Letters from Sweden

26 March 2018

Answers

Göran Söderström

Questions

Nastia Minasova

eople are not per­fect, why should typefaces be? — won­ders Göran Söder­ström, a founder of the type foundry with the name that speaks for it­self — Let­ters from Sweden. Göran has no pro­fes­sion­al edu­ca­tion in type design but worked in vari­ous design and ad­vert­ising agen­cies since he was 18 years old. He also con­sidered a ca­reer as a mu­sic­al pro­du­cer and one can eas­ily see how this side of life is in­flu­en­cing and en­rich­ing his ex­per­i­en­ce in type design. Let­ters from Sweden primar­ily fo­cuses on cre­at­ing something new (and not just in the shapes of let­ters, they were one of the first foundries whose web­site was powered by live web fonts) and as a res­ult their let­ters are loved all over the world from Ber­lin to Hawaii.

How did it all start? How did you de­cide to open your own foundry?

The first typeface I pub­lished was at a type foundry in San Fran­cisco, Psy/Ops, about ten years ago. Then I also pub­lish­ed some typefaces through Veer in the United States and shortly after star­ted work­ing with Foun­tain, the only Swedish type foundry at that time. Un­for­tu­nately, its founder Peter Bruhn has passed away, but I worked with him for a couple of years and pub­lished five typefaces there. After this, I thought about start­ing my own shop, just to see how that would go.

When you start a new foundry, it’s very hard to get cus­tom­ers to find you, so I also dis­trib­uted my typefaces through My­Fonts and Font­Font in the be­gin­ning. Most of the in­come came from My­Fonts at that time. As time passed, I de­signed more typefaces and after a couple of years I no­ticed that there were more pur­chases made from the Let­ters from Sweden shop than from My­Fonts. And when someone bought a typeface from my own shop, I would get 100% of the in­come. I think it’s fair that a dis­trib­ut­or takes a per­cent­age of the in­come, but when your own busi­ness starts to grow, it’s bet­ter to fo­cus solely on that. Even­tu­ally I stopped selling typefaces through ex­tern­al dis­trib­ut­ors. 

Be­fore start­ing up Let­ters from Sweden, I worked at a Swedish design agency that made cus­tom typefaces now and then. One of the pro­jects I worked on there was a typeface for post­age stamps, one of the com­mis­sions I brought to that com­pany. After a couple of years work­ing there, I de­cided that it would be smarter for me to start my own com­pany, since most of the time cli­ents con­tac­ted me per­son­ally any­way. Today there are two sides to my ca­reer in type — re­tail and cus­tom typefaces.

Do you still work on a lot of cus­tom pro­jects?

Yes, quite a lot ac­tu­ally. Maybe even more than on re­tail fonts. There has really been a boom in the last couple of years — I think more and more com­pan­ies have star­ted to real­ise the value of own­ing their own fonts. If you are a really large com­pany it can even be cheap­er to hire a small foundry like ours to cre­ate a great cus­tom typeface. There are still large com­pan­ies that pay huge amounts of money every year just for us­ing clas­sic stand­ard typefaces. For me, that is a strange in­vest­ment when you can have something unique for cheap­er. When we do cus­tom work, we of­ten col­lab­or­ate with design agen­cies, as the ma­jor­ity of com­mis­sions come to us through them. The goal is to cre­ate something unique that they and their cli­ent will use for brand­ing. Some­times we also get re­quests to cre­ate something very sim­il­ar to a pop­u­lar font, but we al­ways turn those en­quir­ies down. Un­less we can change the cli­ent’s idea in­to something else, as we don’t want to do that kind of work.

I’ve seen only one cus­tom slab serif that you did — all of the oth­ers are sans serifs. Why do you think this is the case?

