Innovative in its design - revolutionary in its approach to specimen FS Industrie is a remarkable new adaptive type system from Fontsmith.

Industrie is a technological bridge, at a pivotal period in type design this ambitious system is crafted by hand and yet is on the leading edge of digital development. The type specimen reflects this by connecting “our industrial past to our technological future, combining traditional and more recent production methods, and pushing the limits of what’s currently possible.”

The design industry has been abuzz with the potential of variable fonts since they were first introduced 2 years ago. Yet this new technology is still finding its feet. FS Industrie began with the Fontsmith design team asking some fundamental questions about the future of type and technology. Fontsmith’s type design director (and FS Industrie co-designer) Phil Garnham provides some context around the new release: “We are on the cusp of a new age in digital typeface design where the ability to vary a font’s weight and width axis offers limitless possibilities to graphic designers within any given space.” But this technology depends on new fonts, new rendering engines, browsers and design tools, “all working together to deliver on the promise offered by variable type. Until that happens, FS Industrie shows us the future.”

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Designed by Phil Garnham and Fernando Mello, each width and weight is drawn by hand. “Variable type requires both a systematic approach and a focus on craft. Terminals that are closed in the condensed glyphs open out in the wider widths. The design adapts as it moves across the system, ensuring each variant can play to its unique strengths while also pairing perfectly with its siblings.”

FS Industrie was created with supreme flexibility and adaptibility in mind, with 70 styles over 5 different widths and 7 weights + italics the system is truly vast. Industrie could be Fontsmith's most ambitious project yet, (they are continually raising the bar), so much of the work out of this formidable independant foundry is at the very leading edge of contemporary type design.

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To accompany this extensive system, Fontsmith decided to launch with an equally ambitious campaign, to do this they collaborated with UK/Canada-based design studio Believe in®. The creative team wanted to mirror the variable nature of FS Industrie. This led to 1000 unique type specimens being created, each one personal to its recipient. Each of the printed specimens have been customised using variable data.  The content was generated through an online survey completed by over 400 creative professionals.

The survey results were then used to prepare personalised type specimens that would show off the flexibility and versatility of the typeface. Some results are visualised as statistics within the specimen, highlighting FS Industrie’s strength when handling technical data. Also included are more qualitative responses, such as opinions on where design is heading, or what the greatest challenges facing the industry are.

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Fontsmith founder Jason Smith said: “The survey was originally intended to provide content for the specimen, but it has also proved to be fascinating in its own right, offering some real insights into the views held by our customers and users.”

Each cover has the recipient’s name laser cut into it using a ‘punched card’ alphabet, with the apertures revealing a limited edition letterpress print designed by one of 10 studios from around the world, who was given the full set of fonts and a different coloured stock, and asked to create a single piece of artwork. These were then letterpress printed, with 170 hand-numbered editions of each design produced.

Believe in’s creative director Blair Thomson said: “The idea behind the campaign connects our industrial past to our technological future, combining traditional and more recent production methods, and pushing the limits of what’s currently possible. So many type specimens are designed to be seen but not read, we wanted to create something more interesting and engaging for our audience.”

An additional 200 generic versions of the specimen were created, half of which will be made available for sale on the Fontsmith website next week.

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