Regular readers will know I am a sucker for a well-cut contemporary revival of classic style, so it will be no surprise that PampaType's latest release - a commission for The Universidad Nacional de Córdoba in Argentina, recently caught my eye.
As you might expect, when designing something new for an institution with a 400-year legacy it makes sense that you'd look to towards historical forms. After 3 years in development - ‘Reforma’, is a multi-form family (spanning type genre) with diverse styles.
Marking 100 years since the University Reform, the organisation asked a lot of this typeface, specifically they required the form to convey;
2. Intellectual heritage
4. Libre availability
The word ‘university’ comes from the Latin voice universus meaning ‘whole, entire’. The acceptance of multiple voices, that is ‘plurality’, is a quintessential value to democracy, and moreover to the life of an educational institution.
The PampType creative team felt strongly that this diversity would be best expressed through the articulation of, not a single style, but a family of different styles. Which in turn helped address the versatility criteria.
From outset they began with the formation of a skeleton that could embody different muscle modulations. Therefore enabling a wide range of type styles, to be fleshed out with or without strokes contrast, with or without serifs, while the different styles had the same proportion and spirit.
2. Intellectual heritage
To represent the institutions 400 years of academic contribution PampaType sought to re-interpret classic Roman letterforms, sober and dignified, but undeniably human to embue the historic forms with a sense of true friendliness.
The typeface had to preform across a wide variety of applications, in the sense of supports (transferring methods, printing technics, screens) as well as tones (style voices, reading atmospheres), so the resulting design is composed of three subfamilies from classic serif to modern sanserif
4. Libre availability
In line with the policy of national education in Argentina: public, open, and free, the typeface Reforma designed for the UNC shall be freely available as libre fonts under a Creative Commons license that allows for any sort of use, private or professional, except the modification of the original design. (Yes, you can learn more, and download and use this exquisite font for free).
Balancing personality and serenity
Being both a letter artist and a sculptor, Eric Gill understood wisely the principles of stone carving. PampaType's interpretation of Roman epigraphy in Reforma is less whimsical, embracing a sense of balance and calm.
Observing the work of other designers helps you immerse yourself in the style, without a doubt, but also forces you to avoid the solutions already found. It demands great creativity.
Four distinct type designs were drawn as masters, they were made compatible, balancing their differences and empathies, thus they could look harmonious without loosing their individual character. All this is a tricky task.
Carefully decide on the quality of each curve in every lettershape, its overall visual coherence within each type style, and also sort out how inner and outer spaces interrelate in all directions.
Once verified in a variety of test words that all rhythms respond well to the original design idea, the mathematical method of interpolation can be used to find intermediate weights between the lightest and the boldest, as well as explore possible intermediate designs. In the case of Reforma, it was desirable to find a third subfamily, a hybrid in the system, which was Reforma 1969.
Following the same design method they created the characters of the cursive companion: that is, four other master drawings of each glyph, then interpolating and interpreting and as a result produced nine companion cursive fonts. Also, an important design detail for the sake of readability (and beauty) is the rhythm contrast between the romans and the italics. The PampaType team wanted that contrast to be unobstrusive and gentle, so we gave the italics of Reforma a similar rhythm to that of the roman.
All fonts were thus grouped into three subfamilies, from classic (complete serif, old style modulation) to modern (sanserif, monoline modulation) with an intermediate hybrid style that combines the qualities of the other two (subtle modulation and flare serifs). The choice of numbers in the name (1918, 1969, 2018), suggested by the graphic design team of the UNC, responds to years that are significant in the history of both the university and the nation. 1918 is the year of the University Reform that happened in the UNC. In 1969 the Cordobazo, a civil uprising of students and workers against the military government, took place in the city of Córdoba. And 2018 is the centennial year of the Reforma.
Designed for text.
With the exception of UltraNegra (intended for titling), the three weights (Blanca, Gris, Negra) in both styles, roman and cursive, were designed for comfortable immersive reading. That is why the Negra weight is not so heavy, for the amplitude of its countershapes can ensure readability.
An ultra black companion set, roman & cursive, was created as a titling companion, to gain impact at headings. It was decided to give it a more relaxed voice, as a counterpart to the rest of Reforma fonts which are more sober and formal. Thus this UltraNegra set was built following its own rules, still consistent with the rest of the system, but prioritizing impact and tone singularity.