“Even though variable fonts have been around for quite some time now, the potential contained within them hasn’t been rudimentarily utilised,” explains David Liebermann, co-founder of the Hamburg-based design studio Liebermann Kiepe Reddemann. Last year, we were lucky enough to cover an extensive array of this bold studio’s creative output, and now, the studio has shared two equally (if not more) exciting new projects with us; the first being something very special; Times New Arial.
Yes, that is right, Times New Arial. A new font experimentation drawing on the excellence of two ubiquitous typographic powerhouses. A new variable font concept created by Liebermann Kiepe Reddemann and produced by Elias Hanzer, the experiment pushes the multiple possibilities of variable fonts even further. “The possibility to use custom fonts on the World Wide Web has been possible since the introduction of CSS2 in 1998,” explains Maximilian. Up until this point, it was only possible to use fonts on the web once installed on computer. And for this reason, Times and Arial established themselves as the stereotype for serif and grotesque fonts. “Hence, nowadays these two fonts embody default and nostalgic web design,” says Jana, the Reddemann of Liebermann Kiepe Reddemann.
With Times New Arial, the collaborators combine the visual extremes of both Times and Arial into one interpolated typeface. With new technological possibilities, the hybrid represents a new era of font usage, challenging the role of variable fonts in the present cultural scape. As well as being poster children for web typography, Times and Arial also represent progress and proxies within digital design. “We wanted to combine this conventional aesthetic with new technical possibility in order to revive and refine them, so in turn, we could experiment with them in our projects,” continues David.
It’s a process the designers explored previously back in 2018. In collaboration Lamm und Kirch, the designers worked with Dinamo’s custom font Foliant GX for the website of Urbane Künste Ruhr, experimenting with the variable character set to create something unique for web. As a design studio with its roots in the internet, and through working with projects like the aforementioned, Liebermann Kiepe Reddemann discerned how when it comes to “font experiments within interaction design, the extremes of fonts are often too close to each other.” What is more, there are a surprising amount of modern fonts lacking in common characters used on the web – arrows and x’s for instance – not to mention a host of other characters used to indicate interaction.
In turn, the studio decided to embark on a project to explore these issues further, something that could ensure a sense of freedom and experimentation within web design. In provisional talks on the subject, the designers came up with an idea to make typefaces which could exploit all the possibilities of the latest technologies, and thus, Times New Arial was born. Working closely with Elias – who did the entire technical implementation of the font – Times New Arial grew further in concept. “He has a lot of expertise in the production of fonts, so when we talked about the idea, there was an interesting exchange and new ideas came up,” says David.
Perhaps the most interesting of these ideas is the creation of an axis which animates special icons in the character set, a burger button for example, can be changed according to css variation-settings. It’s a profoundly progressive project that is sure to excite anyone interested in type, from the amateur to figure head. Though the font is up and running in a number of Liebermann Kiepe Reddemann’s projects (not to mention some educational ones too) the studio are adamant that there is a lot more to explore in the future. “We believe that we are still at the beginning of the research and are positive that there is a lot more still to come,” the designer ends on this wonderfully adventurous project.
Currently looking forward to seeing how other designers will use Times New Arial, Liebermann Kiepe Reddemann has plenty of other new work to divulge into. In some other exciting work, Cursor.otf is a font which allows users to use MacOS system cursors as a font in any desktop publishing program as a way to imply interaction or events in website sketches. You can see more on the project here.
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.