We’ve done quite a lot of typefaces in oth­er genres that we do not show on the web­site for vari­ous reas­ons. Some­times the typeface has not been launched yet and some­times we have signed an NDA. But in gen­er­al, I think that sans serifs are very Scand­inavi­an — it seems to be the most pop­u­lar type of fonts around. Sans serifs are very func­tion­al and a lot of cli­ents like to have something geo­met­ric and clean. Scand­inavi­ans quite of­ten like sim­pli­city, so sans serifs go very well with the design lan­guage we have here. I think at least that most of the com­mis­sions we get from Sweden are sans serifs. But I did a slab serif for Tele2 and I am cur­rently design­ing a cus­tom serif typeface, so maybe things are chan­ging.

However, I think it’s quite chal­len­ging to cre­ate something in­ter­est­ing with­in the sans serif genre. You can still make it dif­fer­ent from all the oth­ers if you try hard — it’s like a three chord song, the pos­sib­il­it­ies are end­less. Typefaces are very sens­it­ive to small changes and subtle things can cre­ate com­pletely dif­fer­ent vibes.

Do you think that the com­pan­ies that ask you for the typefaces can ac­tu­ally no­tice those nu­ances?

Yes, I do. We work very closely with our cli­ents. My ex­per­i­en­ce with cus­tom pro­jects is that once you start talk­ing to people about let­ters and start show­ing them dif­fer­ent ways of design­ing them, every­body gets really in­ter­es­ted in learn­ing more about the de­tails. Every­body has a re­la­tion­ship with let­ters from when we learn to write in child­hood. And when the head of a com­pany starts to real­ise that she or he can ac­tu­ally in­flu­en­ce the let­ters, it awakens the child in them. It’s of­ten quite fun to do cus­tom pro­jects and most of the time I think people really like to par­ti­cip­ate and ap­pre­ci­ate the small dif­fer­en­ces.

Small dif­fer­en­ces can make a large im­pact. If you want the ser­i­ous­ness and func­tion­al­ity that comes with a clas­sic sans serif, either grotesk or geo­met­ric, you can­not draw it too dif­fer­ently. If you make it too play­ful, it’s harder to use, but if you have a sans serif as a base, you auto­mat­ic­ally get some ser­i­ous­ness. Com­pan­ies that com­mis­sion typefaces of­ten want something very func­tion­al with a unique voice. If you try to solve that prob­lem, you need to stay on the ser­i­ous side of the spec­trum.

Do you think that serif typefaces are more play­ful or they have a tend­en­cy to be that way?

I wasn’t com­par­ing serif typefaces with sans serif typefaces. For ex­ample, let’s com­pare Ka­bel with Fu­tura — they are the same kind of geo­met­ric sans serifs, but they are on op­pos­ite sides of the spec­trum. And I think that aes­thet­ic­ally Scand­inavi­ans are closer to Fu­tura than Ka­bel, which might be a little bit too cheesy for us. Fu­tura is more neut­ral while Ka­bel wants to play. It com­mu­nic­ates the mes­sage but it also says, “Hey, look at my e, I’m a little bit funny.” When I try to do something quirky, I want to do it in a dif­fer­ent, more subtle way. For in­stance, the Tele2 slab is ac­tu­ally a bit quirky, a bit weird, but still on the ser­i­ous side. It’s al­ways hard to de­scribe type, but for me it’s all about how the typeface feels, how it presents the mes­sage. You can also de­scribe it as per­son­al­ity — Ka­bel and Fu­tura just have dif­fer­ent per­son­al­it­ies.

For the re­cord, I must also say that I have at least twenty typefaces that I needed to take off the mar­ket, be­cause when I just star­ted design­ing type, I did a lot of ex­per­i­ments. But I think through the years I star­ted to cre­ate more and more neut­ral works. The last typeface I make will prob­ably be su­per clas­sic. I haven’t touched that area yet — you know, do­ing my own take on Hel­vet­ica. Maybe I will do that someday, just to have done it, even though I think that there are far too many of those already avail­able on the mar­ket.

