Harri Display Typeface and Basque Lettering by Juan Luis Blanco
There is something about the visual landscape of the Basque Country that will not go unnoticed to the eyes of its visitors regardless of their knowledge of typography: the peculiar lettering style spread all over the region on street plates, signs, posters and fascias. They display extremely heavy letters in a sort of overemphasised glyphic style with characteristic concave stems that produce very sharp terminals and awkward letter forms. Those shapes look certainly rough, unrefined and overdone, conveying a sort of primitiveness rooted way back in time. This seems to make it a convenient choice for food shops, restaurants, cider houses and other cases in which projecting the idea of authenticity, tradition and "Basqueness" is intended.
Harri, as a typographic project, started the very day a client asked me to design a logo that would be clearly recognised as Basque, with a firm restriction: to avoid "that typeface used for cider houses and butcher shops", in obvious reference to the Basque lettering style afore-mentioned.
Fish Shop in Guetaria
They definitely needed a more polished image, and I realised there was nothing I could use to meet their expectations. So there was a need and there was room for innovation, and I decided something had to be done. Years later I defined Harri as a Basque "low-fat" typeface because its starting point was a light and refined version that would contrast strongly with the black, almost fat, letter forms customary in this style. The final project comprises also those black variants because they are the main inspiration for both the overall design and the details of most of the characters, the sort of details that show its unmistakable "Basqueness".
Harri Display Typeface family, from Light to ExtraBold
The research for the project and the design of Harri was done in the Basque Country. And, if there is something that defines Basque people is that, whatever their political views, they are extremely opinionated about nationalism. As a result, it is almost impossible to talk about any Basque cultural instance and not getting trapped in the discourse of nationalism vs. no-nationalism which, let's be serious, needs to be rephrased as myNationalism vs. yourNationalism. When it comes to the origin of the "Basque" lettering style it is not difficult to find such conflicting views, this is people convinced that it is a vernacular style from the Basque Country and others who think it is just an invention of the nationalist movements in the early 20th century, that is, nothing original, or at least nothing traditionally Basque at all.
The interesting thing is that, to some extent, both views are equally wrong, which in the end makes them complementary. It is obvious that nationalist movements fostered the development of a visual system aimed at reinforcing both their distinctiveness and their presence in the Basque society of the early 20th century. Typography, or better-said lettering, had to play a significant role in that endeavour. But it is also undeniable that it is not the mere invention of the propaganda manager of a nationalist organisation. There are clear sources of inspiration that have been pointed out by different scholars regardless of their position on Basque nationalism. These sources are the ancient inscriptions carved on gravestones* which can still be found in the French part of the Basque Country (Behe Nafarroa, Lapurdi and Zuberoa) and some areas of the North of Navarra. These inscriptions —some of them dated in the 17th century— show a recognisable influence of contemporary engravings and some Romanesque inscriptions of earlier times that can be found all over Europe.
Inscription found in Ezpeleta
Therefore, it is easy to agree that it is neither a relatively recent invention nor a deeply rooted and exclusively Basque manifestation. That said, which I find original and unique is the way it has evolved from those origins. And the most remarkable fact in my view is how its use has spread all over the Basque Country as an identity conveyor. The fact that Basque people seem to feel identified by this lettering style, and moreover, the fact that people from other places associate those forms with a Basque origin is what makes them convincingly Basque. Harri takes part of its significant features from those ancient inscriptions, in which letters are not incised but carved in relief.
Stone carving exercise done by Juan Luis Blanco along his studies in Reading
The fact that the space between letters is what has to be removed produce heavier and less contrasting shapes and gives rise to a series of interesting composition devices for space saving. Of course, the current widely-used shapes derived from them are taken into account but keeping always in sight their predecessors: the Romanesque inscriptions and ultimately the Roman Capitals, in which its proportions are based. As a central guideline, there is the idea of making a refined yet decidedly Basque typeface —something that my client would have been willing to use— and also to echo the peculiar evolution of this style through its weights, from the clean formal Roman-inspired light to the extreme expressive Basque-style extra bold. Besides that, some of the space-saving tricks that make every piece of stone carving unique are available as contextual alternates, and a bunch of stylistic sets allow to change the shapes of some key letters in order to emphasise or completely neutralise its Basque character.
