Dala Floda by Paul Barnes

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Published:  July 18, 2011
Dala Floda by Paul Barnes

Designer: Paul Barnes
Distribution: commercialtype.com
Category: Display Words

Commercial Type’s latest release is Dala Floda, a stencilled High Renaissance face designed by the foundry’s co-founder Paul Barnes. Familiar yet distinct, Barnes’ latest offering is indicative of what happens when a talented type designer is also an established graphic designer. Dala Floda first took shape in 1997 as a logotype and later appeared in frieze magazine in 2005 as a headline face. This comprehensive release sees it expanded to include an implausibly gorgeous italic (replete with swashes galore) and a breadth that swells from an elegant roman to a boisterous fat weight.

The stencilled letters of Dala Floda feel familiar yet exquisitely unique. Could you talk about what or who influenced the letterforms and logic of the typeface?
When I started what would become Dala Floda, it was a simple logo for an upmarket ceramics company. Initially, I was thinking about the stencil letters on wooden crates used for transporting china. I felt that the typical stencil forms, such as those used in The A-Team titles, were too dominant and that the French form was just overused. I wondered what a Granjon would look like in the 20th century if it were a stencil. Having spent some time studying gravestones, I also noticed how these forms deteriorate, whether it be through outdoor weathering or by being flagstones on a church floor. After Dala Floda was finished, I actually saw an article that showed hymn books that had been stencilled and looked like Dala Floda.

Dala Floda seems to convey a certain interest in contrasts: formality and informality, the past and present. In Dala Floda, one can see High Renaissance forms meeting low stencilling vernacular. How did you come to be interested in these tensions and how do you go about making these contrasts convincing?
I’ve always been influenced by the juxtaposition between the old and the new. The Yale Centre of British Art always influenced me – its modern Louis Kahn building showing British art from the past. It’s the contrast that I think really allows you to focus, the simplicity of the building against the complexity and richness of the art. In typography, Jan Tschichold’s work of the late 30s (Typographische Gestaltung for instance) is a good example of this. Mixing old typefaces like Garamond in modern dynamic asymmetrical layouts.

Your entry into type design and type founding has come about after having built a career as a graphic designer. What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of this experience and the ways it has informed your perspective on letterforms?
I guess I view typefaces as a graphic designer or art director. I tend to make typefaces that I would want to use. When I work with an art director I can better understand what they are looking for. Sometimes I miss the speed of graphic design or editorial design when I am working on a large type design project. My business partner Christian has the patience of a saint however so there is a good balance of working on different things.

 

Dala Floda is Commercial Type’s newest release, the last being Platform. These typefaces come after a slew of workhorse text faces. In what direction do you and your business partner, Christian Schwartz, intend to take the foundry and why?
When we started Commercial Type, I think we knew what the plan was: we knew what we would release over the next 18 months. When Berton Hasebe joined the company, he brought his own ideas, one of which resulted in Platform. Currently, we are working on new designs, which have been formed in part from the experience of the first year. I think all of us realise that it’s a balancing act: you need workhorse typefaces that can be used all the time, and then some display typefaces, which are more affected by fashion. But from a designer’s point of view, we really enjoy doing both and I think one refreshes the other.

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