1987, Thiais, France
How did you get involved with typeface design? What led you to this practice?
Initially, I studied Graphic Design at the École supérieure d’arts appliqués of Bourgogne, and then at the École européenne supérieure d’art of Brittany. After that I chose to specialize in Typeface Design and decided to pursue my training at the École supérieure d’art et de design of Amiens and then in the Atelier national de recherche typographique (ANRT).
What influences you? Are there typeface designers whose work you appreciate in particular?
On one hand, I would say that I am attracted to projects which question the objectivity of the typographic form. Kai Bernau’s Neutral or Kris Sowersby’s Untitled highlight precisely one of the paradoxes of Typeface Design: the creation of a new form which appears to be “transparent”.
On the other hand, I have a real admiration for all of the typographic creations of the 18th century. I appreciate the typographic color of these transitional designs that I find to be very particular. Among the punch-cutters for whom I have a real admiration, I could mention Jacques-François Rosart, Philippe Grandjean, Joann Michael Fleischman and Pierre-Simon Fournier the younger.
As a graphic designer, I am also interested in more experimental projects which question the limits of the typographic sign by subjecting them to systems of construction. Karl Nawrot’s various experiments to do with the creation of normographs or the generative project Sign-generator by studio Norm are notable examples of this.
In your opinion, what is the point of creating a new typeface when so many already exist?
Most of the time, I begin to design a typeface in the context of a Graphic Design project that I’m working on, where I haven’t been able to find what I’m looking for in existing type families. And so I create my own tools. As each project has a quite particular context, this naturally leads me to quite specific typographic forms.
In other cases, my Type Design projects begin with a concept for a family of typefaces. My attention is not necessarily focused on the design of a style, but more-so on the relationships that exist, and on the tensions that emerge from the confrontation of the latter within the same layout.
It is through the assertion of these relationships that, little by little, I manage to define my different designs.
Is it really possible to create something new in the field of typeface design?
I am convinced that this is the case, as developments in technology and new uses of reading allow new needs to emerge. What’s more, the democratization of tools for creating typefaces leads new people – with different points of view – to tackle this design exercise. The possibility of being able to create a typeface relatively rapidly has changed its economy, and it is not rare to be in a position to create a customized font for a small scale graphic design project, whereas in the past this would have been quite an unrealistic endeavor.
How do you begin work on a new typeface? Do you have a particular process?
I don’t believe that there is any specific recipe to which I adhere.
Because, often, the need to create a new typeface arises in the context of the commission of a graphic design creation, it is in this back and forth between graphic language and type design that I feel most at ease.
What interests me most about type design corresponds to the creation of a particular optical appearance, of a reading experience in effect.
What is your relationship with the history of typography? What is your relationship with technology?
I am quite sensitive to the modern history of typography, where typography moves away from notions of ductus and appears as a construction. This concept obviously evokes the typography of the early 20th century designed by the avant-gardes, however the relationship with characters created in the 18th century also interests me greatly. I like the contradiction which emanates from a construction of utopian letters, on principle outside of any scriptural tradition, and yet still part of the linear history of typography. The graphic impact which is generated by the brutality of these characters is of particular interest to me.
In the context of my previous commissioned projects, up to this point technology has served as a tool to develop and accompany my work. I have more of a tendency to exploit and develop more experimental tools in the context of my personal research. The research project Re-typographe, which I began at ANRT, in partnership with a team of researchers in the field of applied mathematics, is an example of this. We sought to develop a semi-automatic tool for analysis of ancient books. The observation of historical documents through the prism of technology allows me to look at canonic typographical forms from a different angle.
Why have you chosen to distribute your characters and typefaces with 205TF?
The Kelvin family might appear atypical if one bases one’s point of view on the usual standards of development of contemporary typographical creations. The relationship that exists between the different styles of Kelvin is not a common one: it is not a question of variations of forms based on the same structure, but rather distinct designs which can only be considered to belong to the same family because they share similar values. It was then for me primordial to conserve the concept which serves as a basis for the construction of the Kelvin family, something that 205TF understood and supported.
Do you think that typography can save the world?
Typeface Design is intimately connected to language, which gives it a particular status. A typographic character can invest any type of domain and any type of medium where there is a message that needs to be spread. But the creation of new typefaces was often connected to much more ambitious projects. For example, the creation of Romain du Roi, at the end of the 17th century, was part of an editorial project which described the arts and trades of that time. This typeface family reflected the ideological and technological achievement of the intentions carried by the publication.
On a much more modest level I would say that typography is an expressive tool of language. Used judiciously, it allows one to specify a discourse and to convey one’s intentions, thus allowing a more precise communication between emitter and receiver of a message.
Do you teach? If so, where, and why does this role of transmission seem important to you?
I work in different schools (Ésad — Reims, Ésaab — Nevers, Ésal — Épinal) in the form of workshops. Depending on the curriculum and its goals, I propose interventions in typeface design or graphic design. As quickly as possible, I create hybrid projects where the question of typography is dealt with both on the level of the sign and of composition.
What type design project are you currently working on?
My days alternate between macroscopic and microscopic tasks. I am currently woking on a family of typefaces for the visual identity of a museum in Paris, while at the same time continuing to work on graphic design projects. I also set aside some time to consider and think about new typeface design projects.