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More fonts by Martin Aleith
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I don‘t have a special interest in blackletter fonts! The GRATIS, however, is about my twelfth font, and I suppose passion is always the fuel for my font designs, no matter what the typographical color. Gee, did I really make another blackletter font?
Nowadays, blackletter families come in many modernist shapes with a huge variety of contemporary elements and styles. Would you agree that we are experiencing a renaissance of this typographic category? Or is it just a short time trend?
I don‘t believe blackletter fonts will be new and formative apart from their iconographical meaning in graphic design. However, every contemporary visual form of expression is part of a reincarnation. Today, calligraphic fonts are secretly very trendy, but ornaments in fully justified text will put an end to this era.
Did you study older or ancient alphabets to get familiar with blackletter designs or does your inspiration totally stem from another point of view?
My extensive preparations for GRATIS were dominated by ignoring all knowledge of the matter. There were no influential archetypes. My visual memory is of course a great charioteer, as reliable as Ben Hur, but I felt the necessity to innocently design something that already exists. I guess I use this method for all my creative output.
Many of your alphabets are designed for a personal purpose and later released for the public. Does Gratis also originate from a certain application or was it designed primarily for other designers and typographers?
There was no specific assignment for this font, so I came up with a purpose myself. I imagined that prior to an important match with the FC Zürich, the chief of a group of FC Basel ultras came to me, asking for a CI with logo, corporate type etc. for his organization. The briefing simply said: In our group, the fence flag is the centerpiece! Indeed, the game was going to happen the following weekend and out of town, so the deadline was too short notice and I had to decline.
Are you familiar with using black ink, a drawing pen, and classical handwriting & calligraphic techniques?
During my graphic design studies, writing with pen and ink was a required course. The master craftsman was tired of decades of teaching the matter and thus my euphoria for this kind of employment was quite limited. The exercises resembled punishment, just like writing your misconduct a thousand times on the blackboard. Though it probably wouldn‘t hurt to catch up on the skipped classes in more dedicated way. Just like one should freshen up his first-aid-skills every now and then.
Did you come across any favorite elements, while creating the letters, which you wish to repeat often as you can? Or was it more a mix of styles that influence the flow of Gratis?
My purpose was to find a stylistically compact and readable form for all letters by frequently repeating few but typical characteristics. Of course you can‘t sell an O for an A, but the repetitiveness of this typeface creates the actual appearance of GRATIS. For example, the apertures of the minor a and e were very good advisors for designing the minor k, x and y. Seriously!
Any letters you particularly struggled with and that troubled you a while to find the right shape, or was it more a done project in a couple of days?
Time wise, the design process was quite broken up. Sometimes the breaks lasted for days or even weeks. I was never in a hurry with this font. And it never felt hard to immerse myself into it again, since the general script is quite simple. Even the nasty characters were not a problem. They simply had to wait until they would show up by themselves.
Finally, you chose a funny name. Gratis means “free of charge” or “cost free”. When looking at the sample images, you play with the element of luring the people with a fake free offer, correct?
Technically, it would probably suffice to assign a barcode to a font and that‘s it. But fonts have a soul, they have the potential to become a brand and this implicitness only works with the right name. This kind of baptism is always a great treat for me. In my opinion, fonts are female and so their names must always be created with feminine associations. I don‘t like to invent new words. I insist on borrowing from existing vocabulary. Graphic designers remember words better that they already know. Additionally, there are always characters within the alphabet that are exceptionally well shaped, and these naturally have to be included in the name. And in the case of GRATIS, an expression unfolds whose arc of suspense is a bit larger than “50% off“!