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!