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Seria's motives: How Martin Majoor developed his 'literary typeface'

By Andy Crewdson

In a 1992 survey of Dutch type design, Robin Kinross observed that Martin Majoor’s first published typeface was ‘beginning to be used quite widely.’ Scala had at that time only been available for a year, and though Kinross saw the type’s popularity increasing, he could hardly have predicted how prevalent it would soon become. The way Scala captivated some designers during that period was recently illustrated when an American designer made reference in a magazine interview to his ‘Scala Years.’ Toward the end of the last decade, writing of Scala’s ‘increasing ubiquity,’ Emily King noticed that the type’s ‘correspondence with the cultural mood of the mid-1990s has been remarkable.’ It now looks as if Scala’s popularity was not relegated to the 1990s, as Majoor’s large family of types is still ever-present.

The versatility Scala showed as it became pervasive may have obscured its origins as a type devised for a specific purpose. Majoor began the typeface while working as a designer at Utrecht’s Vredenburg concert hall in the late 1980s.

Utrecht’s Vredenburg concert hall

Faced with a poor selection of early PostScript typefaces, out of necessity he began work on a font that would have the features he required – like non-lining figures and small capitals – while also having forms suited to the low resolution laser printers of the time. When FontShop published Majoor’s new design as Scala in 1991 (the sans followed in 1993), a typeface meant to solve a specific problem quickly proved itself effective in a much wider range of applications. Though it is hard to know all of the factors that contributed to Scala’s success, several writers have offered theories. King, for one, has speculated that its quotation of classical forms, along with ‘its ability to speak broadly of typographic tradition while shying away from commitment to any single historic model,’ may explain its popularity.

Read full article here: Seria's motives