“This design field is freaking awesome”: Blaze Type’s Matthieu Salvaggio on the joys of type design
Though the founder of the Lyon-based type foundry never studied officially studied type design, here, he explains why he couldn’t keep away from the detail-heavy practice.
- Jyni Ong
- 7 April 2020
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
Matthieu Salvaggio can still remember the day he realised fonts were designed by people. And, it’s safe to say, that day was a pretty mind blowing day. He would go onto establish Blaze Type, the Lyon-based type foundry offering a wonderful array of nourishing typographic goodness. From versatile serifs to custom display typefaces, Blaze Type’s extensive portfolio of alphabet gems litters the design industry’s landscape. But first let's go back to Matthieu’s first introduction to the medium.
It was the first month of his graphic design university education when Production Type came in to give a talk. Jean-Baptiste Levée discussed his work for Air Inuit, and it was in this instant, that the young Matthieu realised, oh, there is a lot of thought and design consideration that goes into a font. “Somehow they were always there, you know, on my computer, but I had not given a thought to it before,” he tells It’s Nice That. “It’s kind of silly when you think about it, but that’s the way it was for me. Like an epiphany of, ‘you’re telling me there are people who design these things?’ Wow man. I really fell in love with the field.”
In spite of the unwritten status quo that you really shouldn’t try and design a typeface if you’re not officially studying the discipline, Matthieu thought, “screw it,” and went ahead anyway. Of course it was difficult, especially without access to the right tutors, but in the end, it was the reading, the videos, and the willingness to learn the software that propelled him forwards. Now, he can look back on these fonts and say they’re poorly designed, but it’s an attitude that has fundamentally helped him to strive for better ever since.
“I’ve kept that feeling somehow even now,” the founding designer continues. “When I work on a font, I focus on it fully until I’m happy with it and, I swear to God, if I put it aside for a few months and reopen the file, I can start all over again. Fonts you design to distribute are always a work in progress, you can always enhance it, add weights, glyphs, alternates, ligatures, languages, dingbats, whatever.” In short, it’s the systematics of type design that Matthieu is obsessed with – his word, not ours. It’s the history and the patterns of thought that draws him in, the way the design logic extends across hundreds of glyphs which are unique to each character but at the same time, linked together through these systems. Otherwise, it can be summed it like so: “This design field is freaking awesome and, to be honest, I could not have done anything else.”
Affordable and accessible for both professionals and students, Blaze Type aims to a type foundry for graphic designers, like somewhere Matthieu would go to find everything he needed type-wise if he was still practicing graphic design. Everything he designs is a part of Matthieu’s identity, made in relation to the person he is at that moment in time. “All the fonts I design and distribute through Blaze Type have a link to either mythical stories, occultism, religion or design systems – this being geometry or architecture or so on,” he says on the matter. They are inspired by things he sees and experiences, mingled with his own distinct personality, which in turn, gives his designs a sense of uniqueness.
This can be seen in Blaze Type’s recent designs, more namely, the Apoc family and The Massilia. The former, is a family of wide weights, more glyphs, more alternates, variable on some axis and in some extended languages. Soon to be released, Apoc is a collaboration with a few other designers, something that started out as an experiment from a super old copy of the Book of Revelations. “I love this kind of project where you have just a couple of letters or visual shapes and you immediately go insane about the project,” Matthieu adds on his imaginings for the full font family.
The latter, on the other hand, is a very different project. A homage to his home town of Marseille, The Massilia was created in tribute to all the wonders of the city; the football supports, the boldness, and of course, Matthieu goes on, “to the mythical work of Roger Excoffon’s Antique Olive font.” He didn’t want to replicate something too similar to Excoffon’s work, citing how its genius is unparalleled. Instead, he concludes by posing a set of different questions: “Do we need another interpretation of things like Garamond, Futura, and so on? To me, it’s simple. If you feel like doing something, you should go for it. I can’t explain it, but when working on this family, I was being compelled to do so.”
Stay tuned with Blaze Type this year as the type foundry has a ton of new releases that you won’t want to miss.
Blaze Type: Apoc
About the Author
Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.