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How did you get into type design? What is your background?
I started with a visual communication program in Lyon, taking part in workshops on publishing and type design, which I enjoyed. I later pursued this specialisation at the School of Fine Arts in Lyon. Typography fulfilled several of my desires: the technical challenge, the attention to detail, perfectionism, and its demanding nature. I was disappointed with graphic design due to misogyny in the field, to be completely honest. A decade ago, it was difficult to thrive without the support of networks, and they were typically male dominated—with their dress code, parties, language, etc. I had the option to enter children's publishing, where women were more prevalent, or acquiring a highly specialised knowledge to avoid competition. With this in mind, I joined the ANRT, also known for its supportive network, before transitioning into font engineering for better job prospects.
What are your influences, your references and type designers whose work you particularly appreciate?
For the dedication to research, the diversity of projects, their commitment to multiscript design and inclusion of underrepresented languages: collectives like Tiro Typeworks and Type Together especially stand out to me.
In terms of individual designers, I find an aesthetic that resonates with me in the work of Frank Jalleau, Laurenz Brunner, Sarah Kremer, Coline Sunier & Charles Mazé, and Matthieu Cortat — among many others. Their work is absolutely beautiful, sensitive, well researched, always relevant and coherent.
In your opinion, what is the usefulness of creating a new font when there are already so many available?
Type design, like sculpture, illustration, and many other artistic practices, blends professional endeavour with personal expression. Therefore, creating new fonts holds intrinsic value at the individual level — whether as a source of income or enjoyment for the designer/user, or in enhancing any type of projects by aligning with tone, concept/message, and product appeal.
When discussing public utility, the situation becomes more nuanced, yet numerous broader-scale needs still persist. For instance, certain environments or languages, overlooked by technological progress, suffer from severely limited font options, if any. I view my work as serving the public good when it helps such communities in their work or communication. However, original creation isn't always imperative; there are enough existing open-source fonts nowadays to meet specific needs by bringing small adjustments to them. Nonetheless, starting from scratch is often necessary to maintain overall coherence.
Is it possible to truly create something new in type design?
It clearly depends on how one defines “new”. However, what sets type design apart is its reliance on a highly limited and codified framework. Therefore, the singularity of a design lies in its details. I believe instances of plagiarism are rare in this field because the myriad choices made by designers for each character are deeply personal, influenced by their background, sensitivity, and individual journey, making replication impossible. Like human faces, typefaces share the same common elements, yet each carries its own distinct identity.
How do you start a new typeface? Do you have a specific creative process?
While I decide on the overall structure through sketching, I quickly transition to working with bézier curves on the computer, where I am more proficient.
Otherwise, I adhere to a traditional method: I explore existing specimens or common shapes (not limited to typography) relevant to my project (to emulate or differentiate from). I research documentation, more or less thoroughly, to inform my approach and shape choices. Subsequently, I establish objectives or concepts to guide more radical decisions. If the resulting design doesn’t meet my expectations, I revisit the initial concept.
For self-initiated projects, I am slower in decision-making because of the abundance of possibilities. I go through a phase with many (really many) stylistic sets before making a choice.
What is your relationship with the history of typography? What is your relationship with technology?
Beyond historical interest, I greatly enjoy the exercise of revival. Starting with an existing form streamlines decision-making. The initial phase of discovery and research is exciting, involving gathering numerous documents to grasp context and authorial intent. Instead of aiming for true historical fidelity from printed matter, I try to adopt a unique perspective, intentionally adapting the design to create typefaces relevant to modern usage. Emphasising the technological aspect, I avoid passive tool usage, preferring to wonder how historical authors might have utilised contemporary technology. This prompts me to discern original intentions and leverage modern tools for project development.
As a font engineer, I use technology to enhance efficiency and quality. The diverse set of tools we benefit today offer opportunities to create more inclusive and comprehensive projects. Testing softwares for font creation or usage is also an integral part of the production process, requiring me to provide feedback to developers. Understanding a program's logic and limitations fosters continuous learning and tool improvement.
Why did you choose to distribute your fonts with 205TF?
It's an independent network which felt safe for a first commercial release. The team is dedicated and provides valuable advice. The catalogue is diverse and of high quality. I am proud to be published on the same platform as other designers whom I admire. Additionally, the contractual conditions are fair, and the typefaces are distributed exclusively, thus “protected” from platforms like MyFonts.
Do you think typography can save the World?
Typography brings many benefits to the world, yet it's crucial to acknowledge its role in generating an overwhelming amount of printed material, much of which is unnecessary (see Véronique Vienne (“The Weight of Ink”), AtypI 2023). Without changes to our practices, typography may continue to contribute to environmental harm. Personally, I've adopted more sustainable practices, such as inspecting proofs on an e-ink tablet instead of printing, and minimising the number of saved files to avoid burdening servers. While these actions alone may not save the world, they contribute to a collective effort.
Do you teach? If so, where, and why do you find this role of imparting knowledge important?
Teaching opportunities have become rare for me since moving to Berlin, but I'm keen to return to it if given the chance. I have a deep personal and professional interest in pedagogy and education across all subjects and age groups. Growing up in a family of educators has undoubtedly influenced this interest.
While students today may be quite independent in acquiring knowledge, I believe interacting with a teacher remains essential. Personally, I find the process intellectually stimulating and fulfilling because it involves phases of listening, understanding, structuring, questioning, adapting, and providing feedback. Yet, what seems crucial to me is being a compassionate and reliable mentor: offering help without expectation, fostering critical thinking, and nurturing individual growth and practices.
On which typeface project are you currently working?
I released Borel as open-source on GitHub in 2023 and added it to Google Fonts. Being part of the contracted team made this integration relatively easy. Borel is a single-weight cursive font designed for primary school use, which I started during my time at the ANRT. I am currently expanding its scope into a comprehensive toolkit; incorporating features such as localised glyphs, diverse capital letter styles, multiple weights, and variation axes. I assume this project will keep me busy for quite some time!
by Rosalie Wagner