Type Foundries

Posted by Tim | Posted in Featured, General, Interview Type Foundries

It goes without saying how important typefaces are in the world of visual communication; whether it’s for the copy of a corporate catalogue or custom typeface for a logotype, as designers we all make decisions on the choices of typefaces we pick for each job, based on how appropriate and effective it is for the particular job. Although there are very successful designers out there who actively stick to a handful of typefaces and rarely venture into more unfamiliar choices, (Saving that for another post!) I am more excited and drawn to the wide array of new typefaces that are being released for us to use.

With the influence of new technology and type specific software and the help of the internet for promotional and distribution to name a few, a gradual increase of new type foundries have been cropping up all over the world. Free typefaces are becoming more popular and to a much higher quality, this seemed like the perfect time to dedicate a post on a selection of independent type foundries aswell as 2 exclusive interviews with Novo Typo and Practice Foundry; two relatively new type foundries from the Netherlands and Canada respectively.


First up, a brief mention of some of the type foundries that have caught my attention in the past year or so. The first is Letters From Sweden, a Stockholm based  type foundry set up by Fredrik Andersson and Göran Söderström. They currently only have 3 typefaces to purchase but 3 highly in depth, considered and very usable typefaces, all optimised for both screen and print with a healthy choice of weights & styles to pick from. I particularly like the Siri Core Regular & Bold. Really looking forwards to what new typefaces these guys will be releasing soon, definitely one to keep an eye on.


Process Type Foundry is a Minnesota based foundry first set up in 2002 by founders Eric Olson and Nicole Dotin. Most people on here will have probably heard of Process Type as there work is
b+p Swiss Typefaces is another independent type foundry whose fonts are seen in the likes of Wallpaper*, Domus, ID Pure and Harvard Art Museum to name a few. Their library of typefaces aren’t big but the quality makes up for it big time! Suisse BP for example has 28 styles! If I was working on a big job and required a unique and well crafted typeface or if I had loads of money, then this is where I’d go!


A2–Type is a relatively new type foundry that was set up by A2/SW/HK , a London based design studio. Not only am I a massive fan of their design work, the breadth of type designs they have managed to develop with such range, diversity and quality makes me even more excited about it all!


Another one of my personal favourites is Colophon Foundry, an independent type foundry set up by The Entente who themselves are a Brighton based design studio. Really love the simple concept of using it as a platform of distributing their own designs within their studio aswell as being a support for helping other designer’s distribute their typefaces. Graphic design and typeface design goes hand in hand, and this is definitely a practice I hope to see more of. I also particularly love their Apercu type specimen books aswell!

And so enough of my ramblings, here are the two exclusive interviews with Practice Foundry & Novo Typo.

Vince Lo – Practice Foundry

Please introduce yourselves, brief background information of both you and Alvin, how long has Practice Foundry been going for?
Alvin and I both recently graduated from the Communication Design program at Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, Canada. Since then, we’ve started working at our respective design studios here in Vancouver.

You’re both graphic designers who have recently graduated. Could you tell us a bit about why you’ve decided to setup a type foundry? What’s the main drive for this ambitious project and dedicating so much time on designing typeface?
It really started from our thesis projects during our last semester at Emily Carr. Alvin and I were both working on type projects (Collator, Fabrica). I think as we were discovering more about type foundries and typography in relation to geography, we felt like there wasn’t much of a representation for type design in Canada. It kind of started from a question of, “well, what would it look like if we gathered type design work from around Canada?”.

Honestly, I don’t think Alvin and I consider ourselves as professional type designers, considering we only learned the basics in one semester, but we definitely love type design and I guess thats why we started Practice Foundry, as a play on words to showcase amateur type work.

There are a lot of type foundries out there, each working at different scales and budgets. How have you positioned Practice Foundry amongst all the competition? What would you say the main focus of Practice Foundry is?
At the moment, Practice Foundry has been a pretty fun side-project for us. I don’t think we ever had much expectation for it, but we definitely wanted to be a platform for showcasing Canadian type design work. The response/feedback on the other hand, has been pretty amazing.

All of the fonts at Practice Foundry are free or ‘pay what you want’ at the moment. What’s the reason for this, and what are your views on the practice of buying typefaces and the distribution of typefaces?
I think type design is hard work. Regardless of how good someone is at creating them, I think the dedication and meticulous attention to detail remains. So I definitely think type designers should get the credit and support for their work.

As for us, I remember talking to Alvin about this when we were discussing about how to start Practice Foundry. We looked at sites like Lost Type Co-op and their “Pay-what-you-want” method and I think we decided to go with this model because it just seemed the most fitting for us. We just wanted to share our work with others and see where it goes.

Why do you think so few people have looked into typeface designs in more depth? And what advice would you give for someone thinking about designing their own typeface?
For me, I think it comes down to the opportunity to learn type design. At least in Vancouver, I don’t find it to be a common topic/course that is offered in creative institutions. We were fortunate to have that course available to us and to be able to learn from Ross Milne and Abi Huynh from Working Format.

