An interview with Anders Francker
Anders Francker recently visited us here at Linotype, giving us the opportunity to ask him about his life and work – here you can read the fascinating responses to our questions provided by this most unusual of typeface creators.
Why did you decide to use such a modernist, technically-based approach in the design of your Francker font family?
Some of my biggest interests are design and technology and I thought that the typographic world really needed a good typeface to be used when somebody wants to give a text a feeling of something which is modern, technical and powerful but with a touch of humanism. I think that Francker covers these requirements.
While it is true that Francker is ultramodern, the rounded forms ensure that it is not excessively stringent but also gives a certain impression of softness. Were you inspired here by the superellipse, which can be said to represent a kind of compromise between ellipse and rectangle?
Yes, the letterforms are inspired by the superellipse, however, the characters are not purely constructed. Some mathematics was used during the design proces in order to help me getting to the right proportions and especially make sure that the tapered terminals, which is a very strong characteristic of Francker, follow the same design rules throughout the entire font family, no matter if they are long or short, thick or thin. On the other hand, a beautiful typeface can not just be put on a formula. The designer must also possess a great artistic sense which can take over when things can no longer be calculated.
For what sort of applications do you consider Francker to be predestined?
For everything that comes into the category ’Modern and technical but at the same time friendly and soft.’ It could be used by mobile phone or computer companies, airlines, car manufacturers and many others, for advertisements, signage systems or on the physical products. The very large character set that includes all the characters in Linotype’s Paneuropean W1G specification and the 18 font weights, nine with standard character width and nine condensed ones, makes it suitable for a lot of applications – in many different languages.
What was the greatest challenge you faced while creating such a carefully designed and extensive font family?
I think the greatest challenge was to make what I saw on the screen or printed on paper become exactly the same as the idea that was inside my head. Some of the characters were more difficult to draw than others, but I did not stop until I was satisfied! My goal was to make a font family which was clean without being clinical, based on a coherent concept where every single character is in perfect harmony with the others.
With your work, you epitomise the successful autodidact. Do you think there are actually advantages if you can approach the act of creation free of certain preformed attitudes and rules?
Absolutely! Type designers with other educational backgrounds, such as architects, engineers and others who are used to work with drawings, can contribute with many new and exciting font ideas, because they may see things from another point of view. Of course there are some basic rules that a designer always has to follow if he or she wants to make a successful, good-looking typeface. For example: The letter ’O’ has to be slightly higher than the letter ’H’ to look optically equal in height, the white space inside and between the characters is just as important as the black space of the characters themselves etc.
Is there anything involved in designing a font that you would avoid if you could?
With modern font creation software typeface designers of our time are much more priviledged than those of the old days. However, the computer still has its limitations. For example, it is not yet possible to blend two extreme font weights to create a third one in between without doing a lot of manual adjustments to the outlines afterwards. If there is something that I would like to avoid then it would be all this correcting work. Another thing that takes a very long time and maybe is not quite as interesting as drawing the characters, is the proces of spacing and kerning. Also here you cannot just push a button and then everything is done perfectly and automatically. For the Francker font family all spacing and kerning was done by hand and eye.
Do you have any creative heroes or role models? If so, what do you find particularly appealing about this person or these persons?
Without mentioning any particular names I generally admire designers who are able to design something which stays modern independently of time. Something which is based on shapes that just never go out of style. My inspiration is a combination of a big amount of inputs over the years. When I see something that I like, that could be a typeface, a building, a car or a piece of furniture, I try not only to think that it is nice, but also to ask myself why it is nice. Sometimes I see a pattern, which in many cases can be described mathematically, and with all that combined knowledge I design my typeface or whatever it is.
Are you currently planning any typographic projects for the future?
I actually have an idea for another font family. Is is also a sans-serif typeface, with a more round and classical look than Francker, but definitely just as interesting. But let us see what is going to happen. I got married in the summer of 2010 and my wife should also have some attention!