Extraset is a new Swiss foundry bringing together four leading type designers under one name
The new foundry sees Alex Dujet of Futur Neue, Xavier Erni of Neo Neo, Roger Gaillard of Cecile Roger and David Mamie of Todeschini Mamie formalise a long-standing collaboration.
- Ruby Boddington
- 3 September 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Since 2014, a group of friends – Alex Dujet, Xavier Erni, Roger Gaillard and David Mamie – has been meeting frequently for what they all “cafe / typo”, where they would end “drinking beers instead of coffee and talking abut typography”. As they are all self-taught, these meetings provided them the chance to “learn new techniques, technologies and exchange opinions and knowledge about type,” while each ran their own practice.
In 2016, this progressed to a collaborative catalogue of fonts which they distributed themselves, something which has been formalised in a type foundry called Extraset. It’s an exciting new studio on the graphic design scene and brings together four established and respected names, based in Geneva.
While Alex, Xavier, Roger and David all bring different interests to the table, something they all agree on is that the most exciting part of the type design phase is the inception of a new project. “When you find the DNA of your font, you start to shape the curves and apply those shapes to the entire alphabet to build a coherent visual system. You build those forms using references from the past but also creating new original ones. It’s a fragile balance between a lot of parameters…” That part of the job is what they all enjoy the more than the technical part; “developing the 800 glyphs palette, kerning, mastering, etc.” They also love utilising their fonts in graphic design projects, “that’s why they have designed in the beginning anyway, because we wanted our homemade custom tools.”
Within Extraset, the team has developed a unique approach, in which each designer is in charge of their own projects and runs their own practice, with Extraset simply functioning as a platform for everyone to share their work under one umbrella. It means their output is multifaceted and broad but held together via the commonality of the Extraset platform. Another thread bringing their individual practices together is the use of open-type formats, in fact, it’s where the foundry’s name comes from: “All our fonts offers a lot of alternative character sets to provide more ‘customisable’ fonts to their users. That way they can create their own combinations with different glyphs selected from a variety of stylistic sets. Each of the first six fonts that we recently published contains at least ten alternate characters. We always have an extra set for you!”
GalleryExtraset: Klarheit Kurrent (Copyright © Alex Dujet)
Aesthetically, Extraset’s typefaces err towards text fonts, although the foundry’s output is by no means limited, straying into more experimental headline fonts from time to time. What’s clear across everything, however, is the distinct influence of their mother country, with Swiss International Style imbued throughout their portfolio.
One typeface which communicates this proclivity is titled Klarheit Grotesk. Oscillating between two major standards, it seeks to meet the requirements of a more contemporary form of modernism. “The project features a formula that revisits geometrical solutions drawn from the Bauhaus movement as well as key typographic standards used in 1960s Swiss modernism,” Extraset explains. It’s a typeface Alex has been working on for five years now, undertaking experiment after experiment, reaching a conclusion recently. This long timeframe of work, has resulted in several frameworks for Klarheit Grotesk, “combining consistent historical periods with great readability and glyph precision when using this font for text as well as headlines.” With this in mind, the studio continues, “the OpenType possibilities include 12 versatile stylistic sets that feature a variety of finishes.” The result is a typeface with extensive potential, allowing for “progressive design choices oscillating between neutral and more assertive graphic positioning.”
It’s in these kinds of projects that the combined experience of Extraset’s founders, which adds up to over ten years in the industry, becomes clear. No stone is left unturned in their pursuit of the final form of a lettering and the result is a slick, polished and compelling portfolio of typefaces. Up next for Extraset are Quartz, an eccentric headline didot style font with a lot of crazy ligatures, and Orchard, an Italian style, inverted contrast typeface that is still pretty readable in text size. There are also plans to print a few type specimens and, finally, they tell us “we are planning a ‘real life’ launch and exhibition for the opening of the foundry in Geneva.” So you know where to be if you’re local!
Extraset: Klarheit Grotesk (Copyright © Alex Dujet)
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.