Shapes and Perception

Type can convey more than just its written content. Its shape can reflect the era when the font was created. The way the typeface is used can signify a specific design tradition. In addition to cultural references, type can also evoke a particular feeling through its visual impression.

Working with this kind of sensation is an interesting approach to type design. Often, I have a specific emotion in mind when starting a new project. It may sound somewhat abstract, but it can be achieved through a certain logic of forms. Sometimes this is done in an obvious manner, while at other times it is more subtly expressed. However, this conceptual approach to form design is not an exact science.

Spezia Font Luzi Type Foundry

Image of quartz crystal from Pervomaysko-Zverevscoe, Middle Ural

Spezia Font Luzi Type Foundry

In larger sizes, Koper displays its full crystalline character

Spezia Font Luzi Type Foundry

In smaller sizes, Koper reveals its more conventional side

Koper is a good example to illustrate a particular feeling. The concept behind it is to convey a mineral expression. The font has no round forms. When viewed in larger sizes, it appears sharp and solid, as if made of stone.

In smaller sizes, the font looks more familiar due to its classic proportions and construction. The angular nature of the letters softens as they decrease in size, and our eyes almost perceive them as rounded.

Spezia Font Luzi Type Foundry

Australasian Ornithologist Union, emu bird eggs, 1901

Spezia Font Luzi Type Foundry

Flow, opulence, and elegance are the defining characteristics of Nantes

Nates represents the complete opposite of Koper. Its shapes emphasise smoothness, flow, and roundness. This is particularly evident in the teardrop-shaped endings of the lowercase letters. Nates evokes a sense of elegance and opulence.

It is also possible to convey a more subtle feeling through the language of forms. One of my all-time favourite design pieces is the design classic Moka Express by Alfonso Bialetti.

It plays with two main concepts: form reduction and a subtle visual joke. Its modern and clean lines prioritise functionality, which is contrasted by its form—a silhouette of a person. It almost feels as if it was designed to turn a few rounds until the coffee is ready. On the top of the pot, it has a black hat that helps to open the lid.

Spezia Font Luzi Type Foundry

Having serious fun with Buenos Aires

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Moka Express by the designer Alfonso Bialetti, 1933, Photo by Herbert Goetsch

Buenos Aires shares a similar starting point with the Moka Express. Its geometric feel gives the forms a formal and bold appearance. This is contrasted by the swashes in the lowercase letters a and l, as well as the distinctive lowercase y. This gives the typeface a friendly and playful character. Buenos Aires strikes a balance between strictness and fun, resulting in a unique feel.

This brief exploration of my perspective on these projects is subjective. And it has to be, since I am discussing feelings here, which are always in the eye of the beholder. Nevertheless, asking how a typeface feels is purposeful for me. It can provide a solid conceptual foundation for designing. The strength of typefaces lies in their ability to set the tone for written content.

→ Koper

→ Nantes

→ Buenos Aires

← Notes