I’ve been putting off writing about work I’ve created myself, but have enjoyed using the typefaces featured here so much, it seemed a shame not to talk about them. The typeface I’ve been most excited about uses and seeing in print is Maax.
A bit of background to the project: After the print edition of Grafik closed in 2011, I worked for Wallpaper* magazine and on the iPad edition of Wired UK for a while before deciding to return to Australia for a bit of a rest. Within weeks of arriving I became art director for the architectural division of a well known publishing house in Melbourne. The two core magazine titles I was in charge of were Architectural Review Asia Pacific and Inside.
Architectural Review Asia Pacific had only recently been relaunched when I started, with Norm and Lineto’s Replica at its core (thanks for previous art director Sabine Selbach). Replica is great typeface to work with and suited the title so there was little need to change anything there.
Inside, on the other hand, was a much more accessible title making it more successful, therefore there was seen to be little reason for change. A previous redesign, undertaken a couple of years prior, had addressed the bulk of its visual identity but there were still a few things the previous art director had wanted to address but hadn’t been able get to. The body text, for instance, hadn’t been changed for decades.
I felt the cut of Garamond being used for body text was disappearing into the page and wanted to improve readability, as well as boosting the modernity the title was renown for. The Plantin series of families seemed like an obvious choice but I wanted something less common so I went for News Plantin for body text. Built for newsprint, News Plantin had a robust yet slightly off-kilter appearance when used in the context of a glossy interior design magazine, which I liked a lot.
To support News Plantin I wanted a highly adaptable typeface that addressed current trends for smooth, almost monoline, geometric forms with odd quirks and ticks (like Erbar ‘a’s, etc.) I had my eye on Maax for a little while and, after having a play with a couple of weights, it turned out to be a perfect fit for what I was looking for.
Designed by a French design studio / foundry editions205, the most interesting feature about Maax is that it comes in three very different and extensive stylistic sets. This means lots of the letterforms have four versions to choose from, subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) altering the text with each selection. I found mixing up variations worked best, e.g., a set 3 ‘a’ might go better with text set in mostly set 1, etc.
When you work on a periodical that deals with trends and naturally evolves with each issue then you need a typeface that adapts without muddying the visual identity you have set out for it.
I was so pleased the way Maax was helping set the tone for the magazine that I went back to editions205 and grabbed another one of their typefaces, Beretta, for use in subsidiary text such as captions.
Beretta is interesting because, although the linework is constructed using spaced dots — essentially degrading — it becomes increasingly legible the smaller it gets. This gave the text a “grey” quality that let it recede on the page without having to make the text an actual grey colour. This took the guess work out of how grey text might reproduce at small sizes.
It took three issues of trying various things out, and a brave new editor, Alexa Kempton, to get Inside to a place where we felt the design had settled. I’ve since handed the reigns over to ex-Desktop art director Hannah Lawless to evolve the title further. My hope is that I’ve created a visual identity that is roomy enough for play and robust enough to be easily recognisable as Inside. As always, time will tell and, personally, I’m itching to see where Hannah will take it.
Contributed by Studio Het Mes