The Typeface: Tasman

Published:  June 21, 2011
Stephen Banham
The Typeface: Tasman

Dan Milne

Newspaper serif

A new generation of Australian type designers are emerging. Although they may still need to study abroad for an education in pure type design, they are returning to our shores to foster a multitude of Australian typographic voices. Here, we speak with one of them, Dan Milne.

What is the reason for Tasman?
Tasman was conceived as my final project while completing a masters in type design at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague.

I hoped to design a functional general purpose type family and decided to design a typeface for newspapers to provide some realistic constraints and a clear brief for the project. Typefaces for newspapers have to be compact, neutral and sturdy and their intended purpose poses many interesting typographic challenges.

What inspired its design?
One major source of inspiration for Tasman was the relatively recent redesign of The Guardian newspaper in the UK. Newspaper designers worked closely with type designers Paul Barnes and Christian Schwartz to develop new layouts and exclusive type families, both serif and sans serif, specifically designed for use with The Guardian’s new printing presses. The Guardian typefaces are a stunning example of type designed for a particular purpose and of the potency of the custom typeface as a branding tool.

Were there particular precedents that you built on?
Early in the design process, I conducted some basic research into existing typefaces used in newspapers around the world – their proportions, economy, typographic requirements and personalities. While living in The Netherlands I was surrounded by newspapers set in the typefaces of Dutch designers Fred Smeijers (Arnhem) and Gerard Unger (Swift, Gulliver, Coranto, Capitolium). I was inspired by their news typefaces, which are at the same time beautiful and functional.

What do you ultimately intend to do with the typeface?
Tasman will be released later this year by OurType, a type foundry based in Belgium. It will begin as small text family with plans to expand to include extra weights and compact styles intended for headlines. I would be delighted if it made its way into some newspapers.

What problems did you experience and how did you overcome them?
Designing a type family for a newspaper posed a number of challenges. News text is heavy with capitalised facts and figures, proper nouns and acronyms, which pepper the text with an unusually high proportion of uppercase letters. If capital letters are large compared to lowercase, they tend to create uneven ‘colour’ in the text and disturb the flow of the reader.

Typefaces intended for news require a certain personality. They deliver the news, which can be serious, joyous and catastrophic on the same page. When designing Tasman, I aimed to keep the personality as warm and playful as possible without losing the tone required to deliver all kinds of news.

What inspired the name Tasman?
The letterforms draw strongly on the Dutch school of type design – shapes inspired by calligraphy and the writing theories of Gerrit Noordzij (a typography theorist). The name ‘Tasman’, after Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, feels as Australian as it does Dutch and therefore seems apt for a typeface designed by an Australian while living in The Netherlands.

All images copyright Dan Milne.

From desktop magazine.

2 Responses

  1. If ‘The Age’ does not adopt this typeface immediately, I am going to cancel my subscription.

  2. Very nice typface with a great range of questions by Stephen.

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