Interview with David Jonathan Ross

I talked with David about Gimlet, his own type label DJR and new typefaces in progress.

djr_portrait

Hi David, you recently founded your own type label DJR. What was your motivation? Which meaning does the Type Network have for you?

In recent years, I have taken a more active role in the licen­sing and mar­ke­ting of my typefaces, in addi­tion to the design and pro­duc­tion. I have released my typefaces with Font Bureau for years, but we rea­lized that I could take this fur­ther as an inde­pen­dent foundry. Cur­r­ently, the font market is short on inde­pen­dent dis­tri­bu­tors, which is why I am happy that Type Net­work exists and that it encou­raged me to join as an inde­pen­dent foundry. They have been very sup­por­tive of me as I’ve under­gone this whole pro­cess.

Your new font family Gimlet draws its inspirations from Schadow-​Antiqua. Which characteristics did you transfer and what was your own infusion?

Tech­ni­cally Nick Sherman intro­duced me to it, and I had many dis­cus­sion with both him and German desi­gner /​ edu­cator Indra Kup­fer­schmid about the nature of the design. Both helped me ana­lyze the design and decide how to rein­ter­pret it. I took most of my inspi­ra­tion from the Schadow Werk style, which is quite dis­tinct from the rest of the family. I wanted Gimlet to keep some of Schadow’s quirks (like the leg of the R‘ or the open ’g‘) but I wanted it to feel organic and natural, ins­tead of awk­ward or geo­me­tric. The reverse-​taper of the serifs is ano­ther fea­ture adapted from Schadow, as well as the default eszet. The geometric-​style ’a‘ is avail­able as an alter­nate glyph. Ano­ther set of alter­nates taken from Schadow that might be of inte­rest to German speakers are the sunken die­reses.

Sunken die­reses are avail­able via OpenType-​Feature.

Was there a masterplan at the beginning to design a big family combining display and text fonts with three optical sizes and with four widths?

There was no master plan … the family just kept gro­wing out of con­trol! My first focus was the Micro styles, since I wasn’t sure how much of Schadow’s per­so­na­lity I needed to change in order to make it a suc­cessful text face. Once I was con­fi­dent with how Gimlet per­formed in text, I began to change the pro­por­tions, raise the stroke con­trast, and add back some of the quirks for Gimlet Dis­play.

Which challenges did you have to master during the design process?

I think the big­gest chal­lenge for Gimlet was balan­cing the per­so­na­lity and func­tio­na­lity of the typeface … paying homage to Schadow without doing a revival of it. I wanted this typeface to have a sense of humor, but I didn’t want it to be a joke. I wanted it to be a useful and ver­sa­tile tool that speaks with a dis­tinct voice. It was an inte­res­ting pro­blem to figure out how to get all of the quirky details in there, but still end up with a smooth block of text and head­lines that aren’t too dis­trac­ting.

Why does Gimlet have no ligatures?

Bes­ides an ’ff‘ liga­ture in some of the bolder styles, Schadow didn’t do ’f‘ liga­tures. Some­times liga­tures can look finicky, so I decided to avoid them as well. Ins­tead I let Gimlet’s ’f‘ gets nar­rower as it ascends (some­thing that Schadow also does), which (com­bined with a long serif on the right) creates more room so the over­hang is less.

No liga­tures needed to keep a well balanced spa­cing behind f.

For what sizes do you recommend Gimlet Display, Gimlet Text and Gimlet Micro?

I didn’t issue spe­cific size recom­men­da­tions for Gimlet because I wanted to desi­gners to feel con­fi­dent in using the styles that they feel worked best in their envi­ron­ment. Gimlet Micro will begin to look coarse and ungainly when used above text sizes, and Gimlet Dis­play will begin to get too tight under 24 px. Beyond that, width, weight, color, and prin­ting /​ ren­de­ring can all play a part in the best style to use in a given situa­tion.

Which styles are suitable for long screen reading?

Assuming rela­tively large text and a single column, I’ll usually start with Gimlet Text. The Micro styles are a bit har­dier, and are great for cap­tions or multi-​column designs where the body text is smaller. Gene­rally, I find the wider styles to be more com­for­table for extended rea­ding than the nar­rower ones. But when rea­ding an article on a phone, the nar­rower styles allow an extra word or two to fit on each line, which makes for a more plea­sant rea­ding expe­ri­ence. For text, I usually start with the Regular weight, though the Light weight is good for rea­ding against a dark back­ground.

Can you tell some successful usecases of Gimlet in print and web?

I like that desi­gners have found a variety of ways to use dif­fe­rent parts of the family. For example, Robb Rice’s design of Foot­wear News uses Gimlet Dis­play very large, adding tons of per­so­na­lity to the maga­zine. Mean­while, Typographica’s Type Foundries Today uses only the text size, where it com­mu­ni­cates much more subtly. The 2015 Typo­gra­phics Con­fe­rence used Gimlet as a com­pa­nion for Stilla, and left the per­so­na­lity to Stilla. Nick Sherman thought that Gimlet was too wide for nar­rower screens, which is where the idea of text widths was born. Kat Ran Press also used it for a book about dogs, which I thought was great.

Are there new typefaces, you’re working at the moment?

Bungee is a typeface that celebrates the urban sign. You can adapt to horizontal or vertical text.

Bungee is a typeface that cele­brates the urban sign. You can adapt to hori­zontal or ver­tical text.

Output is a sans serif that was designed for interfaces.

Output is a sans serif that was desi­gned for inter­faces.

There is always some­thing! I just released Bungee recently, and you can find several pre­views of things on my web­site, inclu­ding Forma, a revival of an Ita­lian neo-​grotesk from the Neb­biolo foundry, Fern, a huma­nist old­style desi­gned for the screen, and Output, a cousin to Input opti­mized for user inter­faces.

David, thank you very much!