I earn my living as a book and document designer; I spend 2-3 days each week typesetting, so it won't come as a surprise to you that I get excited about a well-crafted text face.
It is not that I don't appreciate the display faces - they are critical to grab attention and add emphasis - but I truly believe how you say something informs and enriches what you are saying. So delivering text in the right typeface is essential to a documents success.
Tuna is a recently released typeface built for body text. It is friendly, energetic, modern and precise.
The designers (Felix Braden and Alex Rütten) took great care in ensuring it suited both print and screen outputs and took a contemporary approach to the design development. Blending broad-nibbed calligraphic charm with a precise geometry to achieve a comfortable reading experience at text sizes.
Well defined horizontal elements are key to the face's legibility, they enhance the ability of the reader to track the line of type. White space is critical too, with large counters and wide apertures Tuna has a generous x-height in comparison with the proportion of the typeface’s ascenders and descenders providing individualised (and easily recognisable) glyphs.
“Too many details blur the appearance in common reading font sizes; they interfere with the basic letter form, which is important for identifying the character quickly – simplicity works to benefit the word image.”
At the larger display sizes, Tuna's more distinctive and vivid details reveal themselves making Tuna great for both grabbing and holding the reader's attention.
The designers masterfully used a visual language of “Squared roundness' to ensure the curves fit neatly into the pixel grid. This is a bottoms up (technology influenced) design consideration reminiscent of luminaries Matthew Carter and Wim Crouwell approach to type design.
Each writing tool creates characteristic shapes. Tuna’s geometry is influenced by a broad nib pen held at a steep angle. This classic analogue origin is a perfect fit for digital outputs because as the weight distributes the vertical and horizontal strokes are almost equal allowing elements to be mapped more accurately on the pixel grid.
Tuna has a manually optimised TrueType Hinting (by Jan Gerner - aka. Yanone) special care was given to the font sizes 9-14pt, and Tuna's character is retained and constant in any environment and size.
Felix and Alex describe the typeface as 'Bubbling, strong, but very accurate.” With more than 700 glyphs in 10 styles, Tuna is well suited to complex and diverse written material. The lighter weights have a fluidity, and the italics almost dance, the heavier weights feel dependable and authoritative, and the family as a whole is a triumph, it would serve a designer well in both editorial and branding settings.
I asked the duo to tell us a little more about their collaboration and process developing Tuna.
Hi Felix and Alex, First of all, huge congratulations on Tuna's release. It is an extraordinary typeface! Can you tell us a little about how your collaboration came about?
Felix: We vaguely knew each other from our student days - we both studied at the University of Applied Sciences in Trier. Years later we met by chance at a design conference in Berlin and found out that we were both interested in type design. Since then we have often exchanged our latest designs and asked for each others opinion. So when I ended in deadlock with my first design approach for Tuna – it was very rational and looked a little bit stiff – I asked Alex for help.
Alex: I was happy to have a mate to have some nice chats about type design with and to get feedback on designs as well. When Felix showed me his typeface in the early phase, I liked the idea, but saw the difficulties and wanted to help. I changed the design a lot, but left the basic skeleton and proportions.
“What is special about Tuna is that we merged our different type design approaches into one harmonious result.”
Throughout the design, you lived in different countries (Felix in Cologne and Alex in Berlin) so you described your collaboration like a game of ping-pong! How did being separated while working help or hinder the design?
Felix: The positive aspect of this form of collaboration is that you have time to think about your corrections and suggestions. Type design is a very time-consuming task so most designers are very sensitive when their work is criticised. The temporal distance between examining and talking about the design helps to act in a respectful way.
Alex: I love working in a close process and peering over someones shoulder as they work. But getting feedback and looking at Felix changes in attachments was also a big plus within the process – you get blind so fast in designing a typeface.
“Collaboration is fun for me – and it is a big plus for the design too. Going through all that process by yourself can be quite painful.”
Individually, you have a number of highly successful typefaces under your belt, as established designers was Tuna still a learning process for you? And if so what did you learn from the typeface, the process, and/or from one-another?
Felix: In the past I worked together with foundries and great font technicans, for example Christoph Köberlin who did the mastering for FF Scuba. With Tuna we programmed the opentype features by ourselfs – Alex did most of the coding. For me it was the first time to see a typeface as a software and not just as a design object. I have learned to trust helpful stuff like RMX tools and I have learned that it is better to leave some work to the professionals – so we put the true type hinting in the hands of Jan Gerner.
