the f. The top half of the g is larger than is common. The sweep of the strokes in y and j are projecting and ample. The tail of the J, on the other hand, tapers out in a similar fashion as the Q. K and k are each made up of two separate forms. The lower legs feature serifs on just one side, which is nevertheless strengthened on the left, to increase stability. The same is true for the foot of the R. In general, all diagonal strokes are tapered towards an internal acute angle.

FF Tundra

The italics also follow the principle of the best-possible line formation. Their lowercase letters feature real serifs at the top-left, whereas their outstrokes at the bottom-right are the sort of rounded forms typical for italics. Nevertheless, these are still somewhat flattened in FF Tundra. f, p, and q have calligraphic terminals. The base of the z points diagonally downwards, referencing its written origin. Even the diagonal letters v, w, and y are zestfully formed.

FF Tundra

FF Tundra is available in six weights. The specific letter construction model is particularly beneficial for lighter styles. This might be due to the moderate stroke contrast. Because of this, I drew an Extra Light weight, in addition to the Light. In the Extra Light, the stroke contrast is lessened even further. In my opinion, many of the finest contemporary serif typefaces are designed with too much stroke contrast. Maybe this is a result of careless extrapolation.

FF Tundra includes multiple figure options, including proportional and tabular oldstyle figures as well as superiors and inferiors. The loops of the 6 and the 9 are open. A slashed-zero is available via an OpenType feature. Also available via the OpenType features is an automatic substitution mechanism for problematic letter combinations. The f will be replaced with a narrower version when it is followed by specific characters – usually accented letters – that would collide with it. There is a beautiful g-y ligature, too.”

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