Ivar, the last typeface you re­leased, is ac­tu­ally a serif one, the first in your col­lec­tion. How did that pro­ject go?

It was fun! It differed from cre­at­ing a sans serif, but it’s still the same way of think­ing. If this let­ter looks like this, then that let­ter should look like that — the same kind of con­sist­ent think­ing ap­plies. Maybe it was even a little bit easi­er than I thought it would be. I had so much re­spect for people who de­signed great serif typefaces, most likely be­cause I haven’t done so many my­self and was think­ing that it may be harder. But it turned out to be just dif­fer­ent. I mean, a typeface is a typeface in the end.

I think there is more work with the de­tails and maybe more pro­duc­tion work, be­cause if you change a serif there, you have to change it every­where. In a clean sans serif you can not get away with any slop­pi­ness in the curves and de­tails, but it’s easi­er to do that with a serif typeface be­cause there are already so many things go­ing on any­way. If you want a sans serif to look per­fect, everything should be pretty much per­fect. But in a serif you can ac­tu­ally have more vari­ations. I think there even should be more vari­ations — the length of the serifs can be dif­fer­ent to bal­ance things up, the con­trast can change dir­ec­tion a little bit. Since serif typefaces nat­ur­ally have these move­ments in con­trast and more com­plex de­tails, it’s also easi­er to get away with small flaws or er­rors. Maybe you don’t even see them as er­rors, they simply be­come fea­tures in­stead. That is harder in a sans serif, as every small de­tail stands out more. That’s my ex­per­i­en­ce at least.

Since I fin­ished Ivar, I be­came more in­ter­es­ted in do­ing serif faces, so I have a few more com­ing up. The next one is from a com­pletely dif­fer­ent world than Ivar, which was  based on Times and its pre­de­cessors. The one I’m cur­rently work­ing on fetches in­spir­a­tion from the turn of the 20th cen­tury.

Talk­ing about your col­lec­tion, have you seen the re­view of Ek­sell Dis­play by Paul Shaw? What do you think about it?

I think it’s quite en­ter­tain­ing be­cause he com­pletely mis­un­der­stood the whole pro­ject. It seems Paul Shaw was un­der the be­lief that I did a “re­viv­al” of the Olle Ek­sell typeface, as if we had picked up some old typeface and tried to do a mod­ern ver­sion of it. But that was not the case. We loved the typeface ex­actly as Olle did it and simply wanted to make a di­git­al ver­sion of it, per­haps a slightly bet­ter ver­sion, but with 100% of the char­ac­ter­ist­ics in­tact. Ek­sell Dis­play is one of our best­sellers, so it’s ob­vi­ous that people ap­pre­ci­ate it.

I can un­der­stand his [Paul Shaw’s] con­cerns from a tra­di­tion­al per­spect­ive, be­cause if you look at Olle Ek­sell’s typeface, there are a lot of weird things go­ing on. But these weird things are ac­tu­ally the fea­tures, not the flaws. Paul Shaw didn’t un­der­stand that — he wanted to lo­botom­ise the typeface so it would fit his own way of think­ing. The res­ult would be just an­oth­er typeface in­stead of something highly unique based on Olle’s fant­ast­ic ima­gin­a­tion and play­ful­ness. I think we simply come from dif­fer­ent worlds. Paul is from the aca­dem­ic world and his ref­er­en­ces prob­ably lie mostly with­in tra­di­tion­al typefaces, while our ref­er­en­ces are noth­ing — only Olle Ek­sell’s im­press­ive way of draw­ing and a gen­er­al curi­ous­ness for dif­fer­ent aes­thet­ics. When I read the re­view today, I think something sim­il­ar could hap­pen if a clas­sic­al mu­sic the­or­ist tried to re­view the latest al­bum by Kendrick Lamar.

But you didn’t do it ex­actly like Olle Ek­sell’s draw­ings — you made four styles out of one.

