Toshi Omagari - Designer Interview

Font Designer – Interview


Interview with Toshi Omagari

How did you fall in love with type design?
While learning English at school I was often troubled with the little things on Century Schoolbook called serif, which I could never write naturally; for that reason I prefered the other typeface used in the textbook (Helvetica) but some of its letters were still very unnatural. I even wondered if the Latin alphabet was not made by humans. In the end it took a decade to find the answer, and during the search the schoolboy’s question had become a passion for letterforms. I do not know exactly when it happened, but by the time I entered an art university, it was already clear that I loved letters, especially drawing them.

How many typefaces have you developed until now?
Seven typefaces before I joined Monotype, and dozens after that.

Is type design what you are mainly doing? What is your profession aside from type design?
Yes, type design is all I do. I have several years of experience in teaching graphic design, so that may count as my profession.

I had never been a fan of the typeface until he showed me its original design …

What inspired you to design Metro Nova?
I was originally asked by Doug Wilson, the director of Linotype: The film, to digitise Metro to be used in the film. I had never been a fan of the typeface until he showed me its original design which looks so different from the Futura-like characteristics that we recognise as Metro today. I immediately fell in love with it and agreed to do it. It also explained the mystery of the Metro No. 1; there was only Metro No. 2 family available in phototypsetting and digital, and I had no idea what No. 2 meant until I saw the original. So, it was a good opportunity to fill the missing piece of type history.

Are you influenced by other typefaces by the design of your typefaces?
The original Metro of course, as well as Akira Kobayashi’s Metro Office. Also I paid strong attention to humanistic and geometric sans serifs of the same period such as Futura, Gill Sans, Johnston, and Goudy Sans, which in part tell me why and how Metro came to be.

Reviving a Linotype metal typeface is always an interesting challenge …

What techniques do you use while creating your typefaces and what is the process for creating the design?
Reviving a Linotype metal typeface is always an interesting challenge I guess, because of rather strict unit system that does not allow any part of the letter to exceed the body. Additionally, Metro uses duplex letter width across the weights, which means the lowercase “m” in Metrothin is as wide as that of Metromedium for instance. Naturally the lighter weights are wide and darker weights narrow (the difference between Metrolite and Metromedium is most noticeable). To give it a good and uniform proportion throughout the family was an interesting part of the process.

What was the greatest challenge you faced while creating Metro Nova?
I decided to include Metro No. 2 set as stylistic alternates, which changes the character of the face so significantly. It includes seven uppercase and small cap variants, eight lowercase, seven symbols and punctuations, and numerals in proportional, smallcap, superscript, fraction and so on, which made me feel that I was making two typefaces in one file. Out of 906 glyphs in a font, 208 are alternates.

Interestingly‚ Metro is a famous sans serif that nobody remembers what it really was‚ and it was a total surprise when I saw it …

Are there aspects of the design that you think should be highlighted, or you particularly want the graphic design community to know about Metro Nova?
Interestingly, Metro is a famous sans serif that nobody remembers what it really was, and it was a total surprise when I saw it. Just like it was possible with Linotype composition to mix the No. 1 and 2 matrices in any way the user wanted, this new OpenType font offers the freedom to do the same using stylistic set features. I would like to see the graphic designers shocked by the difference first, and then starting to enjoy their own combination.

For what applications would you recommend Metro Nova?
William A. Dwiggins, the original designer of the typeface, made this as a text face, although it became so popular in advertisements. While it will continue to be popular as a display face as it has been, I want to see it in use in a book, in the way it was originally intended. And of course, web pages!

What are the unique details from which you think they distinguish Metro Nova?
The diagonal tip of lowercase letters and very unusual “Q” are most characteristic part of the typeface. The lowercase “a”, “e”, “g”, from No. 1 set make it even more unique.

I wish I knew the reason why Dwiggins named it Metro …

What was the reason for you to give the typeface its name and what is the meaning?
It is a revival of the old typeface, so I simply kept what is called. I wish I knew the reason why Dwiggins named it Metro. I made one change in the name however, to call their weights without Metro-prefix. Originally, all four weights of Metro were called Metrothin, Metrolite, Metromedium, and Metroblack. It was agreed that this naming scheme does nothing but confuse.
The Know How section offers detailed background knowledge to deal with all enquiries about the use of fonts.