Type design demands familiarity and recognition. The nature of reading binds type designers with constraint.
It is infrequent we see letterforms that are radically different, so when a new face provides aesthetic innovation while still being legible, the type community reacts abuzz with excitement and admiration at the designer's ability to find new territory within their constraints.
This excitement is exactly what Faune a new typeface from French designer Alice Savoie demands and deserves! The project was a commission of a type family by the Centre National des Arts Plastiques (an organisation known for supporting graphic design and typography through its collection and events). The brief called for a 'new creation'. Alice (with Faune) delivered!
“Her approach combines patrimony and current events, rigour and poetry and all of this with intelligence and creativity. Faune, the typeface has been designed and developed in unexpected and subtle forms, and calls upon the most contemporary of digital technologies.”
The Faune family of typefaces can be freely downloaded and used by anyone, in a private or professional capacity, under the Creative Commons license CC BY-ND 4.0. This license authorises the free use of the typeface, provided that the name of the author is credited when using the typeface and that the user does not modify the design in any way, shape or fashion.
Faune's foundations are built in the animal kingdom. Specifically, Alice explored the plurality of the animal world (she articulates the intent and narrative beautifully on the Faune microsite)
Though natural history has had a strong influence on literature, poetry and painting, its impact on typography is still quite limited.
(In her rationale of the project Alice acknowledges the floral-inspired typefaces and ornaments of the twentieth century.) But questions “why has the diversity of animal species, teeming with morphologies, behaviours and rhythms, not been explored before now?”
Faune’s reason for being is to attempt to fulfil this mission of proposing another manner of designing and combining typefaces, based on an encyclopedic visual knowledge.
To accompany the typeface Faune, has a series of original illustrations by Marine Rivoal.“The representations of animals that accompany the type family have been ingeniously created using collagraphy, a print technique that consists of superimposing different layers of materials (in this case packing tape!) that are then inked and printed using an intaglio press. This somewhat unique approach allows Marine Rivoal to imagine a bestiary that is to some extent removed from the scientific rigour to which naturalists aspired, but remains just as expressive and captivating.”
Each animal illustration has an intersecting part of the anatomy allowing interchangeable animal hybridizations! I particularly love the Mix-and-match feature on the microsite which allows you to create a fantastical chimera like creature: scroll through the animals using the arrows, type your text and choose your variant of the Faune typeface. The dynamic site encourages users to share their animal hybrid type specimens on social media or by email - an inventive way to promote the typeface and initiative!
Alice writes “For over five centuries, the typographic palette available to us has been constantly expanding: blackletter and roman typefaces, then italic and bold variants, with or without serifs, multi-scripts, for continuous reading or titling… This variety demonstrates our ability to ceaselessly reinvent our relationship with letterforms, and with the text. More than a testament to creativity, this phenomenon also reveals an increasing desire for rationalization: type designers have made numerous attempts to name and classify this aesthetic diversity, and to have some control over the possible combinations that can be made between different type styles; they have also repeatedly criticized the hybridizations to which typefaces have been subjected.”
On the innovation:
The complexities of contemporary reading environments has forced type designers design “vast homogeneous sets of typefaces, with multiple gradations of weights, of widths, of optical sizes, etc.” Faune rejects this approach instead proposing an system that is “invested with formal diversity and unexpected crossovers.”
Faune draws upon the wealth and vivacity of animal forms that appear within them in order to question the notion of lineage between different typefaces, and propose a new typographic ecosystem.
Starting with three classes of animals called “vertebrates” – reptiles, mammals and birds – three very different typefaces were imagined, laying the groundwork for a heterogeneous family.
The following text is all lifted from Alice's narrative on the microsite. It is an incredibly clever and well-considered approach.
“The first variant takes its inspiration from a viper known as the “haje”. A filiform and sinewy specimen, this supple animal, with its viscous appearance and dry skin covered in scales, has given birth to a very fine, mono-linear and fluid typeface. Extremely thin, almost invisible, this first parent is nevertheless a vertebrate, and thus avoids the pitfall of limpness. It is intended for use in headlines, with its weight being unsuitable for smaller text sizes. It also lays the groundwork for the family, and adopts the role of an underlying skeleton.
Completely different, a second, black, variant, draws its origins from the largest mammal present in the Description de l’Égypte: an earthy, stocky ram with a flat tail, its massive and robust body contrasts with its thin, slender legs. Its spiral horns help to affirm its power, while its frizzy hair provides it with a certain good nature. All features that one can find in this very thick variant, with its design that makes subtle reference to sans serif typefaces, so popular in the nineteenth century, and that our English and German speaking neighbours call “grotesque” types.
The third style, is a bold italic, whose design is based on a remarkable specimen of black ibis found in the Description de l’Égypte, chosen for the very characteristic undulation of its neck and the unique distribution of its mass between a heavy body and skinny legs. The modulation of the curves and counters of this variant, along with an unusual contrast between its thicks and thins, produce a vibration to which the eye is unaccustomed, but one that makes a very real impression. Isn’t this what the italic aspires to do, all too often considered as the subordinate of the roman?
These three founding members of the type family, with their very distinctive features, are then rendered “genetically compatible” – a process called interpolation in typeface design, which consists of an operation of calculation that allows one to generate a number of intermediary variations between two different designs. This process thus results in three hybridizations, which prove to be perfectly adapted to continuous reading at text sizes.
A Regular typeface and its associated Bold are first derived from the Thin and Black versions of Faune. Displaying a slight contrast between thicks and thins, they retain the supple character of their reptilian parent along with the robust nature of their ram parent, but to a more moderate extent.
The weight of the Regular has been chosen wisely to propose a harmonious colour for the body text. The Bold is close enough in style to the Regular to be a dependable companion, while fully ensuring its function of emphasis and hierarchization through its more pronounced blackness.
The same process of interpolation has been put to use by crossing the Bold italic with the Regular, in order to generate a Regular italic suitable for text. All while presenting proportions and a slant that are more adapted to continuous reading, this new variant possesses the unique nature of its ibis parent. Far from the concept of a “sloped roman”, this italic asserts a complimentary and atypical voice that is particularly suited to emphasis. Its strangeness allows it to fully assume its role as a disturber of rhythms in order to better distinguish, or bring to the fore different elements on the page.”
A typeface family designed by Alice Savoie, A series of original illustrations by Marine Rivoal, A commission by the Centre National des Arts Plastiques, In partnership with the Groupe Imprimerie Nationale Learn more about Faune & Download your copy here