“Working with type has never been so direct and simple”: Lucas Liccini on how he revived 30 neglected typefaces
The Berlin-based designer tells us the story behind the digitisation of 30 forgotten typefaces, irregardless of their origins and era.
- Jyni Ong
- 21 January 2021
When the Berlin-based Lucas Liccini started researching type, he came across many interesting but neglected typefaces. To the best of his knowledge, most of these typefaces did not survive to postscript and he wondered whether he could successfully revive some of these unknown classics in a new project. Luckily for the designer, who was in the midst of studying for his Master’s degree in Graphic Design, Lucas was able to embark on the huge undertaking of breathing life back into these typographic relics.
The result is Lucas’ project, Revivals & Renditions. Here, he celebrates a myriad of forgotten typographic styles, irregardless of era, origin or region, and examines the beauty of the letterforms through digitisation. The project features 30 revived typefaces in total, including the likes of Alessandrini 7, designed by Jean Antoine Alessandrini and released by Hollenstein in 1972; plus Billy Beck, a rendition of Billy Beck System designed by William Beck (date unknown) for VGC; and Chariot, a slanted display typeface of unknown origin found on the website e-daylight.jp. All 30 revivals are available to view on Lucas’ website – an eclectic array of styles with unique histories to match.
It may come as a surprise to know that Lucas didn't have really have a background in type design. Describing himself as “more or less self taught”, the designer, who was born and raised in Berlin, originally studied Molecular Genetics at London’s King’s College. After realising a career in the sciences was not for him, he embarked on a graphic design-led foundation course at London College of Communication before working in publishing at several esteemed companies including Phaidon Press and Gestalten Verlag.
Eventually, in 2013, Lucas decided to commit himself entirely to graphic design, consequently enrolling in an undergraduate course at the Berlin University of the Arts under Professor Fons Hickmann – where he remained for his Master’s. Now, as well as working on Revivals & Renditions, he runs the studio Hanzer Liccini with fellow designer Elias Hanzer and for the past two years, has also been part of Studio Manuel Raeder. Throughout his various projects, one constant that applies to all Lucas’ projects is his drive. His approach has always been motivated by his personal interests, something he learnt from his experience with Fraser Muggeridge, Manuel Raeder and Quentin Walesch.
With Revivals & Renditions, Lucas tells us: “I enjoyed the exercise of exploring the historical shapes and attempting to recreate the original design,” he says of the collection of fonts. He likens the process to drawing a portrait, as the skill that goes into reviving a typeface isn’t just about technical accuracy – it’s also a test in capturing a character, essence and identity. For now, many of the sampled sources are incomplete, vectorised from whatever existing characters Lucas could find. Numerals, punctuation and non-alphabetical glyphs are often missing, and Lucas hopes he can fill in the gaps now he’s finished his Master’s.
The ultimate goal is to revive these fonts to their fully updated glory and release them digitally. The digital release of fonts is something Lucas and Elias are no stranger to, recently launching Hal Matex, an homage to the school book grotesque fused with a bauhaus aesthetic, as well as Hal Vincent, a mono-line script font inspired by the letter designs of naval scientist Dr Allen Vincent Hershey. Discussing their most recent release, Lucas adds: “Hal Colant is a revival of Columbia Antiqua, a Scotch modern-style serif typeface featuring distinct angular details and produced by Bauer at the 1893 World Exposition in Chicago. We also added an italic which did not exist previously.”
With much to keep him busy in the near future, there’s lots to look forward to from Lucas. The designer himself appreciates that it’s an exciting time to be working in the industry. “Type design has become extremely accessible and democratic,” he says on he matter, “and the ability to create and infiltrate type on a microscopic level is incredible.” The tools to set text are now readily available, allowing almost anyone to experience the joy of modifying a curve and then printed. “Working with type has never been so direct and simple,” Lucas finally goes on to say. “I see this as a chance to create unique graphic design, working with rare and individual typefaces and experimenting with these possibilities.”
GalleryLucas Liccini: Revivals & Renditions (Copyright © Lucas Liccini, 2020)
Lucas Liccini: Revivals & Renditions (Copyright © Lucas Liccini, 2020)
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. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.