Alex: If you need a lot of software to do your work then you are always in a learning process, aren´t you? I have gotten a little lazy these days – never change a working setup.
The lessons I learned from Tuna:
- Don´t switch to the computer to early; you will loose so much time and fun!
- Start using the font files in all sorts of applications and designs very early; that will show you the truth about the qualities of your design!
What do you believe is the most critical design characteristic in ensuring Tuna preformed well in print and pixels?
Felix: I think the most important characteristic is consistency. We drew all letterforms with the idea in mind of avoiding classical “danger zones”. The rendering of hairlines, for example, needs no corrections if they are already strong enough. Because of that no changes to letterforms are needed even at small sizes, and the character of the font is retained and stays very much the same in any environment and size.
Alex: After all that work I think the individuality of the letterforms is the key. Other aspects, like stroke contrast or large counters, are important, but seem to have less influence on the legibility. No matter whether you are optimizing for screen or print.
Which of the weights (or styles) proved the most challenging to design?
Felix: Tuna is interpolated by only four masters – two for the italics and two for the uprights. So we drew all styles in one step and I can not exactly say which style was the most challenging. Probably the heavier weights needed more corrections: Because of the horizontal emphasis, letters like a and e (with 3 horizontal strokes within the x-height) created difficulties with the white space and had to be corrected a lot of times.
Alex: As far as I am concerned it´s always the heavy weights that drive me nuts. Especially on on the computer screen. That is definitely a process where I switch over to drawing on paper. You need a very very good sense for stroke contrast and curvatures. A heavy weight font can make an amazing impression on me – if its cut by a designer with great skills.
What personality traits do you identify with Tuna? And how would you love to see Tuna used?
Felix: I think Tuna is a very functional typeface and I would love to see it in a cross-media environment: For example a book publisher looking for a single typeface for e-pub and printed books as well.
Alex: For me, Tuna is a lively and friendly font. The individuality of the letterforms makes it very legible in texts and exciting in headlines. I do not really see Tuna on gravestones or techno-party-flyers - I see it in cross-media as well - as a corporate font, in magazines and newspapers, in online and offline publishing.
And what is next for you as individuals (or as a collaboration?) what projects have you moved onto since tuna's release?
Felix: As Alex already said, collaboration was a lot of fun. So we will probably publish more typefaces in cooperation. At the moment I am working on a large rational serif family with optical sizes inspired by Scotch and British typefaces of the late 18th century. In my spare time I started with the printing of wood engravings and I very much enjoy working with my hands instead of a computer. It must be great fun to cut a typeface with carving tools in a woodplate…
Alex: I am almost finished with a new typedesign, which is a monospaced font with triangular serifs. It´s interesting because there isn´t much in that direction yet. And it´s comfortable because the task is not as complex as the design of tuna for example. I really liked the design when I drew the first sketches and I handed it over to Felix, but the spark just didn’t kindle with him… so I will publish it by myself in the next few months on our foundry ligature inc.
When the right design pops up, I am sure Felix and I will continue our cooperation-game.
Felix Braden (above) is a graphic designer living in Cologne. He studied communication design at the Trier University of Applied Sciences with Prof. Andreas Hogan and worked with Jens Gehlhaar at Gaga Design. He co-founded Glashaus Design, is art director at MWK Cologne and works as a freelance type designer. In 2000, he founded the free font foundry Floodfonts and designed numerous free typefaces which are available as webfonts via Typekit. His commercial fonts are distributed by FontShop International (FF Scuba), Myfonts (Capri, Sadness, Grimoire), URW++ (Supernormale) and Volcanotype (Bikini). His most recent release FF Scuba is one of the winners of the Communication Arts’ Typography Annual 2013, and was a honorable mention in Typographica’s Favorite Typefaces of 2012, in Typefact’s Best Fonts of 2012, in FontShop’s Best Types 2012, and in Typecache’s other favorite typefaces of 2012 Design.
Alex Rütten (above) is typeface- and interface designer and partner of the berlin based design studio Formsport. He also studied communication design at the University of Applied Sciences in Trier. After graduation he worked as a freelance graphic designer and later as an art director for several design agencies. In 2002 he moved to Berlin, where he mainly worked as a developer for interactive applications and as editor-designer. His typefaces are available through Linotype and FontShop International. 2009 he won the TDC Award for his first typeface “Ginkgo” and 2011 for “Suhmo”. In 2010 “Ginkgo” was also nominated for the German Design Award.
Connect with Alex at: http://formsport.de