Oh No Type Co’s latest font Casserole is an ornate tribute to family and food
“We executed this project in a way that feels really true to us, and I like how it sits in our library as something that's new and doesn't overlap with anything else.”
- Daniel Milroy Maher
- 16 May 2023
“I think I always approach type thinking of the different possible parameters,” says Oh No Type founder James Edmondson. “For instance, what do the stroke endings look like? How wide is it? How heavy is it? It’s all part of this method of looking at type that I learned from my teacher Erik van Blokland when I was studying on the Type Media programme at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague (KABK).”
After graduating, James became interested in typefaces “that you couldn’t quite achieve using just a list of seven or eight parameters”. This interest led him to experiment with several ornate typefaces in the context of a poster series for American funk band Vulfpeck, because he felt that they fell under this description. “It would be very difficult to just write a text description of any of them, then have someone take that text description and execute it and arrive at the same place from which it originated,” he explains.
One of these typefaces was Davida Bold, a very popular font from 1965 created by the American designer Louis Minott. James was particularly taken with Davida and decided to use it as reference point for the foundry’s eventual font Casserole, which was released earlier this year. The process of creating Casserole was a gradual one, but James says this slower pace of production felt more natural to him: “I always get pissed off when type designers say, ‘Oh, this typeface took 10 years to draw’, because of course most of that time was spent working on other projects. If I was just working on Casserole, it probably could have been done in a summer, but that's not a very realistic way of working.”
In the five years that span its humble beginnings as a piece of lettering in the poster series, to its finished state as a fully functioning font, James painstakingly created six different styles that, rather than seeking to “revive” Davida, distilled its essence in various ways. Across the Classic, Sans, Flare, Script, Blackletter and Lombardic styles of which it is composed, there is a cohesive expression, and yet each style feels distinct and unique. James explains that this balance took a while to master, but the end result was worth it. “Whenever you're doing a typeface that doesn't rely on interpolation to generate intermediate styles, you never want to take the lazy way out and just copy and paste everything, or assume that the answer that's right for one style is going to be right for another style. The best thing to do is to really look at it as its own set of problems, and oftentimes that means the answer involves a new solution drawn from scratch.”
As such, the making of Casserole was a very labour intensive one. However, what lies behind the more technical considerations are personal themes of family and food. Louis Minott, the creator of Davida, was one of six brothers, and so too is James, and he describes his siblings as all being very different from one another. Equally, Casserole has six styles, each of which could be considered a brother, if you will, within the wider font family. Each of these “brothers” are bound together by this association yet each one is unique in its own way.
These were James’ thoughts as he worked on Casserole, a font originally named after its intended use case (he thought it would do well in a food packaging environment). It began life as a font thematically tied to ideas of flavour and spice, and eventually grew to also encompass notions of family and union. “This parallel honestly dawned on me way late in the process, kind of as we were wrapping everything up,” recalls James. “But whenever a really simple idea hits me like that, I just kind of know I have to then go into that direction.”
Oh No Type Co: Casserole (Copyright © Oh No Type Co, 2023)
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.