Inès Davodeau’s typography practice expertly revives fonts from over 100 years ago
Inspired by old references in books and magazines, the Marseille-based designers elegant typeface Holise expertly revives a 130-year-old font.
- Olivia Hingley
- 1 July 2022
“I’ve always loved the expressive power of typography,” begins Inès Davodeau. “I like to compare it to an essential raw material for graphic design; just like colour, it can completely change perception.” It’s this thinking – plus a deep adoration for the varied potential of lettering – that has compelled the designer to build a career around creating her own personal and unique fonts. “It’s so difficult to find the typography that will work perfectly with the project, and so it’s easier for me to create it,” Inés adds.
One of the primary places in which Inés likes to source inspiration for her work is in old books and magazines, where she always finds plenty of “treasures”. It was through this very route of digging into the design history that instigated the font Holise. Born during a workshop with Pangram Pangram type designer Alex Slobzheninov, the initial brief was to search through typographic archive sites and then revive an old typeface, making it more modern and up to date. Inés settled on a specimen of the Breman font by Boston type foundry, dating from 1892. Designing a contemporary version whilst maintaining the general structure of the type – especially the “long spiky serifs” – it soon became clear that the project had potential. Extending the glyph set and refining the shapes, Inés persevered with the type, and we’re so glad she did. Holise is now a fully-formed type and exudes elegance and a certain classic beauty, whilst showing hints of newfangled elements.
Being an only child, Inés shares that a lot of the time she had to fill her own time – inventing games, objects and stories. These are all the things, alongside her love of drawing and creating, that fuelled Inés' creativity. When it came to deciding upon a degree to study, Inés planned to take engineering as a means of expressing her simultaneously creative and logical mind. But, going to a student fair to explore engineering, Inés instead came across the graphic design stall. “Eventually, I left with only design school brochures,” she tells It’s Nice That. When studying design, Inés initially found herself attracted to editorial design and layout, before becoming more interested in type design during her third year at school. So much so that she decided to take part in an introductory typography class and a workshop, during which Inés was asked to design a display font. It wasn't long until Inés was designing her first type, Asfen. “It was my first type experience and I loved it,” she reminisces.
Recently, Inés completed a project for the New York-based art director Ceclia Azcarate, creating a custom typeface for her design identity, with artistic direction led by Auroe Chauve. Leading with the idea of creating a font inspired by the pre-romantic Greco-Roman era and fresco’s and engravings from that time period, the goal was to build an imperfect or even “bizarre” font. “What we were looking for were those imperfections that appear because of the engraving process and the test of time and translate it into a digital drawing,” Inés explains. The process lasted three months and, among the inspirations that Auroe gave to Inés, she was given a set of engravings with letters of a smaller and taller height to refer to. This pushed Inés to create a glyph set where each vowel and a few other letters have three different versions, resulting in the appearance of “dancing” – allowing you to “play” with the composition. Fun, stylish and oozing with mythical and biblical imagery, the Cecila font is yet another indication of Inés’ brilliant ability to reinvigorate, reimagine and give life to the fonts and letterings of history.
Inès Davodeau : Holise Specimen Poster (Copyright © Inès Davodeau, 2022)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.