Ethan Nakache on his “spooky and classy” variable typeface, Sprat

A recent graduate, the French type designer has been working on the development of a new typeface – a retro-inspired font with a whole host of uses.

9 April 2020
Reading Time
3 minute read

“During my teenage years, I was really into graffiti,” says Ethan Nakache, a French type designer. “I think that’s how everything started.” 

Having spent many childhood days drawing in a notebook at school, it felt inevitable that Ethan would end up pursuing something creative. After coming to this realisation, he decided to enrol on a fine arts degree course at La Sorbonne 1 in Paris, which opened many doors, including one that gave him the opportunity to experiment with calligraphy and lettering. “This was a time of discovery,” he explains, “and I became aware that type design was a profession.” Aware of the path that his career was about to take, Ethan decided to continue his studies in graphic and type design at La Cambre, Brussels.

Since graduating last year, Ethan has kept busy working on type and editorial design, presenting most of his fonts in use on Instagram. With a process that always begins with inspiration pulled from old specimens and letterings – “sometimes it can be an idea or a few curves from an ad or a logo” – Ethan then turns to the design of glyphs. This initial phase is always analogue: “I first find an idea, a concept or something that pushes me to draw, and then I do my research with a pencil on paper,” he adds on the topic of his methods. “I think this is one of the most important steps for me on a type design project.” It’s also where he finds “unprecedented curves, shapes and forms”, that he can continue to build on. 

Since last January, the designer has been developing Sprat, a typeface project that started with old lettering from Eric Gill – an English sculpture and typographer – that he made for a bakery. He cites Eric as one who inspires his work greatly, alongside the likes of Claude Garamont, Roger Excoffon and Gerhard Schwekendiek. As for the more contemporary designers, Ethan is drawn to the work of Ohno Type, Coppers and Barasses, Extrabrut, Sharp Type, Grilli Type and Dinamo. “But I think the thing that inspires me the most is the discussion – just taking and showing a work in progress to my friends, some old teachers or mentors.”


Ethan Nakache: Sprat

As for Sprat, Ethan combined his Eric Gill influences with another source he found that focused more on lettering – “the serifs were pretty sharp and I really liked it”. He was also interested in the way that the width of the capitals slightly extended in comparison to the lowercase. “So, I started to draw and I emphasised this aspect, making some really sharp and long serifs (which I kept as an important part of the design) and some extended capitals.” The result wasn’t too successful, he explains, as the capital didn’t work out too well with the normal width of the lowercases. Despite this outcome, he continued to develop the project into his bachelor thesis, developing an extended variable family that could be put to multiple uses. 

What’s most succinct about Sprat is the fact that it’s noticeably variable. The playful and elegant font moves from thin, “aggressive and classy”, to one that’s thicker and smoother – a process that can be quite a challenge, particularly when you have a lot of masters where “everything needs to be on point”. As for the process, Ethan achieved this by knowing exactly where to place the points, and also by working hard on the spacing and kerning.

“I think that Sprat can have a really strong 70s or 80s feeling, according to the context and style,” he says. Published on Collletttivo in its recent catalogue, Ethan says how the team had formulated the accompanying imagery for the release, and he’s very “pleased they did”. As a collection of retro-inspired tech pictures, reminiscent of age-old fragments taken off Clip Art, this aesthetic was in accordance for where Ethan hopes that his typeface will be used – be it display, titling or even mid-sized body text. “Each style can work for a different subject, but I think it could be quite appropriate for anything a bit spooky or classy,” he concludes. “I would love to see it on posters for thrillers or horror movies.” But above all, Ethan doesn’t believe in a font being used in only one or few contexts. “It just needs to be well done by the graphic designer using it, and for them to appreciate the feeling it transmits.”

GalleryEthan Nakache: Sprat

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Ethan Nakache: Sprat

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.

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