Lucas Descroix’s typefaces play with contrasts and eclecticism
We chat to the French graphic and type designer – whose charming penchant for writing about his typefaces reflects his passion for type design – about creating expressive typefaces with layers beyond what see you on the surface.
- Alif Ibrahim
- 28 November 2019
Lucas Descroix is a graphic and type designer living between France and Germany. “I started making typefaces while I was studying as a way to produce my own raw material to use in books and posters,” Lucas tells It’s Nice That. “What convinced me to dig deeper was a realisation that despite being often discreet and seemingly simple-looking, typography is at the crossroads of different fields. Depending on the project, it’s going to lead you to learn about history, optics or linguistics, to name a few. It’s just so rich!” Across his projects, he finds that he is drawn towards the question of consistency within a typeface or type family.
His enthusiasm for type design is not only reflected in his detail-oriented approach to his typefaces but also the significant amount of research and writing that he does for each of his projects. His display font Nostra, for instance, was accompanied by a rather enjoyable 1,000-word essay titled A kilo of lead and a kilo of feathers on its origins. It wasn’t just filled with fluff copy either, but a reflection of his passion for the discipline. “I really like the exercise of writing about my typefaces when they’re published. It’s never easy but always rewarding to pull threads and actually unveil common patterns between projects that went in opposite directions,” Lucas says.
“I personally like to try and find a border between visible and legible and, lately, to translate what can be found on that border into more text-suitable typefaces,” Lucas says. One clear example of this is the aforementioned Nostra, an extra-wide monospaced display text that comes in an atypical pairing of a roman and italic. “Sett is heavy and stable like a brick wall while Stream, inspired by flourished scripts, graffiti and snakes in jars, is light and all in curves,” he says of the two styles of Nostra.
At the National Institute of Typographic Research in Nancy, France, he developed the idea that the two styles could be related beyond just their weight or style. For Nostra, the two are related in only one extreme parameter – their extended fixed-width. Hence the title of the essay, A kilo of lead and a kilo of feathers, two distinct forms “brought together by a common measurement.”
This extreme fixed width means that it’s a solid typeface to use for creating patterns and its connection in width has found a home for those looking for expressive uses of the type. “Sometimes designers play with my typefaces in ways that make me think: ‘it looks like it was meant to do this’. It’s the case for a poster for Yves Tumor, designed by Caleb Vanden Boom who took advantage of Nostra’s fixed-width to stack the two styles on top of each other. So nice, so obvious, yet, so unexpected for me,” Lucas says.
“Another surprising situation is the exact opposite, when I see my typefaces used not only where and how I thought they would be, but in places I could barely hope for,” Lucas says, referring to how Grandmaster, his ultra-condensed typeface inspired by hip-hop and antique fonts, was used for the identity of the BET Awards this year.
Another typeface released in October published with The Designer’s Foundry, called Fragen, is a text-display hybrid that again tries to link contrasting elements within the family. “I used interpolation to bridge the gap between various influences and mixed several ways of italicisation – curviness, slant and rotation – in order to create a dynamic yet sort-of-mechanical companion,” Lucas says. “Fragen’s design process was a slow and organic journey of testing out hypotheses, seeing a system grow according to its own repercussions and exceptions.”
In looking to create contrasts and through examining typographic norms, Lucas creates some of the more conceptually interesting typefaces out there. As type designers look beyond legibility and communication and start using it as a way to experiment with expressiveness and technology, we hope that its popularity does not just stop at the aesthetics of the final product.
About the Author
Alif joined It's Nice That as an editorial assistant from September to December 2019 after completing an MA in Digital Media at Goldsmiths, University of London. His writing often looks at the impact of art and technology on society.