* The name "Harri", meaning stone in The Basque language, is an homage to its roots.
Major updates for 2 classic fonts: Designal and Memimas
DESIGNAL was originally published in 2002 as the first typeface in our collection specially designed for signage and packaging. The new version contains numerous visual adjustments, as well as a redesigned uppercase that incorporates interesting variations in a 'unicase' set. Felix Rufín has worked on rationalising its extensive pictogram collection.
MEMIMAS is one of the most veteran Type-Ø-Tones projects (1991) and, among its technical constraints, a project that demands constant evolution. The updated version 4.1 incorporates alternative Uppercase characters (in Script and Sans versions) and automatic ligatures for the lowercase that will appear as Contextual Alternates; as well as numerous improvements in the drawing, redesign of characters and OpenType features.
The design of Magasin
I’ve always been fascinated by typefaces based on fluid handwriting, and as an amateur calligrapher of copperplate, I decided to design Magasin as a display font based on this experience.
Origins and background
My first approach to this project began with the lettering I designed for BoMo, a graphic design studio, in spring 2011. It’s based on a brief: feminine, professional and sensibility. The solution came as a well-crafted series of ‘calligraphic letters’ with high contrast, the B, the M and the o, combined as two connected syllables. During the design process, I discovered the significant potential that this idea could have if it were developed as a typeface. Thus, almost one year later, I began to sketch it, and two years after I released it!. It evolved from the initial three letters of the logo but with differences: slightly less condensed proportions, different designs for the two upper case letters and a new construction of the connecting strokes.
It combines a sense of script with a geometric and slightly condensed structure resulting in idiosyncratic curves, yet with a retro-chic twist. These might probably be the most attractive features because of all together they give a very strong identity to words.
During my research, I review a lot of previous & excellent typefaces sharing a similar idea, but any of them had this sense of a connected and upright script. Somehow, Magasin explores and pays tribute to the charm and playness of typefaces that were designed during the 1930s. Some inspiring references are Corvinus, released by Bauer in 1935 (designed by Imre Reiner in 1934), Quirinus (Alessandro Butti,1939) and Fluidum (1951), a kind of non-connected script version of Quirinus, also designed by Butti for the Nebiolo type foundry.
Cover of a catalogue of Cararteri Nebiolo and a Quirinus specimen, a typeface designed by Alessandro Butti in 1939. Both published by Nebiolo in the 1950s
A page from a 1950s Neufville catalogue showing the semibold weight of Imre Reiner’s Corvinus (1934), released by the Bauer Type Foundry in 1935.
The design principle
Magasin is based on the idea of designing a display typeface inspired by the pointed pen calligraphy with geometric, upright and connected construction and high contrast. What I wanted to show is the obvious accuracy that can be seen in any calligraphic work, but with a close attention to the creative combination of linked letters when creating words, bringing a lettering flavour.
The contruction principles are:
1/the wavy shapes to emphasize the ryhthm
2/the four different way of links, always merging in the half of the x-height
3/the loops and drops evocating the pointed pen calligraphy letters
4/ the angled ending stroke
The first versions of Magasin were more experimental; I gave an extraordinary leadership to the connexion strokes, and characters as 'm' and 'n', had a different starting stroke, but soon I found it problematic.The following versions were based on the exploration and refinement of some characters and the different connexion possibilities, with the goal of balancing the spacing, a process that also led to the design of alternative glyphs.
Some pages of the specimen showing the performance of the contextual alternates and examples in use
At a certain point, I was not sure if it could become something usable or just a personal amusement; some connexions were looking really weird but others just came automatically and in a very beautiful way. So I wrote a list of necessary ligatures to balance the text flow and another of the non-convenient combinations that later became 'exceptions' in the programming. I also designed a reduced set of secondary alternates (ss02) and an out-strokes version of the 'c', 'ç', 'e' and 'q', to gave a better ending to sentences or words. Therefore, it implied a bunch of OT programming for a correct use and performance. In the specimen I designed, that's thoroughly explained, and downloadable at the typeface's page.
