“Understand the rules so you can break them with confidence” – Ian Party on his type design studio, Newglyph
The designer tells us how graffiti, Swiss design and French calligraphy have all informed the work of his illustrious and well-structured studio.
- Olivia Hingley
- 13 January 2022
Ian Party’s interaction with typography began with his and his brothers shared love of graffiti – while his brother focused on spraying the images, Ian would design the lettering. Being raised in the small Swiss village of Viellet, “surrounded by vineyards and a beautiful view of the alps” Ian’s youthful love of graffiti contradicts his idyllic surroundings – but, Ian has never been one for sticking to the rule book. Telling young designers to “understand the rules so you can break them with confidence,” Ian's practice is all about challenging the boundaries of typography.
After developing his creative hand with graffiti, Ian describes coming across the book Decostered & Rahm Physiological Architecture as a “pivotal moment” in his design journey. Designed by Norm Studio and featuring the Didot Elder font by François Rappo, it was only when viewing the book and its defined lettering that Ian realised the importance of typography. And, from that point onward, he knew he wanted to pursue a career in type design. Initially studying sign painting, Ian moved on to graphic design at the École Cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL) before specialising in typography in the Type and Media program at The Royal Academy of Art, The Hague. In 2005 Ian went on to win the Swiss Design Award and in the same year founded his first design company BP Foundry, which later became Swiss Typefaces in 2013. Teaching type design at ECAL between 2005 and 2016, Ian then founded Newglyph in 2019.
Newglyph is also a studio founded on collaboration. Stating that he “couldn't make any of this happen without a collaborative effort to create a relevant company that understands the industry,” Ian was determined to bring a broad skillset to the team. With two of his team – project manager Daniela Retana and managing art director and visual communicator Dennis Moya Razafimandimby, joining him from Swiss Typefaces – the team has long-standing roots in the Swiss design world. But, also joining the team was Emeric Turcat, who had no prior experience in the design industry before joining, and instead possessed an indispensable knowledge of business management. It is this breadth of experience, skill and competence that leaves Newglyph running like a well oiled machine.
Ian describes his creative practice as being based on “two different axes”. Loving to explore type design history, he is particularly enamoured with the French style of the 17th and 18th century. But, following in the footsteps of calligrapher Jan Tschihold, graphic designer Josef Müller Brockman and typographer Adrien Frutiger, Newglyph’s work also boasts “a certain traditional Swiss type design approach”. Achieving this Swiss style with curves that are “cold and sharp” Newglyph’s typefaces are recognisable in their clean cut, precise style. “When designing a curve I think of the quickest and most efficient way to design a curve, for example, like a rollercoaster. It’s precise like a mathematical calculation, with an added bonus of emotions and feelings.” This element of “emotions and feelings” is best explored in Ian’s recent custom font, designed for his brother and artist Nicolas Party. Using words that evoked his brother’s work like “Cailloiu, Abricot, Hibou” the project proved a moving one for Ian. “I have flashbacks of the days when we worked and created together. And to see our work come together again was a beautiful creative process. It’s an incredible feeling to be working on a project that would bring our aesthetic and visual family history together on pages in books."
Most importantly, however, Ian likes to push himself creatively, “I like to challenge myself by creaking all the codes, rules, modifying and deconstructing classical fonts to develop my own visual language.” His approaching mammoth tasks is apparent in the bold, statement font Antarctica. Inspired by “classical design of a grotesque font, with references from Helvetica and Unica,” the font was made for a huge design space that travelled from an extremely condensed font to an extended, superbold one. The biggest task, Ian reveals, was “making all these styles interpolate and blend together to make it a fluid aesthetic variable font with enormous possibilities in styles that had never been done before”. Looking to design history whilst creating a truly contemporary type, Ian is true to his words: “Try to understand history, while at the same time trying to create your own.”
Newglyph: Antarctica (Copyright © Newglyph, 2021)
About the Author
Olivia joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in illustration, photography, ceramic design and platforming creativity from the north of England.