Yes, first I just di­git­ised the let­ters, but then I changed some pro­por­tions as I thought that the up­per­case let­ters were a bit too wide and the lower­case too nar­row, so I har­mon­ised them a bit. And Olle’s ver­sion had less con­trast than I was feel­ing the typeface could have so I ad­ded more con­trast, and after that I think something great happened. It was like “Wow!” The Large and Me­di­um styles, which have more con­trast than Olle’s ori­gin­al let­ters, are the ones that ac­tu­ally show the typeface’s best side in my opin­ion. Be­cause in those ones you ac­tu­ally see Olle’s pen move­ments even bet­ter. The sten­cil ver­sion is just an ex­plor­a­tion of what hap­pens if the con­trast is so high that it opens up the let­ters.

I have star­ted sketch­ing the Cyril­lic ver­sion of Ek­sell Dis­play and it’s ab­so­lutely crazy. I’m really look­ing for­ward to the Rus­si­an re­view on that, if it ever gets pub­lished.

How did you de­cide to start adding Cyril­lic to the typefaces in your col­lec­tion?

I’ve al­ways been fas­cin­ated with Cyril­lic let­ters. When I didn’t know much about them, they looked like flipped Lat­in, which is quite fas­cin­at­ing just from a design per­spect­ive. I slowly learned more and un­der­stood that it’s not ac­tu­ally like that — it was just my first im­pres­sion of it. When I star­ted to real­ise that, I be­came very in­ter­es­ted in learn­ing how to draw Cyril­lic in a prop­er way.

The first time I ad­ded Cyril­lic to a re­tail font was when a cli­ent pur­chased a big li­cense and wanted to ex­pand the typeface with Greek, Ar­ab­ic and Cyril­lic. That’s when I de­cided that I would ac­tu­ally give it a try. I star­ted draw­ing, but I didn’t really know what I was do­ing — I was look­ing at tons of oth­er typefaces and tried to find the lo­gic be­hind them, but I didn’t man­age to do it on my own. Even­tu­ally I con­sul­ted Maria (Maria Doreuli) so she could help out. I sent her the typeface, ask­ing if it looks okay or if she would like to change something. And she re­turned a PDF doc­u­ment with a lot of cor­rec­tions and sug­ges­tions — that was really amaz­ing! I learned so much from that. We did a couple of rounds back and forth: I was look­ing at her feed­back and tried to im­prove the let­ters un­til she was happy with them, at the same time try­ing to learn more my­self.

 

Maria Doreuli’s re­view on MTG Sans•Im­age cour­tesy Göran Söder­ström

Ac­tu­ally, I don’t think she was ever com­pletely sat­is­fied with my Cyril­lics, but at least she was hap­pi­er about them than in the be­gin­ning. At some point, when Maria’s re­views calmed down, I thought “Okay, now it’s us­able” and that ver­sion was sent to the cli­ent. After this pro­ject, I hired Maria for each Cyril­lic ex­pan­sion we did, ex­cept for the most re­cent one. But I worked on that one at Maria’s and Krista’s (Krista Rado­eva) work­shop in Switzer­land, so she helped out with that one as well in the end. 

The best fea­tures in Trim’s cyril­lics were all Maria’s ideas, to be hon­est. She made some hand drawn sketches sug­gest­ing ways to draw the most dif­fi­cult let­ters like Д, Л, б, д and л. And those sketches solved a lot of prob­lems. Al­most everything I’ve learned about Cyril­lic I know thanks to Maria.

How did you de­cide to con­sult her in the first place and not someone else?

I don’t really re­mem­ber why it was spe­cif­ic­ally her. Maybe it was be­cause she had this blog with Krista — Cyril­lic­sly. Maybe I saw that and felt that they were two young pos­it­ive type de­sign­ers who were open to help oth­er people with this (and we really do need help with Cyril­lics). I nev­er ex­per­i­en­ced that from some­where else be­fore — some people you talk to give the im­pres­sion that they want to keep Cyril­lic to them­selves and don’t want to give away the know­ledge. I think know­ledge is meant to be shared.

