Infoletter: May 2009
Last autumn Lukas Paltram, a young designer from Vienna, Austria, joined us for a three month work experience. When he arrived he came with lots of photographs of a typeface and sketches on how he could revive it. The typeface in the photographs originates as inscriptions on castle Hoch Osterwitz. The castle was designed by Austrian architect Paul Grueber in the early 1900s. Along with the architecture Grueber also created the letterforms.
Lukas initially struggled to harmonize the initial letterforms into a functioning typeface. The main challenge was to create a matching lowercase and other glyphs since the original was a caps-only design. Together with the team at Dalton Maag, Lukas eventually developed a two weight font family for display purposes. With its highly distinctive design features, Grueber is ideal for magazine headlines and eye-catching billboards. As well as a Dalton Maag Standard character set alternate glyphs can be found in the font via OpenType features.
Effra has proved to be one of our most popular font families since its launch – a welcome alternative to some other fonts with similar stylistic features. Some users have questioned the lack of italics, however, feeling it dramatically limits Effra's scope. We've listened, and are now able to announce the launch of matching Italic weights. As with other fonts of Effra's style, the italics look superficially like plain obliques, but are in fact non-cursive true italics, with carefully considered proportions, weights, and widths, which fit harmoniously with the upright styles.
In early 2008 Dalton Maag was approached by Imagination London to design a display typeface for Mazda's new campaign. What originally was only to be used in advertising, promoting the Zoom-Zoom brand, quickly expanded to become a wider corporate identity upgrade.
The design concept of the font is that all characters are designed at an italic angle of 30 degrees. Underlying this concept is a grid system that either has the type run at an 'upward' angle of 30 degrees, or running downward. This system creates incredibly dynamic poster and page layouts, emphasizing the motion and speed suggested by Zoom-Zoom.
The font is also designed as caps only, with no ascending or descending characters, to support a tight leading within the grid system. For languages that use accented characters the line spacing is opened up to ensure good legibility. Dalton Maag provided a number of suggestions on how to integrate the accented characters to retain the tight setting but a conservative approach was eventually decided on.
"When you hear the names of some cities you immediately feel drawn to them. They are names of past glories that still manage to evoke feelings of passion, love, adventure, and danger – in short: life at its best. Cairo, the name promises the exotic, it promises to lure you into a world of senses that you have not yet experienced. Cairo is ready for you, but are you ready for Cairo?
I was invited to conduct a workshop to introduce students at the German University In Cairo to Font Design. This is how I came to spend four weeks in this great city, but nothing in the world could prepare me for the culture shock I received; and the typographic shock, too.
Arabian culture has a rich and beautiful tradition of calligraphy, reaching as far back as the 7th century. Many calligraphic styles developed in Persia, in cities like Baghdad and Kufa. Even today, calligraphers closely follow the rules established by the early exponents of the Arabic script.
For all the awe-inspiring calligraphy, it is near impossible to find good typography or well-crafted Arabic fonts. I have spent hours discussing with Cairo-based designers why this is. The most frequent answer is that graphic design is nonexistent as there is no value placed on good design. This is reflected by Cairo having a number of successful advertising agencies but graphic design studios finding it hard to survive. This lack of value also means that there is very little design education.
I could now be accused of trying to impart a Western design dogma on the Arabic-speaking world. This is not my intention. What I believe is that it is possible to develop graphic design and typography by drawing on the rich heritage of the Middle-East. I would like to give one example: like early medieval painting in Europe, Arabic art and design suffers the horror vacui – the fear of the white or empty space. The designer has an urge to fill every available space with ornaments, or text, or possibly an image. This leads to an overwhelming experience for the viewer and makes a structured approach to presenting information near impossible. Certainly, I feel that where in Western design we may have become a touch too austere, Arabic design is too fecund.
I believe that Western design studios, and font design studios like Dalton Maag are presented with a great opportunity to help Arabic designers explore good design and appreciate the value of design. At the same time it is clear that we in the west can learn a lot, and by keeping an open mind the Arabic culture can positively influence our work, too.
During my stay in Cairo I felt that we are correct in investing so heavily in our font library to expand it to include the Arabic script. By doing this we hope to do our small part to help improve typography in the Arabic-speaking world."