Erik Sachse approaches type design in a rather unique way. His fonts have an identity that goes beyond adjectives and verbal personality traits as, for Erik, his fonts are best explained through hand-drawn characters that he sketches in pencil alongside his type designs. He founded his studio, Napoleon Typefaces, in 2017 as a type foundry, but around a month ago, he converted the foundry to “a bureau for aesthetics and visual communication” to more accurately represent the studio’s creative output.
“Most people reach for higher goals in life to feel fulfilment,” explains Erik, “but they forget that everything they’ve learnt and experienced was laid on the road to get to that place. The same applies to many things, including the drawing typefaces.” That being said, Erik’s type designs iare pointedly process-led. For the 23-year-old visual communication student in Weimar, his interests lie in the process of developing a font’s identity rather than the perfect finished product.
Type design for Erik consists of “plotting each point in its correct place until the font develops some sort of identity”. While he’s undergoing this process, he comes up with comics to make the font more vivid, establishing a fully-formed character for each design. He finds the act of drawing typefaces “nothing but a nice meditative state”. And this design process takes him “deep into a world where [he] quickly loses time”. Erik refers to this mode of working as the “passive” side to his practice. In this passive state of mind, he feels free to “experiment with shapes and feel how letters work with [his] subconsciousness” while also giving rise to fictional characters that deepen the concept behind his designs.
By contrast, Erik acknowledges the alternative, active side to his practice. “While the passive part is mainly drawing typefaces and design thinking, the active part focuses on solutions to problems that occur while working on projects,” Erik explains. These problems are more practical than metaphorical and include invoicing, phone calls, programming and so on. Dividing his practice into these two parts – passive and active – allows Erik to produce work more efficiently for his bureau; which is currently based out of a library computer, Erik’s personal laptop, and his office desk where he works as a research assistant.
He additionally likens his type design process to music which is “an important part of [his] process. He visualises a musical rhythm to a pattern or grid “laid out nicely without any padding on a sheet”. Music is an audible distraction from the designer’s hectic visual world, he compares a melody to a gradient, high-pitched tones to the colour red and low-pitched tones to the colour blue. In turn, his designs become even more rooted in his own psyche, and along with the comics that accompany his typefaces’ personalities, Napoleon Typefaces is a highly intriguing bureau shaped by its founder’s subconscious image making.
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.