 

Trim is a typeface in­spired by Knud V. En­gel­hardt, dan­ish ar­chi­tect. As it’s stated in its name, everything in this typeface is trimmed: di­ag­on­als, round shapes, ter­min­als. Trim comes in a large fam­ily in­clud­ing all kind of weights, sten­cil and poster ver­sions. It’s ideal for set­ting head­lines and in short para­graphs can knit the line tightly to­geth­er. 

Apart from the Cyril­lic, you also add Greek and Ar­ab­ic to your typefaces.

Yes, but I don’t draw them my­self. My tal­en­ted col­league Erik (Erik Moberg) draws Ar­ab­ic and now he draws the Greek too, which is really great. At the be­gin­ning, Panos Har­atzo­poulos drew the Greek for us and did some fant­ast­ic work as well.

You add Cyril­lic, Ar­ab­ic and Greek to your typefaces, which takes both time and money (es­pe­cially when con­sul­ta­tions are re­quired), but you keep the same price re­gard­less of which lan­guages the typefaces sup­port. Looks like a state­ment, doesn’t it?

It is a state­ment. Com­ing from Sweden, which is a tiny coun­try, I can re­late more eas­ily to smal­ler busi­nesses. Let’s say that you’re a Rus­si­an stu­dent, you like Trim and the Lat­in ver­sion costs €40, but the one that in­cludes Cyril­lic costs €80. I would ques­tion that. Why does the Cyril­lic lan­guage cost more than the Lat­in? Why is Lat­in the norm and the Cyril­lic is just ad­ded on top of that? I can re­late to this prob­lem. From a cus­tom­er point of view, I think they should cost the same. So it’s a state­ment, but also a demo­crat­ic way of think­ing about the cus­tom­er’s ex­per­i­en­ce. The typeface mar­ket should be eas­ily ac­cess­ible in parts of the world oth­er than just Europe or Amer­ica.

 

Lab Grot­esque was de­signed in col­lab­or­a­tion with Stock­holm Design Lab and re­leased as a re­tail font in 2015. In­spir­a­tion for the typeface was found in the idio­syn­crasies of earli­er grotesks and goth­ics from the turn of the cen­tury. In 2017 Cyril­lic was ad­ded to Lab Grot­esque and so far it’s the best ap­proach of the stu­dio to Cyril­lic let­ters. Cyril­lic Design Con­sult­ing — Maria Doreuli

It looks like a mod­ern and very Swedish style of think­ing, try­ing to make it equal for every­one. At some oth­er foundries you some­times can’t buy Cyril­lic without even Greek, for ex­ample.

Yes, and then you have to pay for Lat­in, Cyril­lic and Greek at the same time. I think a lot of these “norms” — how the typefaces mar­ket has been — are about to totally change since small play­ers like me and hun­dreds of oth­er small foundries are ac­tu­ally gain­ing a big­ger sig­ni­fic­ance in the mar­ket. We’re tak­ing a big­ger share every day and I be­lieve that if we start to change things, the big play­ers will have to do the same.

What do you think about oth­er mod­els of dis­trib­ut­ing typefaces? Rent­ing them out, for ex­ample.

Our full lib­rary is avail­able from Font­stand and that’s a bril­li­ant ap­plic­a­tion. But I think the best part about Font­stand is that people can test a typeface for a short­er peri­od. I’m not sure if the rent­ing mod­el is as bril­li­ant once you have de­cided you ac­tu­ally want to li­cense the full ver­sion. From my ex­per­i­en­ce, some people go there, try out the typeface or even rent it for a month but then they come to us and buy it. Be­cause when you rent it, you are locked in­to a con­tract and quite a lot of people don’t like that — they want to pay once, get the fonts and move on.

Your typefaces quite of­ten don’t have so many styles — a couple of dif­fer­ent weights, it­al­ics for them and that’s it. Why is that?

