June 2020, Type Digest

This month we saw so many important events and discussions, that we asked Ilya Ruderman, our co-founder, to pen a small editorial (see it right below). Besides that, nothing changes, but everything is new: typefaces, tools, articles, and sources of inspiration

July 2, 2020


This June was eventful and challenging. We were learning to listen, to criticize, to empathize, to discuss tricky and complicated issues.

On the one hand, we saw a huge number of typography conferences and conventions. For example, the TypeLab Conference which was streamed in three different time zones, an unprecedentedly large-scale online event. Perfectly organized, filled with lectures, workshops, and discussions. Timur Zima and I, we’ve even managed to participate and deliver our talk on Tomorrow Fonts. Unfortunately, those videos are not on YouTube anymore. We would like to thank all the organizers and moderators of this beautiful event: Cara Di Edwardo, Gen Ramírez, Zrinka Buljubašić, Petr van Blokland, Nick Sherman, Kalapi Gajjar and many others. Bang Bang Education carried out two remarkable events (records are still available), a typographic conference and an online fest for the centennial of the Russian art and technical school Vkhutemas.

On the other hand, there were multiple developments which are challenging for the industry. Like It’s Time to Act, a manifesto by Alphabettes that was much talked of. This document, having provoked much debate, definitely deserves our attention. For example, here are comments by Maria Doreuli and Toshi Omagari.

Type Directors Club has been accused of racism by Juan Villanueva, a (now former) member of its Board of Directors. Allegedly, TDC was also having financial troubles because of the pandemic, and, within days, the Board of Directors decided to shut down the Club. Here you can read the important comments by our other colleagues, Roger Black and Jessica Hische.

Another significant news in the typography-related area — the opening of the Main Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces. One of our colleagues, Viktor Pushkarev, took part in the process of its decoration and created several typographic works, re-thinking ornamental ligatured script. Those were posted in the Type&Typography FB group and provoked a massive debate which demonstrated how very close the Russian-speaking design industry came to discussing very complicated, but significant issues — such as where is the line between ‘good’ customer and a ‘toxic’ one; and should a designer have his own attitude and opinion, or this professional occupation (which is perceived by many as a ‘service’) implies that you agree to any kind of project.

Well, in one word, the month was hot; we have learned a lot — although with certain things, we are just starting to understand them. We have a lot to talk and think about.


Windsor by Colophon Foundry (and Windsor in general)


Colophon released the Grenette family, inheriting from both Windsor and Richmond Old Style. Since Windsor itself has become a popular type genre today, we invite you to learn about it on Font Review Journal (thanks to Johannes López Ayala for reminding).


Digital fonts: what are they made of?


In almost every our latest digest, we are talking about the history of digital typefaces: in May, it was an article dated by 1992 with the comments dated by 2020, and in March we spoke about a video blog about the war of font formats. This time we would like to share a piece from the journal titled Annals of the History of Computing, dismantling digital typefaces from the geometric perspective. A perfect opportunity to look into the tools of vector graphics: dots, lines, splines, Bezier curves, circles, arcs, and polygons. Don’t be alarmed by the fact that this article is published in a scientific journal: it was written in a very simple, clear, concise manner.


The history of a font glyph, from Mesopotamia to TTF, a dialog of esthetics, maths, raster, and technical progress. It seems like hinting problems, faced by early digital type designers, had been solved five thousand years ago (I never would have guessed!)😱


How Robert Granjon invented Civilité, and why lettres françaises didn’t stay with us


Italian scripts, turned into typefaces in the age of Renaissance, became classical, and Fraktur is still associated with Germany — even though Germans don’t use it for more than half a century now. Design historian John Boardly tells about Civilité, a French typeface that fell into disuse a few decades after it was invented.


Chiseled type, the trend of the moment


AIGA Eye on Design continue to speak about the major trends in today’s graphic design — earlier in the series, there was liquid metal and terminal green, now it’s turn of the so-called chiseled type. Not only about letters made by a chisel, it’s rather any type based on the broad nib.


