Forthcoming typeface: Collaboration is also a very useful way to take distance from your own design

In a couple of days, we will publish the first non-porchez typeface family. When Typofonderie was launched back in the nineties, the objective was simply to distribute directly its founder’s typefaces. It was a one man operation activity. Fonts have been created, produced, and delivered by a unique person, through fax order, followed-up by floppy disks for fonts delivery. Then the web appeared, it was easier to promote typefaces and to reach new audience. With a coarse image resolution, small screens, our website presentations was more a visual indicator to illustrate how fonts can be rather than true online specimens. After several administrative changes in the company last year, it’s finally possible to accept external designers today. Now Typofonderie is not anymore a sole personal brand, but a brand which belongs to a company dedicated to the distribution of exclusive qualitative typefaces. However, we still are a small company, 4 people work here daily, as well as few freelances from abroad. The idea ofremodeling our foundry started back in 2008, but between the initial idea and results, it always takes more time than we expect.

This forthcoming family is a sort of slab serif with trace of writing on it. Its not a revival or a pure old style, more a contemporary typeface, a synthesis of various ideas combined. Obviously you will learn everything about the designer and the typeface later, but we still have to wait a bit more for that. Initial contacts with our first “external” typeface designer dates back 2008 too. In early months, our exchanges were very informal, but quickly our first designer was aware of the forthcoming changes of Typofonderie.This mutual trust was essential and a good help to built a good typeface project. In early 2011, as the launch was clearly planned, the new designer worked intensively months after months. In fact, from its initial project, many aspects have been fully reconsidered, redesigned. The initial idea remains but in another form. Designing a new serif typeface in 18 series, 9 weights takes time, especially when we seek to achieve a certain level of quality. Even more with today’s huge glyph set including large language support, small caps, figures, superiors and various supplementary elements. We applause his perseverance, as designing a large typeface family like that when you work in a web design company in New York means that you dedicate your evenings and weekends to it. Its a personal dedication.

Each week, Jean François received a new version of the family, overviewed by the team, then the two guys discussed via Skype about the changes, details to be corrected, and where to go for the next step. They discussed about the relationship of the italic versus roman, the contrast, serifs sizes and its design and many others things. Later, in the winter 2011, when the typeface family masters have been completed, our idea was to launch the family with the Typofonderie website redesign, but wasn’t as easy. So we postponed, and many others small adjustments have been made through more weeks (months to be honest…). Design problems on a typeface project appear gradually: in first weeks, its only very visible design problems, as proportions, weight, spacing, but after few more months some others appeared, just because the overall design looks more consistent. It looks to be a usual thing in typeface design, especially for large families. As an example, last week, when everything was completed, suddenly the weight of the f Thin appeared to be too thin, few more days to correct it through all ligatures and mastering and so on. As in archeology, more you explore the field, more you find new things, and more you can be delicate and thorough in your research, more you will find new things until everything looks perfect.

The design process is organized through phases. Extensive testing is crucial through it. Collaboration is also a very useful way to take distance from your own design. In early weeks, we focused on the basic glyphs set, looking at the 4 masters precisely: Thin, Thin Italic, Black, Black Italic. Then, the extension to a larger glyph set is limited to everything which can’t be the result of any automated process (such only one figure set, no small caps or superiors). Organization and structuration of the various phases are crucial and as it’s known, typeface design takes time. Following phases included first MultipleMaster or Superpolator builds. Investigations about the best process to create small caps and superiors, etc. Finalization of the glyph sets. The big phase is indeed the kerning, requiring generally around 20 pages, A3 format printed for each master to be sure that all combinations are reviewed and corrected. A good way to check spacing in general too and various alignments. The last stages included the definition of the intermediate weights, PostScript hinting, font naming and more testings through all major applications, major operating systems. Typeface design is an extraordinary thing, as in two hours you can find the concept of a new typeface, but it will take between 1 month and ten years to finalize it, depending if it’s a bespoke typeface or a personal project.