Exclusive Interview: TypeTogether Releases Tablet Gothic

by jfjudah

There are many incredible type foundries — Underware, House Industries, Village, Type Jockeys, and so many others — and TypeTogether is at the top of my list. They consistently impress, breathing new life into familiar categories.

As background, TypeTogether is the two-person company co-founded and run by Veronika Burian and José Scaglione, both graduates from the University of Reading with MAs in Type Design. According to Tiffany Wardle’s “Female Type Designers” entry on Typophile, Veronika has more than ten type family attributions — three other women are tied with her and only four have more type families than she. This is far more than impressive since TypeTogether has only been in existence since 2006.

TypeTogether focuses on typefaces for editorial use: magazines, newspapers, fine book type, and on the web. Skolar, Bree, Adelle, and Ronnia are four of their most popular families, and with good reason. They are modern, they work well in all mediums, and they have a special ability to charm the eye.

For instance, only a few days ago TypeTogether released a new editorial family, Tablet Gothic.

Tablet Gothic by TypeTogether

Tablet Gothic comes in an astounding 42 styles — seven weights in each of six widths — guaranteeing that, whatever the publication format is, there’s a Tablet Gothic font that will do the job and perform well both technically and aesthetically. TypeTogether says the wide, normal, and narrow widths produce a beautiful texture and highly readable text blocks at small sizes. The almost-vertical axis is one of the keys that allows the family to come in a wide range of weights without losing its signature look.

Weights of Tablet Gothic by TypeTogether

Weights and Widths of Tablet Gothic by TypeTogether

Tablet Gothic Widths in Bold

Tablet Gothic Widths in Bold

Notice the subtle line that angles up and to the right throughout a line. This quality, harnessed so well in Jos Buevenga’s Calluna, pushes the reader’s eye through the line and on to the next. It is especially noticeable in Tablet Gothic’s semibold weights and heavier since the terminals have more definition and are a large part of this visual propulsion.

Tablet Gothic Sample 3 by TypeTogether

Tablet Gothic Sample 3 by TypeTogether

Speaking of propulsion, TypeTogether granted me an interview about Tablet Gothic and their perspective on type design.

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Josh Farmer: Thanks for talking with me today, Veronika.

TypeTogether: My pleasure.

JF: You’ve just released the personable Tablet Gothic family. What was the inspiration behind it?

TT: We wanted to design a sans serif workhorse for extensive editorial use and give our recently released text family Abril a good companion. Our initial inspiration came from early grotesque designs in Britain and Germany. However, we didn’t want a revival, but a typeface that looks to the future of publishing with a clear understanding of its history. As always, our focus was on functionality while allowing a good measure of personality at the same time.

JF: For readers who do not know, what is a grotesque model and what is so appealing about it? Can you give examples of other grotesques you like?

TT: Grotesques are the early sans serif typefaces from the beginning of 19th century. To the eyes of the public at that time, a typeface without serifs looked odd and unfamiliar, so the name grotesque came about. They are quirky, quite ugly, and disproportionate to our eyes today, but that is what gives them a certain charm. They are much less regularised than static sans serifs like Helvetica. New typefaces modeled on the old grotesques, however, are usually stylised and adapted to the needs and tastes of today. One of the most famous grotesques is Akzidenz-Grotesk. A newer version I like is Kris Sowersby’s National by Klim Type Foundry.

JF: What characters did you begin with for Tablet Gothic and was there a specific reason behind those choices?

TT: We usually start with so-called control characters: the lowercase n, o, a, c, p, and the capital H and O. They set the proportions, stem thickness, and contrast. Most of the other letters are derived from these.

JF: Do you feel there is certain glyph which sums up Tablet Gothic’s voice, and why or why not?

TT: The most distinctive letter in the alphabet is always the lowercase a and sometimes the k and s. They are the most complex ones that a designer can play with to set the tone for the typeface.

Weights of Tablet Gothic by TypeTogether

Tablet Gothic Sample by TypeTogether

JF: Tablet Gothic has 42 total styles. How long did the family take you to complete?

TT: Actually, it took us only about four months from the start of the idea.

JF: That’s quite a fast pace. How do you accomplish such a wide range of work in such a short amount of time?

TT: We worked extensively with the multiple-master technology and two interpolation axes: weight and width. This facilitates the process quite a lot, but with 42 fonts everything gets a bit more complicated, and we had outside help with the kerning.

JF: What tools (software and hardware) are necessary for your such a fast workflow?

TT: We work with Fontlab, Superpolator, and Prepolator. As far as hardware, we have several Mac workstations and good A4 laser printers.

JF: How do you know when a typeface is finished and ready to release to the public?

TT: When we are happy with the quality of the shapes, the whole character set is drawn, spacing and kerning are done, and all the other necessary post-production is finished.

Tablet Gothic Sample Mix

Tablet Gothic Sample Mix

JF: When will the web version of Tablet Gothic be released and where can fans go to buy it?

TT: Within a few weeks, I think. It will be on Typekit, Fontdeck, and WebINK.

JF: How do you decide which type designs to pursue and which to wait on?

TT: Well this is not as straightforward as you might think; many factors play a role here.

JF: You’ve partnered with Wolfgang Homola, David Březina, and others to release their designs through TypeTogether. What do you look for in a new typeface? Is there a certain aesthetic or certain values the design or the designer should have to become part of the TypeTogether catalog?

TT: Quality is one thing and the design should fit into our font library. We also look for aesthetic values that we like or think would be interesting to our customers.

JF: What advice would you give to a graphic artist who is quite interested in type design?

TT: Go and look at old manuscripts, letterpress books; trace the shapes of the typefaces you like most; give calligraphy a try to experience where the letter shapes come from; read about typography and type design; take part in a workshop . . .

JF: What new typefaces or expansions do you have coming up?

TT: Adelle Sans, Adelle Cyrillic, Soleil Italics, Eskapade Fraktur, Bree Serif, and the 42 matching italic weights of Tablet Gothic, which will be coming very soon.

JF: You all are incredibly busy, so thanks again for taking time to discuss Tablet Gothic and TypeTogether. Can’t wait to see your newest family in use and to see what else you have in store.

TT: You’re welcome.

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If you like the samples TypeTogether made, grab the free semi-condensed extrabold weight of Tablet Gothic. Just add the correct weight to your cart and use the coupon code ba9daa9d when you check out.

With another superfamily under their collective belts — Ronnia has 28 weights, Karmina Sans and Adelle both have 12, Abril has 8 text styles and 12 display styles — José and Veronika could be excused if they took a short break. But their release calendar for the near future is looking quite nice, with several strong families preparing for their time in the spotlight.

As far as creating typefaces that are highly functional and carry a distinct voice, TypeTogether’s impact in six short years been stunning. And their effect on the way we read and feel text, as well as its myriad expressions, is only beginning.