Sample of a new generative typeface for the site and identity of the Sandberg Instituut in Amsterdam
Sample of a new generative typeface for the site and identity of the Sandberg Instituut in Amsterdam

Responsive type: shifting type in a time of rapid change

LUST is the multifaceted design practice set up in 1996 by Jeroen Barendse, Thomas Castro and Dimitri Nieuwenhuizen and based in The Hague. Their spectacular multi-project website reflects the wide range of subjects and disciplines they have covered since then. In 2010 they launched LUSTLab, their Research and Development arm, as “a platform where knowledge, issues and ideologies can be shared”. One of their latest projects is the development of a new generative typeface for the site and identity of the Sandberg Instituut in Amsterdam. The sample shows an unexpected stage during development. Designed in collaboration with Atelier Carvalho-Bernau.

The end result will be a parametric typeface that has infinite variations which can be modified by the user. Liz Jobey

Type as identity: crowdsourcing as a design tool

Zak Group website

The 2013 Lisbon Architecture Triennale, Close, Closer, is set to be more of an investigation into the political, technological, critical and emotional values of contemporary architecture than an exhibition of completed stellar works. Under the guidance of its chief curator Beatrice Galilee, the aim is to look beyond built architecture to explore what it means to “think architecturally”. With this in mind, Galilee chose Zak Group, the London practice founded by Swiss-American graphic designer Zak Kyes, to take on the art direction and design of the Triennale’s overall visual identity.

Swiss-American graphic designer Zak Keys
Zak Kyes, Partner at Zak Group © Brotherton Lock

Following the spirit of inquiry that underlies the Triennale, instead of producing a logo, they decided to invite the participants – and the public at large – to generate the visual identity of the event.

They began by setting up a website which functioned as a notice board on to which Galilee and her fellow curators posted a series of questions. Anybody accessing the site could respond. Since then, the site has collected thousands of statements in many languages, which ranged from the serious and intellectual to the humorous and the ironic and together represent the collective identity of the event. The studio is now in the process of selecting individual statements that can be reproduced in different locations around the city. Soon, anybody seeing the signage in its distinctive typeface, designed by Radim Peško, will immediately associate it with the event. Liz Jobey

The Lisbon Architecture Triennale, September 12 to December 15

Preserving language: digitising Socrates and other classics

Greta Sans typeface system designed by Peter Bil’ak
Greta Sans typeface system designed by Peter Bil’ak

Type surrounds us in a multitude of different forms, not just in books and newspapers, but on signs, television, computer monitors, cellphone displays and tablet screens. New communication technologies are linking people and cultures around the globe, driving a need to design and publish new typefaces at a rapid pace. This is, of course, a commercial venture, but there is also an element of public service: typefaces preserve language and language preserves culture.

A rare character from the Itelmen alphabet

There are seven billion voices in the world, speaking about 7,000 living languages, more than 2,000 of which are in danger of going extinct, taking with them the unique heritage of their cultures. Itelmen, for example, the original language of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, has fewer than 100 native speakers, most of them elderly. Itelmen is written using the Cyrillic alphabet plus the rare character Қ.

Given Itelmen’s status as a dying language, it comes as no surprise that out of the perhaps 100,000 commercial fonts in the world, fewer than a dozen of them contain the Қ.

It takes over 50,000 working hours to design a typeface such as Greta Sans with the characters needed to support the 86 most common languages that use the Latin alphabet, in the range of styles required for professional-quality layout.

Another 50,000 working hours later, Typotheque is releasing a new version that will also support less common Latin-script languages as well as Cyrillic and Greek scripts. It can handle major languages such as Russian and Vietnamese, as well as obscure languages such as Itelmen and even extinct languages such as ancient Greek.

This raises the question of whether it is worth the extra hours to design characters that are so seldom used. Ancient Greek, for example, requires 217 additional characters compared with modern Greek, but printing the original texts of Socrates (or putting them on the web) is impossible without them. Supporting these languages with typefaces designed to produce high-quality text not only on paper, but on today’s digital displays may not be too interesting commercially, but it is an important step in preserving our planet’s cultural heritage. Peter Bil’ak


Peter Bil’ak: Born in Czechoslovakia, lives and works in the Netherlands; founded Typotheque in 1999; cofounded Indian Type Foundry in 2009. Writes for design-related magazines and collaborates on creation of modern dance performances. Fedra, the typeface used in this magazine, was designed by Peter Bil’ak. The other face, Brioni, is the work of Croatian designer Nikola Djurek.

New from old: building a type family on its antecedents

Lettering used by the 19th-century New Zealand viticulturist Walter Reynell

The inspiration for typographer Kris Sowersby’s new typeface, Domaine, was the lettering used by the 19th-century UK-born Australian viticulturist Walter Reynell.

This wasn’t the first time Sowersby had used this historic lettering – he had derived the logotype for Australian wine brand Hardys from it. But it was the first time he had used it to create a complete typeface family.

Even though it’s now mostly done on a computer, drawing up a new typeface is painstaking work. Sowersby started by identifying details in related historic typefaces which he could work into a modern context.

New shapes for letters in a series of fonts – Roman, Italic and Semibold Italic
New shapes for letters in a series of fonts – Roman, Italic and Semibold Italic

A typeface designer will draw new shapes for letters, in a series of fonts – Roman, Italic and Semibold Italic. A font is made up of glyphs, essentially everything necessary for written-language communication, including letters, numbers, punctuation and currency symbols. A single font of Domaine text has 713 glyphs.

A single font of Domaine text has 713 glyphs
A single font of Domaine text has 713 glyphs

Domaine is a large typeface family which includes 36 display fonts (text sizes larger than you would write in) and 10 text fonts, making a total of 22,322 glyphs: all of which have to be manually checked and proofed. This is not simply a case of scaling up or down – adjustments need to be made at every size. In general, the larger display fonts are slightly more ornate and the smaller text fonts are more robust. Caroline Argyropulo-Palmer


Kris Sowersby

Kris Sowersby: Graduated from the Wanganui School of Design, New Zealand, in 2003. Started the Klim Type Foundry in 2005, currently based in Wellington, New Zealand. Named an Art Directors’ Club Young Gun 2010.

First retail typeface Feijoa, released on to the international market in 2007.

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