As my project in the Zurich-based Type Design course, I originally had the idea of digitizing, and thereby slightly modernizing, this metal face that has been mostly forgotten by typesetting history.
I had fallen in love with it (with its lowercase a in particular); I like its funky proportions and its, sometimes quirky, mix between being clear & clean, being curvy, being 1910 style 'modern', and even being 'modern' still. So, I figured that making something new & usable that should, in a way, breathe a similar spirit as this old face would make for a great project.
However, finding said spirit, extracting it and deciding about other features and details, proved very difficult when sitting in front of the original letterforms with tracing paper. My imagination was glued to the original shapes; my involvement dwindled, & so did my motivation.
On Saturday, I decided I would just give the idea a shot of not just copying the sans, but trying to design a slab serif font that would still be based on this one, albeit more loosely. I like monoline slabs, I like extended fonts, and I have never seen a slab with these proportions that does not look awful, so it seemed like enough of a challenge :). I did a quick pencil sketch of what it might look like, scaled it down on the photocopying machine, & was pretty amazed: this could work out really nicely (especially once I actually started drawing and wouldn't just stick serifs on the existing letters). :)
So, new plan: making a sans and a slab as a matching pair. No contrast in the slab either, similar proportions, not-too-huge serifs. To my big surprise, André Baldinger (who is one of our teachers in this class) then suggested even starting out with the slab, & then moving on "back" to the sans. He said something in the vein that I need to emancipate myself from my model. I think that was the single best piece of advice I could possibly have gotten at this point.
On my way home, I thought about possible names for a typeface I could already vaguely picture in my mind. I got home around 8:30pm and continued drawing letters. Sitting there poring over the e and wondering if I could open it up more. So I did. I drew another e. An r, an n. I started inking in the letters to see them in black. I wondered about the g and if this would allow for a two-storey g.
When I checked the clock, it was 2am.
These are obviously raw sketches (baseline is jumpy, sizes are off, so are weights, and I can't draw), but they capture pretty well the direction I want this to take. I admit I cheated with the proportions – the e looked horrible, I had to make it narrower, although I kind of liked the wider proportions. Will have to try and get that width back.
I'm not sure about the two-storey g. This one is too bold, which makes it even more difficult to decide if it fits in; and it's also kind of, uh, badly drawn, and the ear is horrible. I guess I will decide about such things once I have more letters, and have really nailed the proportions.
I think this version of the s works better than one with 'outside serifs'; also, the resulting flat curves of the s correspond to the e, which I've opened up quite a bit.
In general what I like about the slab idea is that serifs can balance out some of the differences in detailedness (uh) in this typeface. What I mean is, I really like the original a, g, and ß, but these letters don't really fit in with the rest of the typeface because they're so detailed (especially the ß). Once I add serifs, I figure this contrast between busy and boring letters might be easier to balance out. (Which does not mean I may not still change the ß.)
I think what I love most about the slab project is that it does emancipate me from the original alphabet above – without me throwing the latter out the window.