I have been enthusiastically following the development of Felix Braden (Floodfonts) latest typeface Kontiki. This typeface excites me on multiple levels, but one of the aspects most interesting is how Felix has translated form back and forth through different mediums and technologies.
In this overtly digital environment, we operate in the is an unmistakable allure to all things analogue and handmade.
So it is no surprise that the genre of distressed typefaces that are digital creations with analogue aesthetics are growing in number. But what sets Kontiki apart from other faces in this category is that it was faithfully produced analogue in an exhaustive carve/print process and then digitized. As a result, Kontiki has an authenticity, warmth and variance which sets it head and shoulders above its peers.
To create the Kontiki fonts, Felix began by combining the shape grammar of Clarendon with the contrast of century schoolbook. He first drew a light and a black of his work-in-progress hybrid typeface before digitally interpolating to generate a bold weight. Then, Inspired by his wife's hand-carved woodcuts, Felix drew 193 glyphs which were manually cut (at a size of around 150 points) on wooden plates before being carefully printed by hand.
Felix notes the choice of paper was a difficult task. Eventually, he chose a matte coated printing paper with a very smooth surface, because he wanted to show the misprints in the image and not the effects caused by the structure of the paper. All plates were printed in an edition of 30 with different print qualities: a print with full pressure, a half pressure print, and two subsequent prints without re-inking.
From these experimental test prints, the most charming four of each character were selected, scanned and digitized to create Kontiki's 4 different styles. Functionality was at the forefront of Felix's mind throughout the development process...
Prior to being translated into vector formats, the scans were simplified using Gaussian Blur and Median filters. This allowed Felix to ensure a small file size and optimize font performance by keeping each glyph to around 1000 nodes as a maximum, and by replacing curves with straight lines.
Once in a workable digital format, the characters were brought into Glyphs App to develop the fonts. The character set was expanded to include 560 glyphs enabling broad language support. The Pro version contains all 2240 glyphs as “stylistic alternates” in one font with optimized kerning for all style combinations.
This development of this type system is an admirable undertaking. And the resulting fonts hero Felix attention to detail and dedication to the production narrative. The Kontiki typeface offers designers the aesthetics of a traditional relief print as well as the flexibility and efficiency of digital creation, masterfully spanning these technologies.