CLEAR AND ADAPTABLE
With its latest offering, Fontsmith set out to create a utilitarian typeface with its own unique character that works no matter your message or medium
Fontsmith shares the process it used to create a utilitarian typeface: FS Industrie
THE CONCEPT Phil Garnham
Today’s brands want to speak in a very succinct and direct way across a huge range of media, and one of their tools in doing so is the typography they use. We wanted to create a typeface reflecting a no-nonsense attitude and clarity, that was also capable of adapting to the vast range of platforms brands now use to communicate. With FS Industrie, we set out to create a typeface with an eye on the future that reflects emerging technologies.
One of the key challenges we set ourselves was coming up with a type design that could adapt to a broad range of widths and weights without compromising its tone of voice. It had to be clear in all its guises, whether it was being used for interface menus or variable data advertising, and it needed to reflect the ‘now’ in every sense. What we set out to create was not just a typeface, but a type system with five widths and seven weights. With italics, that makes for 70 variants for each character.
With that sense of directness in mind, our immediate inspiration came from the rationalist fonts of the 1930s, mainly originating from Germany, some of which are not available in digital form. These include Reform-Grotesk, Industria, Aurora and DIN 1451. We filled our heads with the idea of utility and the unapologetic approach to decision-making conveyed by these fonts. We wanted to make
an uncompromising typeface, one that was honest and sincere in any design system.
THE DESIGN Fernando Mello
Our process usually starts by putting together moodboards with visuals and aesthetic references of what we consider relevant and in tune with the brief or spirit of the project. After that, we start sketching ideas, either on paper or digitally using vector-drawing software. This is where our creativity comes into play. With FS Industrie we sketched digitally with the goal of creating a clean, direct and versatile family.
We started with the condensed width, and then extended our sketches to cover the wider versions that the typeface would need. Instead of using software interpolation to stretch each character, we crafted each letter in each width individually. We decided to give the narrower variants quite closed shapes, with the terminals tight to the body of each character, then to gradually open the terminals and overall forms out as the widths extend. This certainly increased the complexity of the job, but it was something that we knew was crucial to the success of FS Industrie.
Starting with the inspiration we took from 1930s utilitarian typefaces, it was also important to add some contemporary ingredients to the system and to give FS Industrie its own character. Adding details such as the flick on the lowercase L, a spurless lowercase U, and alternative shapes for lowercase A and G
“We underestimated how much work it would be to create such a bespoke data print specimen”
help make the design more ownable. But we didn’t go too far, it doesn’t need to shout about itself. Perhaps the best expression of how the typeface grows through the weights is seen with the letter S, as it transitions from a very tight form in Condensed into something a lot more open in Extended.
We used the Glyphs software to build our font, which is common throughout the industry. We also used Superpolator to experiment with interpolating and extrapolating the weights and widths. This wasn’t used to draw the characters, but it certainly helped us plan and test our proposed structure.
THE VERDICT Phil Garnham
At Fontsmith we’re big fans of print, collecting designed objects and studio collaboration. To spread the word about FS Industrie we decided to do something special that combined all three. Working with the brand design studio Believe In, we’re sending out 1,000 personalised type specimens – completely unique editions created using the typeface that demonstrate its flexibility. Each of these will also come with one of 10 limited edition letterpress prints, which Believe In commissioned via 10 different graphic design studios around the world.
I was a little apprehensive when we briefed this part of the project, but each letterpress print has been approached with an individual mindset, with constrained and rational typesetting sitting alongside emphatic and emotive designs. We’re really pleased with the results.
With every project you learn something new and with FS Industrie there are certain technical aspects about the production I would rethink to make the process smoother. I think we underestimated how much work it would be to create such a bespoke data print specimen. The family itself is a behemoth, but it was created by a relatively small team.
In terms of the outcome, there is a real sense of accomplishment among everyone in the studio. I’m sure that feeling will be magnified when we spy it out in the wild. [When] creating fonts, you become so close to them that they become your extended family. I’m confident FS Industrie will make us proud.
02 From Thin Condensed through to Black Extended, character forms throughout the FS Industrie typeface change with their weight for a truly adaptive font.
01 FS Industrie is a utilitarian sans-serif typeface in the modernist tradition of 1930s German typography, but gains its character from the hand drawn forms of the lettering at each weight.
05-07 The cover of each type specimen has been laser cut with a unique punchcard pattern, with a brightly coloured limited edition letterpress print of artwork using the typeface inserted behind it.
03-04 Fontsmith has printed 1000 individual type specimen booklets for FS Industrie, the pages of which demonstrate the flexibility of the typeface.