Fatype, type foundry established by Anton Koovit and Yassin Baggar.

Hello Anton Koovit and Yassin Baggar. How are you?

Hello, thanks for having us. We are well. A lot of projects going on, we are really excited about it.

Can you introduce yourselves? Where did you meet?

YB — Anton is from Estonia, where he studied graphic design. He moved to Holland and studied at the TypeMedia, then to Berlin. I studied graphic design in Switzerland. In 2008, after a type design internship with Ian Party I moved to Berlin for a graphic design internship at NODE Berlin Oslo. They invited Anton for a beer, because they saw that we share the same passion for type.

How did you come to start up the type foundry?

YB — Anton and I worked on a set of typefaces for the redesign of GQ France, and I helped him on Arvo. At the time, he had two typefaces in the making (U8 and Aleksei). Instead of selling them through another foundry, I thought it would make sense to start something together. Which we did after I also went to study at the TypeMedia program.

Where does your interest in type design come from?

YB — Anton had been making graffiti since he was teenager and followed all possible calligraphy courses in post-soviet Estonia. Probably, the ghost of Villu Toots, an Estonian master calligrapher, had influence on his education. Also, questioning letterforms stems from his Russian-Estonian background. His grandmother taught Cyrillic writing primarily. Later on, at school, Latin glyphs looked similar, but not quite…

For me, it grew organically during my graphic design studies. The typography course, given by Daniel Sciboz, opened my eyes. After that, the works that interested me were essentially type based, and I started creating very basic typefaces for projects.

Can you tell us more about the « Beausite » typeface? It’s all about contrasts, right?

YB — Back in 2008, I just started designing a decorative high contrast sans for fun, after work. There was no master plan. But I worked on it for so long that it just evolved into a much bigger thing over time. I didn’t work on it regularly… after a couple of years, I decided it should be based on a Grotesk skeleton instead of doing another Art Deco typeface, like most high contrast sans. At some point I was also curious to see how a lower contrast version would work for text.

So it just grew naturally into the programme it is now. I’m adding a normal Grotesk version, and an inverted Contrast, to have the full range. Something that I think doesn’t exist yet. Really, it is the same idea of Frutiger’s Univers, but applied to contrast instead of width. So it’s definitely about contrast, but it’s also about what a Grotesk typeface is… is it defined by its low contrast? Its proportions? Its type of curves?

You designed a typeface for the Balenciaga’s new identity. How did you proceed?

YB — Julien Gallico, an art director working in Paris, was designing the new identity. He had the idea for a geometric typeface based on old labels. It was obvious that U8 would work well as a starting point, but clearly Balenciaga requires an elegant design that feels more pure. Julien had something in mind, he wanted a bit of Art Deco in it, without a dated look; he also wanted slightly wider proportions. Anton and I modified U8 to fit his vision. In the end, U8 and Bal10 are pretty close yet feel quite different.

Can you tell us more of how you work together?

YB — Since Anton and I don’t share a studio space, when we work on our respective typefaces for release, we go through an iterative process of working by ourselves on the design and meeting to discuss things. At the end of the process, we might finish the typeface together since this part is really tedious and boring.

I think we often look at things from a different point of view, we are very complementary, so we have many inspiring conversations.

When we work for clients, we work more together. We often start by sketching ideas to start with a lot of different options. Again Anton and I being different, leads to a wider range of results, which is great because by ourselves our work would end up different and less rich I think.

Do you have a favorite typeface?

We don’t really have a favorite typeface because by itself a typeface doesn’t mean much. It always depends on the context, and also because there are too many great typefaces to choose one.

But I think that we both admire amongst many others, Rocky by Matthew Carter, and Swift by Gerard Unger. I think both these designs fall in the more modern range of these designers’ work, yet they still have a strong traditional foundation. They are somewhat timeless and classy. I don’t think I’ve seen Rocky in text, but it looked super for headlines in Le Monde.

A designer that you admire?

AK — Again, Matthew Carter, because he has very good typefaces in every style. Also, Eric Gill, Gerard Unger, Francesco Griffo…

YB — Many, dead and alive! Choosing one would be impossible and unfair but I think that type design is incredibly dynamic at the moment.

Which books are on your bedside table?

AK — Morison’s A Tally of Types.

YB — L’Or et le Sang, a graphic novel that was recommended to me. Nothing about type or graphic design!

The last word…

Alphabet. Make your own words!

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Interview : Dennis Moya & Tiffany Bähler — 05.15

Pictures ©Fatype.

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