Jovica Veljović: About the typeface

Although rational, minimal forms have always appealed to me, I did not want to produce bare and unadorned shapes. I wanted to instil them with something poetic, story-like, and enigmatic, details that are not immediately apparent, but only gradually reveal themselves on scrutiny of the text as a whole and even then only on closer analysis. Good storytellers have the ability to emphasize certain passages, to modulate their intonation, introduce longer pauses and vary the resonance of their voice to enhance dramatic effects without diminishing the substance of their tale in any way. I have tried to reproduce all this using graphic elements, through the use of proportion, forms of characters and the spacing between them. Since 2000, I have occasionally had the opportunity of seeing how this book font works in ‘genuine’ applications using offset printing on paper and so I have been able to take a more critical approach. This meant I could introduce necessary modifications and I have thus not only continually reworked the forms of letters, but also their spacing and overall width.


In the case of the Roman variants, I kept positioning alternatives to an absolute minimum to provide for a more restrained baseline alignment; the effect I aimed at creating was that of the base tone of Byzantine ecclesiastical chant. I have paid particular attention to achieving appropriate harmony between the ‘sculptural’ letters B, R, T, o, g, m, n, h, t and the lyrical letters a, c, e, b, d, k, j, v, w, E, F, K, S. I have chosen to use such a combination in order to create narrative thrust.


I generally prefer italics when the uppercase letters seem to be less active than the lowercase characters. When italic uppercase characters are compared with normal capital letters, they should have the same visual, graphic and rhythmic values without appearing to have a purely mechanical inclination. It was elegance and freedom, but with a dash of formality, that I intended to give my italics. I encountered my greatest challenge in finding the correct balance between thin and thick lines when working on the lowercase italic letters. I wanted to ensure that the smaller point sizes had sufficient colour without losing anything of their elegance and fineness.


As I particularly love books that have been set using metal type where the mechanical typography provides a richer finish, I decided to incorporate subtle tone differences between Book and Roman. My concept was that Roman should be used for lined paper. Book is designed to work better on plain paper, in other words, on publishing paper. The other thought I had was that both could be used in combination, with Regular in the point sizes 6 to 8 to set footnotes and Book in the point sizes 9 to 14 to set the text. It is possible to achieve a balance of tone with such a combination, the so-called ‘optical size’ effect, although the spaces (kerning) between letters needs to be adjusted in the smaller point sizes.

In addition to the many other problems I had to overcome, I also had to design the Cyrillic and Greek characters. I grew up using Cyrillic, so I found this easier than the Greek. I first had to discover with what kind of pens and at what kind of angles this script could be written.

Form, proportion and spacing have all been very carefully verified, except in the case of Cyrillic

I decided to turn to old manuscripts and printed texts rather than use the ‘Romanised’ Greek forms that became fashionable in Greece in the 1970s. Fortunately, I have several early works printed in Greek characters at my disposal and was able to study these at my leisure. On the whole, I benefitted and learnt from my writing exercises. I so enjoyed working with the Greek characters that I also designed a number of additional ligatures.

I used a quill pen to help me understand the characteristic features of Greek script. I tried to discover its rhythm and I finally achieved this by repeatedly writing the same word over and over again.

The first version of Agmena was too calligraphic, broad and soft, with slender serifs. The forms of the second version appeared more solid and the proportions were better, but the characters were too close together and the overall effect was too polished. It was only with my third version that I managed to bring the letters to life when used to set text.
See the following page for excerpts from the online brochure on the font Agmena produced by Jovica Veljović.

If you prefer, you can also read the brochure directly online.


Agmena was awarded a Certificate of Excellence in Type Design at the Type Directors Club of New York TDC2 competition in 2013.

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