I thought it might be useful to describe the beginnings and development of my type founding and my way of becoming a type-designer out of a graphic designer. In 1991 I ended up my studies on the AAAD in Prague in the studio of prof. Jan Solpera. In those times my colleagues, young Czech graphic designers, and I witnessed the end of the analogue era in all parts of design. We used to hand our final layouts to a client or a printing factory as paper reflective collage or just outline drawing. When scans were needed, each slide had to be put in a transparent jacket marked by desired size and crop commands. When it comes to typography, we were limited to a short font list of a specific printer. The typefaces in phototypesetting technology were usually poorly rendered revivals of classical originals, whereas the display typefaces on matrices used in titling units were slightly better. These were built on the principle of a photographic magnifier machine, where the letters were placed on a negative strip. Staromat and Starlettograph were the names of the precious German instruments I was lucky to own for some time. Letters were exposed on photographic paper previously "activated" by liquid developer in order to show the picture immediately after exposition. Designing a book, poster or musical cover was not only exciting work, but also a mysterious experience under the amber light in the silence of a darkroom.
After the collapse of the iron curtain, computers arrived to our eastern territory, but with primitive typographic tools and renderings of typefaces back then were suddenly many steps backward in comparison to previous phototypesetting technology not to mention the wonderful letterpress even earlier. The resolution of first laserprinters brought unacceptable deformations to text-sized letters and the reading experience was horrible not only to the trained eye of a typographer but for ordinary readers too. The only fun to be had at the time came from when designing fanzines or posters in combination with hand-drawn lettering, xeroxed pictures and collages of all kinds. The serious work arrived soon with Adobe standards such a postscript technology.
In 1993 I bought my first computer called "Apple Macintosh IIvi", soon after upgraded to the stellar Quadra 650 with 8 megabytes of RAM. Naturally, it had poor system fonts. The choice of commercial fonts and software was limited not only to my budget, but more importantly to non-existent or poor Czech diacritics. If I was able to fix them on my own, why couldn't I design a whole original typeface? There was a company importing Mac computers called "Macron" where my friends were employed, working on "localization" of Adobe Type Libraray. I'd like to mention Martin Pruška, Martin Klimeš and Ota Karlas, who directed the art and aesthetics. I soon managed to learn FontStudio (by Letraset) which lasted as a great tool for my work till 2003 when I switched to FontLab4, the first usable version of it.
The nature of digital type is a regular grid and mathematical curve modelled by strict coordinates, and its cold and precise rendering was my first impression on digital type. I wondered how to make the digital outline more human and how to incorporate the subtle mistakes which gave the letterpress its warm feel. At the same time I desperately needed some good typefaces for my own designs. These circumstances resulted in my concentration on type revivals, to whose I devoted for about ten years. My first serious typefaces were: Regent inspired by baroque prints, Mramor designed as a narrow style to Roman Capitals and Bahnhof - Art-deco lettering type.
In early nineties there were no Czech typefaces nor a digital foundry, who could digitize the masterpieces of our national typographic tradition. In 1995 I met Josef Týfa and digitized his famous Antikva, which encountered an immediate success among Czech and worldwide designers, it was included in the ITC catalogue as well. I realized that it's the right time to digitize Preissig, Tusar, Rathouský and Solpera's works too, and so I did. Long years spent on digitizing other’s designs were not considered lost time but a wonderful learning experience. I'd never be able to create my later large type families without the know-how earned at work with my older colleagues. A special section in my revival chapter is the classical trefoil Jannon - Baskerville - Walbaum. I needed these typical representatives of the world's best book typefaces as I believe that Latin typeface is our cultural link to history. For a while I've been experimenting with classicistic, 19th century and "bad-taste" typography, Splendid Quartett. Hercules and Negro were my designs associated with steam age. I needed to strengthen the roots before I could offer fruits in form of contemporary typefaces. My first original serif design was Serapion and Mediaeval form 1997, both based on Jannon, later on followed by their sans-serif counterparts. Anselm type system was another step in this path.
Type systems are another phenomenon brought by technology. When complaining about computers for their "rectangular" soul and damage to our eyes, tendons and spine when working too much, we shall mention one fantastic option for today's design: the interpolation. Suddenly I have five or eight cuts out of just two actually made. Separate fonts come perfectly graded when outlines are matched. I can control their weight and optical size with precision. I'm still impressed by this function since the very beginning in FontStudio back in 1993. Some users may find 70-font systems confusing, but today's imaging requirements are far more demanding than those in the age of metal and paper. We print fonts at a thousand times wider size range, on all possible materials and textures, hence the font must be carefully tuned for its purpose. Superfamilies are also more attractive for the creator as well as the users, and even if you use just two or three fonts out of some 125, the feel of personal decision is important. We all enjoy the magic of large families' specimens when black and white print induces an illusion of colour. Fine scaling from white to black is like a small creek growing to big river, silent bubbling slowly getting strength into a deafening stream. My first superfamily was DynaGrotesk, originally made in Fontographer as Multiple Master font. As this technology never earned mass popularity, it ended up as 50-styles family with Cyrillics, Greek and SmallCaps. Such scheme should be obvious for all serious typefaces in order to cover all Latin and East-European languages, and became standard at Storm Type Foundry.
A special chapter in my career is creating of custom fonts either upon order of a large company or for a friend who runs a non-profit activity. In both cases my attitude is same: a tailored, visually coordinated font can take over the function of a logo, which is, after all, set with that typeface. I don't make any difference between small and big jobs: be it a matchbox label or a global advertising company. The result is always determined by the functionality and emotional impact: custom fonts give a unique identity impossible to get with stock fonts. Best custom fonts are made when the designer can identify with the product - good breweries and restaurants are among our favourites.
Type design in present digital age is already recognized as sovereign and serious occupation and there is no sign of overcrowding of fonts in the world so far. On the contrary – fresh and new typefaces are always welcome. Creating fonts can't be separated from graphic design, font makers are often good artists and illustrators. The aesthetics are still the same no matter what shapes and degree of complexity it uses. Typefaces have their souls much like drawings, paintings or music. Latin alphabet is nothing but a composition of fine-tuned elements, orchestrated with passion. The strongest imperative in today's design is originality, and as there are thousands of indistinguishable fonts out there, we should ask for unique typefaces. A personal artistic expression of graphic design is equal to that of any freelanced art.
František Štorm, January 2015