From my point of view, the most us­able styles are the ones between Light and Bold, which is also where you see the typeface at its best. I think weights that are too bold change the char­ac­ter­ist­ics of the typeface com­pletely and some­times it be­comes al­most com­ic. I prefer to stay with­in this mod­est range of weights, which might be some sort of Scand­inavi­an ap­proach. My fa­vour­ite weight in any typeface is of­ten the Me­di­um. It has a really nice black­ness. Just be­cause we can in­ter­pol­ate, why should we do twenty weights? Do cus­tom­ers really need that? I doubt it. The most pop­u­lar and well-used weights are between Bold and Reg­u­lar, so why should I do those ex­treme weights if I don’t like them so much my­self?

What do you think about mod­ern tech­no­lo­gies like vari­able fonts, for ex­ample? Do you ex­plore these new pos­sib­il­it­ies?

I think what has been ex­plored so far is mostly ex­per­i­ments. The vari­able demo fonts seem to take it a step too far, so it be­comes more like a gim­mick than something us­able. Something that can be­ne­fit a lot from the vari­able font tech is op­tic­al sizes. When it is fully sup­por­ted by ap­plic­a­tions and browsers and people start us­ing it, I will def­in­itely re­lease a vari­able ver­sion of Ivar that could in­clude its three op­tic­al sizes in one font and that’s great. But for me it’s noth­ing big, really,  it’s simply a tech­nic­al solu­tion.

I think it will take a very long time un­til people in gen­er­al start to use vari­able fonts. People still don’t know what Open­Type fea­tures are. Hon­es­tly, how many people use vari­ous Open­Type fea­tures and al­tern­ate let­ters in typefaces? When the Open­Type format came, every­one was design­ing fancy lig­at­ures for their fonts be­cause they could, but then people didn’t start to use them and it could very well be the same with vari­able fonts. Maybe people just want to type text, choose a font and then it should look good — that’s it. Maybe it’s go­ing to change, I don’t know. Tech is good but the design and func­tion­al­ity of a typeface will al­ways be the main at­trac­tion.

You quite of­ten col­lab­or­ate  with oth­er de­sign­ers. How does the design pro­cess look then?

Most of the time the col­lab­or­at­ors provide me with in­spir­a­tion and ref­er­en­ces, then I draw the typeface. Dur­ing the pro­cess, they test the typeface and con­tinu­ally give me feed­back — it’s like a match of table ten­nis. Col­lab­or­a­tion is a very use­ful way of learn­ing more, es­pe­cially col­lab­or­a­tion with graph­ic de­sign­ers rather than type de­sign­ers. Cus­tom faces are al­ways col­lab­or­a­tions with tal­en­ted people who have great ideas to kick things off. Quite a lot of pro­jects at Let­ters from Sweden star­ted with an idea from a graph­ic de­sign­er or art dir­ect­or.

I hardly use typefaces my­self any­more, so I really ap­pre­ci­ate feed­back from a user per­spect­ive. How does this typeface feel, look and be­have when you use it? It’s also valu­able to see how oth­er people use your typefaces. I can test it with my own test doc­u­ments but they are lim­ited. When someone else tests it, it’s easi­er to no­tice oth­er things to im­prove. Early in the pro­cess of cre­at­ing a new typeface, my col­lab­or­at­ors get beta ver­sions, some­times with just a few key let­ters, and then I keep send­ing them up­dates. This pro­cess of boun­cing ideas back and forth can even change the ini­tial idea of the typeface and I’m very open to that.

Do you of­ten draw by hand or just di­git­ally?

Nev­er by hand. I think it’s an un­ne­ces­sary step. A typeface is di­git­al so I draw it di­git­ally. I some­times use a pen to not for­get an idea and just quickly draw something out, but that’s about it. Every­body has their own pro­cess, it’s very per­son­al. It’s just that for me sketch­ing doesn’t really have value.

