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

Computer Arts - - Contents -

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.




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