Type Together: From Collaborative Partnership to Creative Network

An interview with TypeTogether

TypeTogether might not seem an obvious name for a business partnership founded by two people living nearly 6,000 miles apart. Yet when Veronika Burian and José Scaglione started their type foundry, Veronika (originally from the Czech Republic) was living in the US and José in his native Argentina. As unusual as this model was when they set up in 2006, it is one that has proved effective, and TypeTogether now comprises a core team of 11 people that has worked with 25 collaborators many of whom are situated still further afield.

Of course, the idea behind the name is that they have come together because of type, with the business of letterforms providing a focus for a community of both designers and TypeTogether customers. For their creative collaborators the togetherness is carefully balanced with independence, certainly in terms of design. Each designer, while aligned with TypeTogether’s vision for editorial excellence, is afforded an independence of visual thinking, helping to ensure a lively collective catalogue of contemporary fonts for both print and online use.

The starting point for curating the font library was a deliberate championing of serious text typeface design at a time when graphic design for the web was distracted by display. And Karmina, Veronika and José’s first joint typeface, offered them a space to explore how designing typefaces together while so far apart would actually work out in practice. The answer was: very well indeed. Although they used the deadline of a competition entry simply to focus their workflow, Karmina went on to win them a first award and several subsequent ones.

Karmina

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In addition to working on their own projects, Veronika and José invited friends to publish typefaces through TypeTogether, and soon the foundry earned a particular reputation for spirited and well-made serif types such as Eduardo Berliner’s formally-informal Pollen and, a little later, Pilar Cano’s Edita. With enough material to launch a modest website Type Together grew still further in terms of profile, though perhaps no-one was more surprised than Veronika and José themselves, when acclaimed newspaper designer Ally Palmer called to discuss using their sans Ronnia for The Irish Times. The prestige of the project not only reinforced their core editorial ambitions for the foundry but also fueled the growing success they were finding through their interpretations of other sans and slab serifs. These were their game-changers, firmly positioning TypeTogether as a go-to foundry at an international level and allowing Veronika and José the financial security to commit exclusively to their own business.

Robust, but never fierce, typefaces such as Bree and Adelle tapped into the graphic design zeitgeist bringing together a friendly aesthetic with a thorough technical approach, rewarding TypeTogether with exposure and new clients.

Eleven years on, Veronika and José attribute the long-term standing of their fonts to a couple of good calls they made early on. Without so much as a backwards glance at PostScript or TrueType, they fully embraced OpenType font formatting and all the possibilities for enhanced functionality it offered. They also determined that uniformity in quality was important in growing a typeface library, so every effort was made to ensure consistency across character sets and font families, not least in terms of language support. As Veronika notes, “Both José and I are set apart as Westerners by being from places that use diacritics. For my part, I was especially keen to ensure that the requirements of Eastern European languages were always addressed.” And not only as an afterthought.

Addressing the requirements of languages beyond the Latin script is also a concern, and an obvious benefit of Veronika and José’s global network is the range of script expertise they can draw upon. TypeTogether’s first Arabic font Awanzaman by Mamoun Sakkal and Juliet Shen was published in 2016, followed this year by Arabic support for some of their existing library fonts, such as Athelas Arabic by Sahar Afshar and the recently published Adelle Sans Arabic by Azza Alamedine, and their first Hebrew font, Noam Text by Adi Stern.

Athelas Arabic

The TypeTogether repertoire has broadened in other ways too, its editorial underpinnings stretching to encompass more headline flavors, thus opening new possibilities for fonts to be used for branding. And so a Sunday evening on the sofa with the TypeTogether catalogue to prepare for this article revealed some unexpected treats, from the monolinear playfulness of LFT Iro Sans Unicase from LeftLoft Studio, to the theatre of Fino Stencil by Ermin Međedović, followed by the dancing forms of the wonderful all-italic Lisbeth by Louisa Fröhlich. Perhaps most surprising, however, were the many rhythms of blackletter in the full-on historical dynamism of Tom Grace’s bâtarde flamande Givry, or the transitional play of roman and fraktur in Alisa Nowak’s clever Eskapade with its set of quite beautiful double-stroked decorated capitals.

When asked what it was like to publish their former tutor Gerard Unger, both Veronika and José confess to having been nervous, though unnecessarily so, given how open and productive their professional relationship turned out to be. An initial collaboration to reconfigure Unger’s Capitolium and Coranto as OpenType fonts has since resulted in the publication of Alverata and Sanserata, two typefaces inspired by Unger’s doctoral research into the Romanesque. Yet Veronika and José are both sensitive and astute enough to nurture new talent too, mentoring student designers through a publishing incentive project. Their opening dividend from what is now an annual program took the form of the much-praised Bely by Roxane Gataud, who was subsequently awarded a TDC certificate of Excellence and SOTA newcomer of the year.

In a time when we are spoiled by the riches of typeface design, it is easy to become complacent as consumers, to stop asking necessary questions about who is making the fonts we are using, and how.

Bely

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Type designers often express a frustration that the work of type design is not valued, but José has limited sympathy for “an industry that complains about typefaces not being noticed but doesn’t give credit to everyone involved.” Designing and publishing a typeface is a collaborative process calling upon the skills of designers, engineers, branding and communications staff, editors and copywriters. Underpinning the business of type are people, and Veronika and José have been instrumental in calling for wider professional accreditation. Thus while type is important for Veronika and José, the people involved are more so. And when talking to them it very quickly becomes clear that what they find most rewarding is building personal as well as professional bridges between people. Their foundry name couldn’t be more apt.

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