Have you ever done cal­li­graphy?

I’ve tried cal­li­graphy a couple of times. Re­cently, I at­ten­ded a work­shop with Mari­anne Pet­ter­son-Soold, a Swedish cal­li­graph­er, and it was awe­some, but it really didn’t stick. I am fas­cin­ated for a couple of hours but then I just get rest­less. I feel like I have no con­trol over the cal­li­graphy pen. I don’t think it’s for me — I like to build my let­ters and have end­less pos­sib­il­it­ies to edit the shapes.

Do you teach type design?

I have been teach­ing type design at Söder­törn Uni­versity. That’s where I met Erik Moberg, who is today my col­league at Let­ters from Sweden. I’ve also been vis­it­ing schools, talk­ing about my work. But I don’t teach the his­tory of type or ap­plied ty­po­graphy. I’ve been con­duct­ing some work­shops where we cre­ated a quick typeface to­geth­er dur­ing class hours. Ob­vi­ously, these work­shops are more about open­ing up the idea of cre­at­ing typefaces than a prop­er type design edu­ca­tion.

Do you feel that in­terest in type design is grow­ing in Sweden?

I’m not sure, maybe. There seems to be more young people today who are in­ter­es­ted in design­ing typefaces, but it could also be that since I have a foundry, they get in touch with me nowadays, so I no­tice them more. At my stu­dio we cur­rently have an in­tern from Fors­bergs School of Design who comes once a week. We sit and dis­cuss his typeface, give feed­back and the rest of the week he works in­de­pend­ently from home. We have had two in­terns so far and soon we will also pub­lish a new typeface by My Longley, a young Swedish de­sign­er who re­cently gradu­ated from Kon­st­fack.

Could you tell me about your pro­ject with Öst­ber­gaskolan?

The Mu­seum of Stock­holm was plan­ning to do an ex­hib­i­tion about a sub­urb in Stock­holm called Öst­berga. Daniela Kisch Juvall, who was re­spons­ible for design­ing the ex­hib­i­tion, wanted to work with people who had a con­nec­tion to Öst­berga. I grew up there, so she found me and we talked about cre­at­ing a typeface for the ex­hib­i­tion. The ex­hib­i­tion was sup­posed to take place in the loc­al “frit­idsgård”, which is something like day­care for kids where they go after school and play.

We dis­cussed what to do and came up with the idea that we should let the kids make their own typeface. Every­body got really ex­cited about the idea so we went there and had a work­shop with the kids. We had a lot of pa­per on the floor and big graf­fiti pens. We asked the kids to write the al­pha­bet and nu­mer­als in whatever style they wanted. We ran out of pa­per really fast and had a lot of fun. Then we scanned the let­ters and quickly built the font in Glyphs. Daniela and I se­lec­ted the let­ters that were most us­able for the typeface, but apart from that we didn’t in­ter­fere so much. We tried to use as much as pos­sible from the kids’ let­ters, so there are also al­tern­ates in the font. Öst­berga Type is free to down­load for any­one. It was used for the ex­hib­i­tion but it be­came more than just that. The pro­ject turned out to be quite suc­cess­ful and had a lot of pub­li­city. It was a very pos­it­ive thing for Öst­berga and now those kids have even been nom­in­ated for a design award.

I hope that they win the prize.

Me too.

In in­ter­views, you of­ten say that you want to make your typefaces “not so bloody per­fect”. Is this one of the ways to achieve au­then­ti­city or a way of think­ing?

It’s a way of achiev­ing per­son­al­ity. Let’s com­pare this with people — people are not per­fect: someone has a nose that is too large, someone has a gap between the front teeth. I love this in people and I want to give that type of visu­al per­son­al­ity and char­ac­ter to my typefaces as well. Many typefaces out there are so sim­il­ar, it’s like they have all gone through plastic sur­gery. If it gets too per­fect it will be quite bor­ing.

Interview
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