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My Type Design Philosophy

By Martin Majoor

About 15 years ago I graduated from the High School of Arts with a seriffed type design. It was never released and I now realize it was a sort of preliminary study for my later typefaces. I subsequently designed three major families, Scala & Scala Sans, Telefont and Seria & Seria Sans. Looking back, I now see that my ideas about type design have not changed fundamentally. Maybe it is time to set down some impressions on my type design philosophy.

The headache of mixing type.

It is my conviction that you cannot be a good type designer if you are not a book typographer. I am not talking here about display types but about text types. A type designer must know how type works in a piece of text, he must know what happens with the type on different sorts of paper, he must know how a typeface behaves with different printing techniques.

As a book designer I made several complex books where more than one typeface had to be used in order to clarify things in the text. It was mostly quite useful to take a sans and a serif typeface, but the problem was always which ones to choose. Mixing Times New Roman and Helvetica in the same piece of text has often been done simply because these fonts were available everywhere. It is not even the worst possible combination one can think of. Using sans serifs like News Gothic, Gill Sans or Futura as text type is very acceptable, but with which seriffed faces should they be mixed? Numerous combinations have been used without any idea of style or knowledge of history. From an aesthetic point of view some combinations produce a severe headache (Garamond with Univers, Bodoni with Gill Sans). It is only in advertising, where a headache can be useful, that these combinations are possible. It became clear to me that the best solution for text was to use a combination of a serif and a sans that derive directly from each other. The only remaining question was which combination of serif and sans could meet this criterium?

The origin of the sans.

Before the mixing of serif and sans in text can be explained, it should first be made clear where sans serif typefaces originate from, as it is only for about the last one hundred years that they have been used substantially. Officially, the very first sans serif typeface to be used for printing was published around 1816 by the William Caslon iv English typefoundry.

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