Last night I went along to a talk given by type design superstar Kris Sowersby held by the Australian Graphic Design Association.
After getting his start at the Wanganui School of Design, Kris now heads up his type foundry Klim, based in Wellington, NZ. He’s worked for some of the best design agencies in the world (Pentagram, Parallax, DNA) and was behind one of the biggest fonts of last year, FF Meta Serif, the serif brother of FF Meta which readers would all recognise as the corporate font used by the Brisbane City Council.
Last night he was kind enough to walk the lucky audience through three of his most recent font adventures…
The custom logotype and font were developed for the rebrand of Hardy’s wine under the direction of Parallax Design. The brief was for a font that was “old, but new”, and “rich in heritage, progressive by nature.” Kris used archival Hardy’s typography dating back to the mid-1800s and type specimens from England as inspiration. He was looking for a distinct Australian style, even if he had trouble explaining exactly what that was! The resulting typeface literally takes my breath away – how gorgeous are those curly terminals on the ‘r’ and ‘a’?
Methven is a high-end producer of bathroom and shower fittings from NZ. Kris was commissioned to create a font called ‘Methven Flow’, which features dinky little teardrop motifs on each of the letterforms. On its own it’s a bit over the top, but Designworks, the design agency responsible for the branding, used a more pared back version for its applications. It really appeals to the female, fashion-forward buyers in this luxury market.
Kris is nothing if not versatile. Serrano was created for the rebrand of the Bank of New Zealand, so called because Serrano is a type of pork, and BNZ’s mascot is a pig (for ‘piggy bank’, geddit?). In this highly competitive marketplace, BNZ was looking to cut through with a “friendly, helpful & approachable” identity. And doesn’t the font do just that? And though the font itself fit the brief to perfection, the logo, created by design firm DNA, has copped a lot of flack in the design industry (looks like toothpaste, isn’t serious enough for a bank). It was interesting to hear the perspective of the type designer who, once the files have been handed over to the design agency, has ultimately no control over how it gets used.
It’s important to be aware how much thought goes into the design of a typeface, and how much personality they can convey. Kris typically takes 3 months to complete a font family, and endlessly hunts the internet for vintage type specimens to add to his collection. Visit his website and check out his sketchbooks to get an insight into the design process.
You can understand why companies like Hardy’s, Methven and BNZ would license the exclusive right to a custom font for thousands and thousands of dollars!
* Hamburgefontsiv is a common test string for a typeface’s design progress. It contains all the shapes (stems, crossbars, bowls, etc) needed to complete the entire alphabet.