The technique used in those types reminded me of works by Vojtech Preissig, a Czech typographer of the early 20th century.


It is well noted that such (expressive) typefaces are often used either by their authors themselves, or in a one-time visual identity for a cultural or entertaining event. That’s right. I can only add about the nature of their creation that sometimes unusual typefaces can ‘grow’ from seemingly usual logos.


Our new fonts: Displace, Tomasa, Signal


In June we had as many as three new font releases from all over the world: Displace, a broad-nib sans+serif from Belarus, Tomasa, a graffiti monster from Argentina, and Signal, a very contemporary neo-grotesque family based on French road signs.


By the way, Displace (which is of my own design) partly resonated with the typefaces from AIGA’s review.


I particularly enjoyed Displace — it’s so cool when something historic gets such a natural rethinking in a contemporary approach.


Production Type posted their development plugins on GitHub


Production Type’s Hugues Gentile delivered a talk at Typelab and presented plugins for RoboFonts, developed and used within the studio; among other things, they facilitate the work with accents and kerning. Most of those tools are now available on GitHub under an open license.


  • Denis Serebryakov
  • tomorrow.type.today

  • Anything that can be made automatic, should be made automatic. Therefore, any instruments that can make a work process faster, simpler.. Are just great!*


Steampunk grotesque from a Piet Zwart essay


Florian Schick and Lauri Toikka reworked and expanded Kaart Antieke, a vintage grotesque found in a rare essay of Piet Zwart. The new digital typeface is not based on metal forms, but on letterprints, hence its soft, slightly blurred letterforms. Other important details are loose spacing and large lowercase.


New homepage of Thomas Huot-Marchand


Thomas Huot-Marchand, type designer and professor with a French typography institute ANRT, renewed his personal portfolio. Dozens of works from the last twenty years, smart and masterful typefaces, logos, books, and posters.


Black Foundry created a typeface for a French insurance company


MAIF typeface, commissioned by the insurance company of the same name, is (seemingly) pretty simple DIN-like sans serif. But if you look closer, you would find thoughtful and witty details, which work for legibility and human character: as a result, the typeface has more human in it than it has technical, despite its pedigree.


Before checking it out, I tried to guess — whether they presented this insurer with a humanist sans serif or not? They sure did! I believe it to be the most uncool genre in modern typography, largely (more often than not) reminding you of a bank, or a farmacy. But we certainly should give some credit to Black Foundry: thanks to a couple of details, the font is a bit brazen, thus interesting.


That’s interesting how modern technological character of the typeface is combined with this office feeling (probably because I know that it was commissioned by an insurance company?) Although, it’s too bad that the specimen are absolutely lacking personality. This is actually a very frequent and unfortunate problem: a fun typeface, but a very dull presentation it is dug under, instead of revealing in all its beauty.


Lineto re-made Futura


Lineto have re-thought yet another classical typeface (earlier they produced a new, but authentic Helvetica). This new release is called Supreme (apparently, to honour the famous logo typed in Futura). The project started as early as in 2004, when Cornel Windlin needed to use Futura in a project for Vitra, the furniture company. Already existing digital versions were designed on the base of metal or photo types — while a new release (then titled VFutura) was developed for digital use, with digital technologies at hand. A decade later, works by Windlin and Laurenza Brunner were dug out and re-drawn again: Arve Båtevik translated the design principles of Paul Renner from 1927 into the modern age and digital environment.


It is time to say that a timeless classic remains timeless only because it’s a good business. Reusing Futura by a new name is as interesting as re-mastering a song recorded 1927 — just as irrelevant in terms of culture, time, people. I am sure that Lineto have their own great ideas, too.


Perhaps one should carry out revival of all typefaces and give them names according to the companies that use them in their logos. To plunge into the world of David Foster Wallace (I mean it).


