I have two interlinked 'dirty little secrets'! The first is really shameful. I am a coronation street addict and do most of my drawing while indulging in what must be one of the ultimate in trash soaps! The second 'secret' is since 2004 I have been designing limited character typefaces (usually while watching corrie!) occasionally I will get as far as digitzing the characters but I don't have the talent, time (or inclination) to develop them into functional fonts. Ever so often one of my coronation street typeface's will have enough merit to make me think - these letterforms deserve to be released from their 5mm grid - I might revisit this someday!
Given my sketchy secrets it was with great excitement I read about FS Siena. A typeface that took 25 years to realise! Siena gives me hope that one day I will allow the time to further develop some of my TV soap sketches!
Fontsmith’s Jason Smith first started the design when he was in art school at the age of 18, (a much more respectable setting than on the couch infront of the TV) each form was drawn with a rotring pen on tracing paper before being filed away in the 'to-revisit-someday' pile until 18 months ago when he asked designer Krista Radoeva to finish it, and work on italics and additional weights.
"You can’t hurry a good typeface. All that sketching, drawing, honing, editing, balancing… Then there are the uppercase and italics to perfect, and different weights. Sometimes, it can take years. Few typefaces, though, would have been in gestation for quite as long as FS Siena!"
The result is an elegant contrasted sans serif which could comfortably grace a fashion magazine or luxury brand (often the domain of Didone styles). FS Siena is a contemporary take on typographic opulence!
With its strong, upright stance, contrasting strokes and blend of generous, classical proportions with modern, economical lines, FS Siena is tailor-made for the kind of high-end brands for whom heritage and modernity go hand-in-hand.
‘I’ve always wanted to do something with it,’ says Jason. ‘Phil Garnham (Jason’s co-director at FontSmith), has always rolled his eyes whenever I’ve mentioned it. But we see so much today that is samey. I wanted to bring some elegance back and develop a full set of weights that brands can use across a range of media, design and advertising.’
Contrasted sans faces first appeared in Roman inscriptions and can be seen in lettering from the Art Deco and Art Nouveau periods. They gained more prominent popularity in the 1950s, when designers such as Hermann Zapf, Jose Mendoza y Almeida and Enric Crous-Vidal started exploring the idea of sans serifs influenced by Roman inscriptional lettering. Their typefaces were all interpretations of classical models re-rendered with a modernist, sans serif sensibility.
When Jason first committed his typeface to paper 25 years ago, his starting points were Roman stone-carved lettering and the most celebrated contrasted sans typeface Optima designed by Hermann Zapf in the 1950s. Jason drew his own alphabet, instinctively adjusting the letterforms according to ‘what felt right’. Revisiting the letterforms over the last 18 months, he and Fontsmith designer Krista Radoeva were determined to preserve its subtle nonconformist and eclectic character.
The kind of contrasting thick and thin strokes once cut into stone have been honed and modernised, and given a Fontsmith twist. ‘With a contrasted sans,’ says Krista, ‘it’s about choosing the right balance of the letters together, rather than having all the letterforms following exactly the same pattern.’
‘The contrasted sans is a very unusual style,’ says Krista. ‘The eye expects to see a serif at the end of the thin stems so you need to compensate with the subtle curves and flares found in some letters and a little extra weight in the stroke endings of others. It’s something of an optical illusion.’
Befitting the faces prestigious pedigree and elegant style - Fontsmith commissioned a limited edition printed specimen which looks outstanding.
For use at text and display sizes. These styles have undoubtedly been a long time coming, but with its heady mix of elegance and quirky charm, FS Siena is worth the wait.