These are exciting and challenging times for Type and type design. The popularity of the OpenType format, application based online integration with print, recent developments in type for web quickly becoming industry standard, the launch of iPad, Kindle and other eBook readers, magazines and newspapers moving towards online/on-screen publication and typography becoming more popular than it ever been. All these are wonderful exciting developments that certainly vitalize the type design industry.
In over 17 years in the business, I can’t remember any other time when so many typefaces have been produced in such high quality!
Coincidence and a big mouth
In 1992 I’ve picked up a copy of a new Dutch fashion and modern culture magazine called Blvd. The cover pictured a full page photo-art by Inez & Vinoodh and on the header issue #1. Flipping through the pages striking photography and design, it also accrued to me how many different typefaces where used in the layout. Type used in every size and variation possible, it certainly made its impact on me. And on one of the pages, in small letters was a simple sentence that read something like; “design your own type”.
When I first started my graphic design practice in 1993 (rather by coincidence and largely due to my big mouth..), I’ve been producing all my designs by hand including my lettering treatments. I tell you, nothing was more rewarding, especially when given 2 weeks deadlines for the lettering alone! Soon my lettering generated a certain interest and even a niche demand to have them converted to digital form. I’ve inquired more into the matter and found out that with the help of a little ‘program’ (that’s how we called it back then) called Fontographer I could design my own typefaces! Purchasing a copy of this application has put the wheels in motion to a new and somewhat time-stretching venture into type-design. Producing my first digital typeface by the name of Platrica Gothic in 1993 (based on lettering I made for an album cover), I found I enjoyed the process quite a bit. With my second typeface named Code, I’ve decided to start my own type foundry in 1994.
Back then the obvious trend in type design was type as a means of self-expression, and a lot of it was strongly influenced by the vernacular, generating varied results.
In 1997, when hired as an in-house designer at Prometheus/Bert Bakker book publishers, I was thankfully introduced to the subtleties of Book typography and type-setting. This opened a window of opportunities and become a major development in my self-education as a graphic and type designer.
Diving further into the realm of optical sizes and legibility I’ve produced several typefaces and type treatments specifically for book type setting; many of which haven’t seen the light of day. All except for one chosen design called ARS Descendiaan (1998), which has been used for several books during that period.
With the growing demand for more serious typefaces trading some of the “self-expression” of the 90’s in favor of legibility and usability, the industry standards have grown (or returned) to high standards in many respects. It was during that period I worked on designs such as ARS Maquette (1999) and ARS Region (2002). Fortunately there was enough room left for experimentation in typography, and as far as ARS Type is concerned, along with high quality durability there’s always room for something different and surprising when it comes to designing typefaces. With the introduction of the OpenType format and its possibilities, professionals have grown to expect much more from their typefaces — both in terms of technical excellence and even more so in terms of originality.
ARS Type always recognized that although making high end well executed typefaces is fairly important (and I appreciate the fact that there are many of those), in order to create something substantial, it has to at least aspire to offer something new — either by being original, or make us look at an older concept in a different and fresh light. A good design should work for what it’s made for, we can all agree about that. But if on top of that it’s also a joy to use over and over again.. well, isn’t that all we wish for in a Typeface?
I must admit that learning to work with the OpenType format with it’s code-based power, has been quite a challenge. But I’m glad to say that it has proven to be a worthwhile effort, considering the results! As we are busy upgrading our current library to the OT environment integrating the possible features, along side working on completely new designs, I can say with confidence that the best is yet to come!