Typotheque release a digital meccano for display typography


Far from being the first multi-layer font in the Typotheque collection (we may recall Wind, Plotter, or History), Q Project offers the widest range of possibilities for customisation. Basically, it has three models: a font skeleton with variable strokes and decorations, a variable font à la Meccano, and a set of basic shapes that can be combined into any letterforms. Oh, and you can also order an actual, tangible set of stencils!


How to keep a letterform distinctive, while shaking it to the core — that’s what modular display glyphplay is about.🙂

Actually, a tool like this is of most use to its own inventor. It’s a scientific research method, classifying details through their deconstruction, finding general principles in separate parts, seeing how the system works.


It seems like we live in the age (or at least a decade) of hyper-display typography, and it’s time to only draw fonts based on meccano. If even Peter Bilak himself designs stuff like that, we most certainly also have to. Plus, it makes you think of Gimme from Future Fonts right away. Also, this is what an official typeface of Lego should look like.


Inaugural font release by NaN: humanist mono-spaced serif


NaN is a type design duo working remotely: Luke Prowse lives in Berlin, Marcus Piper — in Sydney. Their first retail font, the monospaced Weiss, is based on works of Emil Rudolf Weiß, a German painter, poet, and typographer who lived and worked in the early 20th century. Like the original, it is very much about details and mechanics, but even more it is about humanity and wit.


A promising start!


Heinz is given a facelift, redesigned bespoke font


Jones Knowles Ritchie developed a new masterbrand for Heinz. And it is much like the previous one. The agency has redesigned the Heinz typeface, which will be paired with as much as nine fonts from Intro family (designed at FontFabric, Bulgaria).


This is a kind of project any type designer dreams about!


Type.today reviews Cyrillic humanist serifs from Google Fonts


A new and fascinating series in our Journal: Mikhail Strukov (together with Ilya Ruderman and Yury Ostromentsky) scrutinizes free Cyrillic fonts available on Google Fonts. First episode is humanist sans serifs.


Denis Serebryakov: Add this to your reading list.


Great form. Each font is analyzed in two parts: the letterform examination with typographic toolset and vocabulary, and the short verdict, if the font is any good or not.

First of all, it is a solid guideline for graphic and product designers, the most wanted part of it being the verdicts. On the other hand, you can never reduce a fair judgement on a raison d’être of a typeface to yes/no. The responsibility is always designer’s, regardless of anything type.today says.


This was a tricky piece. About a year ago, we invited Mikhail Strukov to work on it, – but Yura and I, together with the team of our Journal, contributed to this material as well. This is certainly a professional review, – but it rather reflects our subjective judgement, than presents some ‘objective’ reality.

This publication, I believe, is quite important from a range of perspectives. First of all, critique per se is a very difficult genre – while almost undeveloped, immature, when it comes to the Russian-speaking design community. The situation looks pretty bad in terms of balanced critique – based not on someone’s preferences and their judgment calls, but on real arguments. Secondly, we would want designers to get to know, recognize and perceive Cyrillic as a modern writing system: what is it? how is it developing? what lines shall not be crossed to prevent typeface turning into a mistake – and are there those lines we shouldn’t cross at all?


Bespoke type for Belgorod, Russia


Paratype designed a glyphic serif font with large lowercase for street signs and house numbers in Belgorod, a city in Central Russia with some 350k residents.


Curious to have a look on the case study, with the design process described. The typeface is a bright, a literary one, could be a great foundation for the city’s graphic identity. But I wonder how did they decide on this particular style?

And by the way, it’s very legible in small sizes.


Now we need you to make a review and analysis of all Cyrillic city signage! Like you did with Google Fonts.


Milton Glaser, 1929–2020


The author of I❤NY logo, co-founder of a classical city magazine New York (not to be confused with New Yorker!) and WBMG studio, which developed layouts for dozens of newspapers and magazines all over the world, Milton Glaser passed away on his 91st birthday, the 26th of June.

This June the famous type.today Instagram was ruled by Alexei Ivanovsky. Thanks, Lyosha!

This July — Roma Lazarev.