Different possibilities depending on the r s and z glyphs used.
During the process I took care of all the possible combinations – the designer can choose which one suits better– but this was not like this for all the pairs, so I designed all the ligatures needed, they are included per default, the set is not restricted to the fl, fi…etc (image below)
The capital letters appeared much later, they are a bit experimental and very much inspired by the copperplate calligraphy mixed with some cancelleresca features.
While testing it, I realised that Magasin could be very useful in a lot of applications, and for many various moods; moreover, the swash capitals were intentionally designed to ‘pimp’ words and provide many possibilities, but normal capitals can also perform better in certain situations.
And finally… why this name?
I only chose the name at the end of the process, it sounds like ‘magazine’ in English, but actually, Magasin is the word for ‘store’ in French because I always imagined Magasin used in magazines headlines, but also for brands and packaging. I’ve enjoyed working on Magasin immensely, and I learnt a lot, as it always happens with every typeface I design. Because I love and collect old specimens, my typeface and the specimen are also a celebration and a tribute to all those works of art and their designers.
"Las tipos de la imprenta"
El tipo de la imprenta es una imprenta digital muy concienciada con el trabajo de los diseñadores. Una vez más este año, han lanzado un calendario promocional para dar a conocer su trabajo con una idea muy interesante: comprar doce tipografías diseñadas en España y utilizarlas para ilustrar cada uno de los meses. El calendario ha sido diseñado por Sapristi. Las tipografías elegidas por El tipo de la imprenta para su calendario de 2017 son: Atocha, de Joluvian; Wilma, de Enric Jardí; FF Pepe, de Pepe Gimeno; Lalola, de Laura Meseguer; Trola, de Jordi Embodas; Paquita Pro, de Juanjo López; Póster, de Íñigo Jerez; o Memimas, de José Manuel Urós.
El tipo de la imprenta recogen una pequeña descripción e historia de cada una de las tipografías que han usado en el proyecto y un enlace para licenciarla.
Podéis leer más sobre el proyecto aquí.
A new stage for the typographic design company
Solo, the graphic design studio based in Barcelona was the one in charge of the full redesign of our website. At last but not least, we need to say that we are happy! Now they have shared the project at their own site and this is what they wrote about it:
It is not often you have the opportunity to carry out a design project that you are also the main recipient of.
The designer's essential tool —besides the idea— is the typeface, which works as an essential means of communication, facilitating understanding of the project and conveying its content to the public.
Type–Ø–Tones is an independent typographic design company created in 1990 by Josema Urós, Enric Jardí, Laura Meseguer and Joan Barjau. Over recent years, we have been able to see how this project is reaching a full state of maturity, combining the initial nature of the display typeface and digital experimentation with more complex and polished font families, families for reading newspapers, magazines and brand names.
The new website and online shop of the design company clearly shows this evolution of the Type–Ø–Tones project; the relaxed use of colour, the graphic simplification —without losing the original essence— the expressiveness of the letters and the combination of typeface with illustration leads to an intuitive platform that can be browsed both vertically and in landscape, and which prioritises font display.
Both the process for testing these fonts and the checkout procedure have been devised for graphic designers, the main endorsers of typography workshops, and are presented as a visual and colouristic set that supports all Type–Ø–Tones collections.
Type-Ø-Tones' typefaces at the Adobe Typekit Marketplace
In conjunction with its annual Adobe MAX conference, Adobe today announced the debut of the Adobe Typekit Marketplace. This radical expansion of the Typekit cloud-based font service allows end users to license and pay for individual typefaces, moving beyond the subscription model. The Marketplace introduces a diverse group of type foundries and exceptional typefaces to graphic designers on a massive scale. Type Network has signed on as a launch partner in the new venture. And as we are partners of TypeNework, some of our typefaces are there too.
If you want to read about this event in deep, we highly recommend you to explore these links