Its also quite a specific skill perhaps, but I would say its definitely worth doing and looking into. In many ways, its really expanded my appreciation of typography altogether.

Where do you see the future of type design & distribution?
We’re really not quite sure. In terms of type design, its interesting to look back and see the different periods and styles that have been made over time and partly with the influence of technology. However, at this point, it seems like we haven’t had any particularly radical innovation in type design since, so it’d be interesting to see what’s next.

I think the area of web fonts is still quite fresh, and I do see there to be potential of improving legibility and reading on screens.

And finally, if everything goes accordingly, what are your plans for Practice Foundry in the next few years?
We’re really not sure to be honest. But I would definitely like to see it become more national and showcase different parts of Canada.


Interview with Mark van Wageningen – Novo Typo

First of all, could you please give us a brief introduction of Novo Typo and some background information about the founders of the type foundry.
Novo Typo is the type foundry of Atelier van Wageningen (since 1995), (typo)grapic designers based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. In January 2012 we founded Novo Typo type foundry. In the past few years we designed a lot of typefaces for clients or on our own initiative. We developed the typefaces to give our designs a more unique and personal touch. We first used them for editorial-design projects, corporate identity projects or just for the design of a book cover. After a while we completed the typeface into a usable font and since 2012 we started to distribute them via Novo Typo. We also like to work for designers or agencies to design exclusive typefaces for companies. Novo Typo is a small type foundry/design firm with high ambitions. With our designers (and we like to work with interns) we try to make the world more beautiful, happier and less boring.

There are a lot of type foundries out there, each working at different scales and budgets. How have you positioned Novo amongst all the competition? What would you say the main focus of Novo Typo is?
We don’t care about budgets or marketing techniques, we even don’t really want to become rich. We just want to have fun with our typefaces. The fun we like to share with other designers, Novo Typo typefaces are an invitation to play with type. It would be a shame to keep all our fonts just for ourselves. We think that there will always be a need for highly original typefaces. Every design needs a different typeface. It is time that we release ourselves from the Helvetica dogma… In a curious way Modernism became highly decorative. We like to introduce ‘The Biedermeier Novo Typo Typography Style’.

What’s the main difficulty about designing typefaces and setting up a type foundry?
Typedesign is not that difficult. The basic forms of the letters haven’t changed the last thousand years, that gives our work a certain limited space. Within that restricted area it is possible to play with legibility or readability. In our opinion a letter is always legible and readable otherwise it would not be a letter. We have to admit that we are not interested in making a new Gill or Times, other people are much better in that. The shape of a letter is nothing more than a visualization of a agreement which we learned when we start to read. A set of highly abstracted signs. We like to push this agreement just a little bit to a different, higher level.

I’m was very intrigued by the naming and history details of each typeface. Could you tell us a bit more about your design process and the naming of your typefaces?
We were very influenced by Russian culture from the beginning of the 20th century. We were very impressed by the work from designers like Alexander Rodchenko, Gustav Klucis or the poetry from Vladimir Majakovski. Out of admiration for them we made the Gagarin Family. Youri Gagarin was the first man in space and we liked to build a complete typographic soap-opera around his character. We were designing a complete typographic family with the idea of a real family in mind. Like every normal family everybody has a funny uncle, a lovely mother or a criminal nephew. Why should a typographic family be different than a real family? At this time we are finishing the complete family. 26 members with a very nice typographic dna-structure. Like every person, every typeface deserves a name that suits his or her character.

What are your views on how digital applications are changing the way typefaces are designed and distributed?
We like the way our typefaces are constructed on a deconstructive way. The computer and programs like Fontlab, Illustrator, Glyphs or Fontographer are very nice tools which make our work easier, but we do sketch a lot with pencil and paper, and sometimes we even use a broad-nibbed pen. Because of the computer we can work fast and efficient, it makes a exclusive font designed for just one client much more affordable than it used to be in the past.

We love the web, it keeps us informed and we keep in contact with our designer-friends and users of our fonts. We really love to hear from them…

Where do you see the future of type design & distribution?
We think, this is the Golden Age for type designers. So many typefaces with such a high quality, it is amazing to see. We hope that the number of small exclusive type foundries will grow.

And finally, if everything goes accordingly, what are your plans for Novo in the next few years?
Make some more nice and beautiful typefaces. We really need to do some more experiments with a complete new family. We love to give lectures or workshops about or way of type design. And last but not least, we like to be invited for client-related work, please feel free to contact us. We really like to work for you!

That’s all for now folks! Thanks to Vince Lo, Alvin Kwan (Practice Foundry) and Mark van Wageningen (Novo Typo) for taking the time to answer the questions! Hope this post inspires everyone invest on or create some new exciting typefaces!

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