“The project was born from questioning the use of a typeface today, and its trends, especially concerning its body size,” explains Paris-based graphic and type designer Cécile Legnaghi of her diploma project. While studying at École Estienne, she became fascinated by designers’ choices to utilise display typefaces at caption size – and vice versa. In response, Cécile set out to design three of her own, with the intention of them being used in both contexts.
She began with three 19th Century display fonts, in order to be challenged by the existing shapes. “I chose to work with display fonts as I considered that it would be more difficult to find solutions to make eccentric display shapes work in small sizes than the contrary,” she tells It’s Nice That. Each font was chosen for its own constraint: It for its contrast and thin ascenders, Marcel for its lack of white space inside the letters and Sultan as its incredibly light, making it hardly legible in small sizes.
From here, Cécile began experimenting with ways to create typefaces that transform visually when used in either a large or small point size. It, which when used as a display font has visible, hairline ascenders but becomes a stencil at caption size. Marcel, which is an incredibly black typeface when used at a small size, becomes much lighter when enlarged. And finally, Sultan – which is highly contrasted with black serifs between thin stems when used at a small size – has stems disappear altogether at caption size, relying on its serifs to form the shape of each letter.
Although clearly ornamental, Cécile’s adaptations to the original fonts and her resulting new typefaces present an interesting new context for the role of type and graphic designers. “The typeface is the main, and inevitable tool, of the graphic designer,” she remarks, “nowadays lots of graphic designers create their own typefaces, sometimes even without training. The boundaries between the two disciplines are getting smaller and smaller.” By recognising this – and the fact that the rules regarding the use of display and caption fonts are also becoming increasingly blurred – Cécile suggests a process of type design in which both contexts must be considered in order to produce a successful typeface. “The point was not to have the most optimal font in both big and small sizes,” she concludes, “but to at least have this question in mind when starting the design".
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