Font Designer – Sandra Winter

Sandra Winter

Interview with Sandra Winter

How did you discover your passion for font design?
It was while I was studying in Darmstadt that I became increasingly interested in typefaces and in working with them. My favourite assignments were the ones in which we were supposed to use text only. I was surprised to discover that it was possible to express so much through the selection and arrangement of fonts and that complex concepts could be communicated with the aid of typography.
I began to consider the related aspects in ever greater detail and at some point I realised that I wanted to learn more, and particularly about the design of typefaces. When I graduated, I searched for specialised courses and programmes in typography and I found the MA degree course in Reading.
As I had next to no experience of font design before I began studying in Reading, I think it is fair to say that it was there that I actually discovered my passion for typeface design … and I have been lucky enough to pursue this as a career ever since.

... in phases in which I am only focussing on graphic design jobs‚ I can hardly wait until I can start designing fonts again and return to my “black-and-white” world ...

Is type design your main profession? Do you also work in other fields?
I work as a freelance designer but I’ve found it best if I work in several different fields simultaneously.
When I’m working on a major typeface project, I look forward to doing the graphic design aspects as, in contrast with the font-related activities, I can quickly see the results and work, as it were ‘in colour’. On the other hand, in phases in which I am only focussing on graphic design jobs, I can hardly wait until I can start designing fonts again and return to my “black-and-white” world.
Working together with Christina Bee, I have also organised several type design workshops in places such as Darmstadt and Nuremberg, and these gave me the opportunity to pass on what I have learned.
Hence, I do work in different areas, but these overlap and the great thing about it is that it continually enables me to view projects from different perspectives.

There were also the challenges of designing the curves so that they appear uniformly rounded on all terminals‚ even those of the diagonals‚ and ensuring that there was smooth transition between the straight lines and the curves ...

What are the special challenges of creating new designs for an already existing font family, such as Avenir Next?
Of course, you first need to carefully study the form vocabulary of the font before you begin designing new glyphs or cuts for an existing typeface family. You can’t just design them to your own taste; they need to harmonise perfectly with the existing characters.
But it was a little different in the case of Avenir Next Rounded. The basic profiles of the characters are the same as those of Avenir Next. The essential problem here was to adapt the characters, which underwent fundamental changes as a result of the addition of the curves, so that their optical effect was more like that of the glyphs of Avenir Next and they matched the other characters better. For example, the “k” might appear to be too narrow thanks to the rounded terminals, so you alter the diagonals so that it becomes wider and complements the other characters.
There were also the challenges of designing the curves so that they appear uniformly rounded on all terminals, even those of the diagonals, and ensuring that there was smooth transition between the straight lines and the curves.

I can readily imagine that the font could be happily combined with a sans serif and possibly even a calligraphic font because this would contrast compellingly with Avenir Next Rounded with its geometric-like shapes ...

Would you use Avenir Next Rounded in combination with other fonts? If so, with which?
I think there is any number of possible combinations depending on the particular application in question. I can readily imagine that the font could be happily combined with a sans serif and possibly even a calligraphic font because this would contrast compellingly with Avenir Next Rounded with its geometric-like shapes. I think there is a wide scope for experimentation here.

In what sort of contexts would you particularly recommend the use of rounded fonts?
They are particularly suitable for setting headlines and texts in larger font sizes. Appropriate contexts that occur to me are posters, advertising texts, editorial design …

I like typefaces that have been carefully designed‚ so that their forms harmonise‚ the typographic elements are consistent and the rhythm is appropriate ...

What do you think determines whether a typeface is good or bad?
I like typefaces that have been carefully designed, so that their forms harmonise, the typographic elements are consistent and the rhythm is appropriate. There are fonts that I don’t like, that have a design language that I find unattractive, but this doesn’t mean that I necessarily consider these to be “bad” typefaces.
When I encounter typefaces I do consider are bad, this is usually because I think that these require more work as they are not really quite “complete” or I feel that their underlying concept is not coherent.

I find that designing typefaces has similarities with meditating; you need peace and quiet and are continually making changes to the same basic forms until you reach the point at which form and rhythm are right ...

What do you like about designing typefaces? Is there anything about the design process that you dislike?
For me, the most interesting part of designing fonts is fiddling with the small details to provide for consistency overall. The whole system will fail if even a tiny aspect is inappropriate.
I find that designing typefaces has similarities with meditating; you need peace and quiet and are continually making changes to the same basic forms until you reach the point at which form and rhythm are right.
It is difficult to determine where this point is and when the font is “finished” – that point where you decide to stop looking for errors and to make no further changes. But there isn’t really anything that I don’t enjoy doing.

How long does it usually take you to finish designing a font? Or perhaps you don’t work to a specific schedule?
I don’t have a specific work schedule. It depends on the project – on whether I am working on a single typeface cut or an extensive font family and, of course, on how many glyphs are needed. So I may take just a few weeks or many months to complete an assignment.
The Know How section offers detailed background knowledge to deal with all enquiries about the use of fonts.

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