Typefaces collection

How did you get involved with typeface design? What led you to this practice?
I discovered type design during my masters at the École de Communication Visuelle (ECV) in Paris. I perceived this field to be highly complex, and paradoxically, this piqued my interest and curiosity. After completing my studies, I worked in a foundry, further honing my skills. Subsequently, I joined the ANRT to embark on 24 months of research around developing a digital typeface of Mayan hieroglyphs.

What influences you? Are there type designers whose work you appreciate in particular?
Throughout my career, I have been extremely fortunate to have crossed paths with passionate individuals—teachers and collaborators—who, on various levels, have contributed significantly to nurturing and shaping my practice. Of course, the work and approach of several emblematic personalities have greatly inspired me, including Hermann Zapf, Adrian Frutiger and Roger Excoffon. I could also happily mention a few contemporary foundries—Underware, Klim Type, Bureau Brut and Julien Priez—whom I admire for their creativity, mastery, and ability to innovate with each new release.

In your opinion, what is the point of creating a new typeface when so many already exist?
Regarding typefaces, the possibilities are vast, even more so with the freedom and accessibility offered by current software. This diversity is essential. Every typeface, among other things, references a particular history, heritage, or aesthetic and serves as a communication tool that is adapted and adaptable to various contexts of use.
Moreover, moving away from the traditional vision of Latin typography, we realise that many writing systems still need to be sufficiently valued and lack adequate digital transcription. I want to emphasise the efforts made in this direction, such as those conducted in the context of the Missing Scripts program at the ANRT.

Is it really possible to create something new in the field of type design?
I am convinced that type design knows no limits. If one were to ask ten different type designers to work from the same source, one would undoubtedly obtain ten original typefaces, with each designer bringing their unique vision, sensitivity, and experience to the task.
The ongoing evolution of digital technologies entails specific objectives and constraints that compel the designer to create, experiment, and innovate on a technical and formal level to respond to these new demands.

How do you begin work on a new typeface? Do you have a particular process?
I don’t have a predefined process or approach; it essentially depends on the nature of the project. I try to enrich my practice with what I observe or read, whether directly linked to typography or not. I have developed the habit of jotting everything down in my notes, whether it is future typeface names, emerging concepts or even typography-related jokes...
When an idea appears promising, I quickly start sketching by hand. The time I spend on this step varies depending on the typeface; it can sometimes be quite approximative and rudimentary, scribbled on the corner of a table or, on the contrary, as was the case with Leopardo, it can be a very detailed and comprehensive research process. The goal is to capture the essence of the typeface. After that, I move on to digitisation, with the drawing becoming more precise, and I push the limits of the design to create an original and coherent system.
My approach is primarily intuitive. Experimenting with and exploring shapes allows me to bring an emerging typographic concept to life, which requires extensive development work.

What is your relationship with the history of typography? What is your relationship with technology?
The history of typography and its evolution are paramount when understanding letters, their ductus, and their structure. They constitute an invaluable source of references and inspiration, but it is crucial not to fall into the trap of mere imitation.
Technology allows for increased productivity and efficiency, greater experimentation, and the ability to create one’s own tools. However, mastering tools is beneficial only if they continue to serve creativity, not restrict it.

Why have you chosen to distribute your typefaces with 205TF?
The decision to collaborate with 205TF was a natural one. In addition to the undeniable quality of their catalogue, I was particularly pleased by the foundry team. They closely followed the process and assisted in developing the typeface, offering valuable advice. Seeing my work published alongside that of such great designers is also gratifying.

Do you think that typography can save the world?
I don’t know, but we are working on it!

Do you teach? If so, where, and why does this role of transmission seem important to you?
I regularly teach typography and type design in workshops and in the context of longer educational modules, emphasising hand drawing before digitisation. This step is essential for understanding the construction of the letter. As a firm believer in “learning by doing”, my subjects are mainly practical, punctuated by references to theory and history.

What type design project are you currently working on?
I am currently working on the development of a sans-serif, multi-script typeface. It is a large project which is far from finished. In parallel, I collaborate with several archaeology, linguistics, and computer sciences specialists within the context of the Mayan Encoding Project research, affiliated with the University of Berkeley, U.S.A. This project aims to shape, valorise, and facilitate the encoding of Mayan hieroglyphs within the Unicode standard. A thrilling challenge!

by Alexandre Bassi