On Wednesday 13th January we unravelled the painstaking process of designing type with Bruno Maag and Colophon Foundry.
It is said that all good design goes unnoticed, and this is especially true of typography. Typefaces are an integral aspect of design, instantly synonymous with organisations or products, and a great deal of creativity and technical precision goes into their design. To enlighten us on this complex and consuming process, we welcomed two experts on the subject for our first event of 2016. First to share their insights was Bruno Maag, founder of typeface design studio Dalton Maag. Bruno began his career as an apprentice typesetter for the Tages Anzeiger – Switzerland's largest daily paper – and then proceeded to study Visual Communication at Basel School of Design. Through work experience and a chance meeting, Bruno was invited to join the team at Monotype where he worked both for their UK and US based studios. A prominent project was his design work for the The New Yorker. Bruno went onto found the international typeface design studio Dalton Maag in 1991, taking a thoughtful and intelligent design approach to type with a focus on improving the usability and performance.
Edd Harrington – co-founder of type foundry Colophon with Anthony Sheret – followed Bruno, sharing an in depth case studies and an insight into their collaborative processes informed by the design practice they run concurrently The Entente. The foundry's commissioned and bespoke work in type design is complemented by independent and interdependent initiatives in publishing, curation, exhibition, and pedagogy, with a focus on local and international partnerships with a variety of institutions. Originally hailing from Brighton, then making the move to London in 2013, the foundry operates a collaborative nature and works with designers across the world. They have most recently opened a New York office with a regular collaborator Benjamin Critton. Alongside creating widely used fonts – like Apercu – the studio also develops special publications, posters and physical objects.
What we learned
1. 'Graphic Designers are not artists'
Bruno began with this assertive statement, describing the role of a designer to be one that 'organises information in an artistic way' in accordance to a brief or the constraints of client demands. 'We have a job to do!' Bruno proclaimed, keen to define the different way in which designers operate.
2. Form a network
Edd and Anthony's design studio is named The Entente, which by definition means friendly understanding. This term can apply to the relationship between the two as business partners, their clients or amongst their global network of collaborators. Colophon and The Entente work synonymously, forming a 'loose network' with a 'continuous narrative' where either Edd or Anthony head up the various projects they undertake. The two studios inform each other, with initial type sketches often forming the basis for graphic design projects. This collaborative method is extended globally, and Edd and Anthony work with creatives around the world in a variety of different ways; by developing initial ideas, releasing fonts and creating publications.
3. Take a global view
When starting on a new font family, it is essential for Bruno to understand it's reach in order to conceptualise the full catalogue of forms from the very beginning. Global communication today requires a multicultural persepective and Bruno must discern from his clients where and how the font will be used across the world. India alone has eleven different writing systems with three displayed across all signage – how will the font translate?
4. Learn to let go
Fonts are designed to be used and making them available for purchase means that both Colophon and Dalton Maag have to relinquish control over their use. Sometimes this works well, and can deliver pleasant surprises but there are often instances when the typeface isn't used in the way they envisaged. Colophon learned to love this lack of control over their typefaces and celebrated a variety of their uses in their 5 year exhibition held at KK Outlet. Dalton Maag offer free downloads on their website for those of you wanting to try before you buy.
5. Detail matters
Both Bruno and Edd learned the skills of crafting type in vastly different ways; Bruno spent many painstaking months hand-rendering type by eye whereas Edd was largely self-taught and realises his initial ideas digitally. Both methods have encouraged a common penchant for meticulous detail, paying attention to each and every unit whilst kerning. A good example is a two year project Colophon completed for Castledown Primary School, which started with the duo visiting the school and conducting workshops around type. The aim for the project was to develop a font with the simplicity of Arial, the authority of Times New Roman and the playfulness of Comic Sans (all children love Comic Sans.) Edd and Anthony created many different versions of the typeface for various uses around the school, along with handwriting sheets for different abilities and printed posters.
Many thanks to our speakers, to Sam Bush for photographing the event and to the team at Propercorn for providing the snacks.
Location:72 Rivington St,
London, EC2A 3AY,
Start:13th January, 2016 at 6:30pm
End:13th January, 2016 at 8:00pm