Gerben Dollen - typemafia.com
Dutch type designer Gerben Dollen studied graphic design in Groningen in the Netherlands. An exchange program at the California College of the Arts piqued his interest in typeface design and led him to the University of Reading, UK, where he completed an MA in Typeface Design in 2007. Working from his graphic and type design studio, Type Mafia, in Amsterdam, Gerben has recently released his contemporary sans serif typeface family, Actium.
Where did the name of the typeface come from and what is its significance?
In my opinion, a name should meet quite a few requirements. It needs to consist of some letters that reflect the typeface’s personality, look good as a word and, of course, it should sound nice as well. At first I had another name in mind for Actium, but the pronunciation didn’t match the typeface’s character.
What inspired the design of your typeface?
Hard to say, really. I started the design while I was a student at the University of Reading. That year was like being in a roller coaster all the time: new experiences because I lived abroad, seeing and analysing lots of typefaces and other related typography and design at the university, field trips, lectures, regular visits to London during weekends, new music and food. However, there is one thing that has a clear root because of my time in England: Smart Capo, an OpenType feature to deal with alphanumeric situations in which capital letters are combined with old-style numerals.
What was the first character you designed and why?
There wasn’t really a certain first character I drew; however, as part of the MA in Typeface Design we were supposed to draw the letters ‘adhesion’ first and iterate them to a certain level before adding other characters. This brief set of letters enables rapid development and testing of a new typeface’s basic proportions and features.
Is it important for a typeface to have a few distinctive characters to make it more memorable?
I’m not sure if a typeface really needs a few distinctive characters; sometimes you can’t, if it is a modest design. On the other hand, not all characters need to be distinctive on their own. The group performance precedes the individual; it is a system, a team, so some glyphs need to be adapted to make it fit.
What do you see as the typeface’s ideal uses?
I have seen it used in a few books, some technical literature and a tattoo. I would like to see it used more widely for signage, wayfinding and corporate identities.
Many type designers seem interested in designing new display typefaces, but are text typefaces more challenging to design?
I find designing text typefaces more challenging than designing display faces, because text faces require stricter criteria. Options are more limited, because they need to be read easily in longer passages at small sizes. So it actually is quite a conventional field. Also, there is already a lot done, so finding new approaches in this area that differ from all other typefaces really interests me. You are most likely not designing just a single weight, but a family with multiple weights and styles and it is challenging to make them belong to each other. It’s a chellenge that they portray the same identity/personality when they are so different in weight.
Thumbnail image: Medium Italic.
From desktop magazine.