Seraphs is font family that encompasses multiple typographic styles in one single system. Unlike other families with a sans and serif style, Seraphs doesn’t stop there. The family is developed as a variable font, which means that the user can interpolate between the serif styles and create many more intermediate styles. The user can combine different customized styles for highlighting a text, designing a logo, and animating text using CSS font animations. What’s more, the font is delivered as a small variable WOFF2 file—where users can play with Seraphs’ countless typographic possibilities on the web without having to load big files.
The family consists of:
a serif with curved connections that look clean and familiar
a wedge serif that is as sharp as a knife
a slab serif that draws some extra attention to the serifs
a tuscan serif style that most people associate with circus lettering
a calligraphic serif style that resembles the writing of a calligrapher
a humanistic sans that doesn’t hide its calligraphic roots.
This first release of Seraphs is available via Future Fonts. For US$40, early buyers will lock in at the cheapest rate and receive a limited character set of A-Z in both upper and lowercase.
Those of you astute enough to get in early will get free updates with figures, punctuations, symbols and accented letters as the font is further developed. This is exceptionally good value especially when you consider that you are getting so many genre of typefaces in one!
I caught up with Bernd Volmer (Seraphs designer) to learn more.
What first piqued your interest with type and lead you towards your career?
I read an interview with Cyrus Highsmith when I was a student, and he talked about type design as one of the purest forms of art – how type design is just black and white, shape and counter shape. His expression really fascinated me at the time, and yet I can still relate to it. In fact, designing type is more than making something beautiful. It is making tools for designers, and I really enjoy that. It is so exciting to see how other designers use fonts to create their work.
It is becoming a recurring theme in these interviews - so we are keen to hear what your parents think of (or understand about?) your career as a type designer?
My parents are opticians, so they understand what typographic legibility means. Still, I think it is pretty abstract to them what my work day looks like. It is difficult for people who don't have trained type designers’ eyes to recognize the efforts that go into fine tuning a typeface. Besides that, I am also a Font Engineer who manages the technical part of font production. It’s even harder for non-designers to comprehend the scope of font engineering work.
Variable fonts are being called a typographic revolution. And you have used the technology to very exciting effect with your latest release Seraphs. How do you hope the typeface (and more broadly the variable font technology) is used? How can people make the most of it?
It is exciting to see that text can be animated and remains searchable and selectable text on the web. Furthermore, there is an even bigger advantage for designers and developers: we can have a whole font family in one file with small file size — thanks to the compression used in the WOFF2 format. The fast loading web fonts make the developers happy, while the huge variety of typographic styles can satisfy the appetite of designers.
What were the biggest challenges to overcome translating the geometry of these different genres into one family?
I had a super systematic approach in the beginning. Everything was based on a grid. I had a rough grid to start with, so I didn't go into details early on with outlines and spacing. It really helped speed up my decision making process as I made the grid four times rougher than usual. For spacing and outline changes, I didn’t allow any finer increments than four units.
I designed different styles of serifs and reused them as components for all glyphs. With that said, the process was not translating something from one style to another, but prototyping and developing all the styles at the same time.
What are you favorite features or details in Seraphs?
I like that Seraphs is so diverse and has many different personalities. It can be serious like a clean no-nonsense text typeface or playful like a Tuscan serif. It offers a strong handwritten broad-nib flavor in the calligraphic and sans serif styles. What I also like is the diamond-shaped period and ‘i’ dot. In big sizes, they scream for attention, which in small sizes they sit just right.
Engineering the details of a family this size is a big undertaking - how do you find moving from the big picture design to the close detail of Mastering, Hinting & Production etc?
The process for developing Seraphs was different from that for other typefaces. I usually design a range of styles from Light to Black, develop the character-set and add italics. Only after that is finished, I would start developing possibly other styles.
Seraphs started with the idea to explore how many distinct members one font family can include — and whether each of them can be interpolatable. I began by defining design rules and drew only a few letters in every style. Gradually I am expanding them into a font family with a complete character-set for all European languages. The Mastering for Seraphs is similar to that for other font families, but Production and Testing is a totally different ball game.
The variable font technology is still very fresh, so there were workarounds for things that haven’t been working 100% yet. Testing for variable fonts makes more sense on the web than in desktop applications. At this point, the fonts are auto-hinted. If customers express the need for better font rendering on PC, I would hint the fonts with a new update.
Seraphs is a work in progress being released via Future fonts. What have you learnt from this project so far and how do you see it developing in the future?
Seraphs probably wouldn’t be released if it’s not with Future Fonts. For such a big project, Future Fonts makes it easier for designers to have the possibility to release their work-in-progress of a font family, continue the development process and release more versions in the next updates. Customers will also be able to influence the design with their feedback and suggestions. I am really curious to see how customers/designers will react to Seraphs and look forward to rolling out the next phases soon.
About Seraphs’ designer Bernd Volmer:
A Type Designer and Type Engineer who formerly employed by FontShop and Monotype, Bernd now works at HvD Fonts. Together with Olli Meier, Bernd designed the identity for TypoLabs Conference 2018, which has been recognized with the Red Dot Design Award. It was the first visual identity that made an extensive use of variable fonts on the web and in print. Bernd studied graphic design at the ArtEZ in Arnhem and studied Type and Media at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague where he developed a fascination for typography ‘the tone of voice in written language’.