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Work / Graphic Design

Knif Mono, a typeface presented how it will inevitably be used by other designers

For Axel Pelletanche-Thévenant’s latest typeface the designer has decided to display it how it will inevitably be used, implemented by other designers. Titled Knif Mono, the typeface now released as a newspaper, is a piece a team of designers have been working on since 2015.

Two years ago the designer was interning with friends Guillaume and Benoît at Building Paris tasked with designing a typeface. “The brief sounded simple,” they needed a bespoke monospaced font to develop a publication but they didn’t come up with any other parameters or references,” Axel tells It’s Nice That.

The designers decided to create a typeface which was needed stylistically, rather than adding to a pile of similar designed fonts. “We started analysing contemporary mono fonts and came to the conclusion that the supply of serif mono was very poor at this time,” explains Axel. The trio also had a tight deadline where most of the design choices needed to be made in just two weeks before the studio closed for the holidays. To start testing ideas, Axel explains he “distorted a Garamond to fit a monospaced grid,” helping to “define the rules including the easiest possible shape for serifs, obviously geometric and triangular.”

From this stage, adjustments grew gradually and naturally, with serifs being adjusted as and when it felt right. “Some are narrow and crude when there is alack of space (the ‘m’) and some are very wide then very acute (‘i’) when we need them to fill the space.” This attention to detail is what makes the typeface as a whole, “much of the identity of the font comes from the sparkle of these serifs, a funny rhythm defined by by a system.”

Following its design, Émilie Rigaud from type foundry A is for… offered to distribute the font, but rather than being happy Axel felt a little nervous about the prospect. “I was pretty uncomfortable about the fact that a longer development time could end up with a loss of the original spirit.” Thankfully and carefully the designers have managed to “keep it sharp!”

Originally released in November 2016 in a regular cut, Knif Mono is now available in italic too, and on the occasion the team decided to publish a “special newspaper” and hold a party in its honour. “We are already four people working on this project and have had a lot of fun, but we wanted even more exchanges, meetings, friends and life around it,” says Axel.

Releasing the typeface in this way is slightly unconventional but actually, it embraces graphic design and typography’s ethos of being communicative. “That’s why we decided to invite friends, former classmates, colleagues and collaborators to design an exclusive poster using these fonts.” Explaining that Knif Mono “is not a commercial typeface, it is hardly developed typography and without an extended family,” so releasing it in a classic specimen form wouldn’t have sat right. Instead, the team have embraced the form of the newspaper as an essential reading tool and home for fonts, “you can choose to read it as a publication and store it in a library or hang your favourite posters on the wall!”

From Bureau Borsche and Jean-Philippe Bretin to Atelier Brenda and Spassky Fischer, so many brilliant designers from around Europe are included in the newspaper to give you inspiration on how it can be used. The Knif Mono newspaper is also available here.

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Knif Mono launch, photograph by James Tennessee Briandt