WHAT FASCINATES YOU ABOUT DESIGNING FONTS?
Drawing letters and making them work together in fonts is one of the things I like the most. It's really a matter of getting the ideal rhythm and harmony. In my case, what drives me to design a new font is the need of doing something that makes sense for me. It's the desire of conveying an idea or new forms in a certain way, that have been appealing to me. In a sense, what makes me design type is really the fact that I have been designing type. Because the process is long and slow for each font, it is inevitable that new ideas emerge along the way, and concepts start to grow. Such a good thing in Type Design, at least for me, is that it is slow and it allows time for ideas to gain shape and consistency.
WHY AND WHEN DID YOU GET STARTED?
My first attempts were made in the last year of my graduation in Communication Design. It was the final project of the course and in my case it involved drawing an alphabet. I liked the experience and after a while, I made new attempts with modular letters, and launched my first fonts.
WHAT INSPIRES AND INFLUENCES YOU THE MOST?
I get inspired by all the fonts I see and use in my daily life, but I think that what inspires me the most are historical letters and archaic shapes. Because they existed in a different context, old letters are the most intriguing, presenting us with shapes that times have excluded. I feel drawn to recreate them as a mean of achieving control over them.
COULD YOU TELL ME SOMETHING ABOUT THE PROCESS OF DESIGNING YOUR FONT FORAL PRO?
Foral was actually a complicated and sometimes torturing font for me to do. It accompanied me through a few years, going back and forth in its construction. When I started, I had no idea it could be so complicated to design a text family like this, and also I wasn't aware I hadn't enough skills for it. That was the main reason it took so long, and also the main reason it felt so good in finishing it. I was still learning the basics, so whenever I learned something new I had to go back and rethink everything again, in order to incorporate the new knowledge or correct things. This meant that sometimes the progress of the font took several steps backwards when it seemed so close to finish. Thus It accompanied the design of other fonts I released meanwhile, absorbing knowledge from them and hopefully improving and giving back to them as well. For me Foral was a learning experience, I'm very happy with the result, it works like I imagined and intended to, but it was a difficult one because of all the experimenting and probing. Looking back on the whole process, I think that every project, being it Type related or not, profits largely with a big amount of thought and research before actually starting to materialize it. Of course there is a lot of good work done without intense planning, but for me the best projects are the ones that are carefully thought over and matured before engaging in endless hours trying to make it work directly on the final medium. It will be a lot less time consuming.
In the case of Foral, the idea was from the beginning, to make a Slab typeface for text. It started with a quite modular approach, with very static and geometric forms. During its development it got a lot of optical compensations and balancing so it turned out a bit more organic. Also the curves from the ink traps contribute for this.
Foral was designed as a Multiple Master so it would be easier to create all the intermediate weights. As a process, I like the Multiple Master technology, not just because it takes a lot of time off the development of a big Family, but mainly because a MM file is the outlines matrix for the entire family. This means it has to be as close to perfection as possible before generating all the intermediate fonts. If the MM file carries a certain problem or defect, that problem will be multiplied by the number of font weights in the family. In a way it has something to do with the careful planning I mentioned.
As for the names of the fonts, I like to choose short and catchy words like Orbe, Gesta or Foral for my fonts. I prefer portuguese words that can easily be spoken without sounding weird in the anglo-saxon world.
The meaning can be more or less poetic, but should always point to either, something in the particular font (its personality, function, style, etc.), or with typography itself.
This one was baptized Foral. The portuguese name Foral or Carta de Foral was a royal document that regulated the administration, borders and privileges of a certain land area, centuries ago. Because of this bureaucratic nature the name seemed right since it is a sober slab typeface.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE PORTUGESE TYPE DESIGN SCRENE?
I think the Portuguese Type scene is looking good and promising, there are very good designers and I think new ones are coming. In terms of History, Portugal doesn't have a substantial rooted typographic legacy to get inspired and learn from, but maybe that is being built now.
ANY GOOD ADVICES FOR TYPE DESIGN YOUNGSTERS?
My advice to new comers would be not to look for fast results. Drawing a font is a meticulous and complex task that keeps on teaching us, so it should be done with care. One shouldn't try to rush things and have fonts finished before they had the time to fully develop. In my experience, every time I tried to push a font into a finished state, I ended up taking several times longer to finish it.
WHATS YOUR NEXT CHALLENGE?
Maybe a new Sans. But I still have to finish what I have in hands.
Rui Abreu is a Portuguese type/graphic designer. He studied Graphic Design at FBAUP (Faculdade de Belas Artes da Universidade do Porto), where he graduated in 2003. He has been working as an interactive media designer in different design/advertisement agencies along with his type design activity. In 2008 he launched R˗Type, a typography showcase to promote his work.
This Interview was part of the project »type/s—talks on typedesign«.