Rosetta Type Foundry’s David Březina on his interchangeable and variable typeface Handjet

Featuring smooth transitions between 23 elemental shapes, Handjet was devised to make a designer’s life a lot easier.

Date
14 June 2021
Reading Time
4 minute read

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Sometimes all you need is a little spark of inspiration to get the creative ideas flowing. This is exactly what happened to type designer David Březina with his recent release Handjet. Born and raised in the city of Brno in the Czech Republic, he got into type design after witnessing the work of František Štorm and Tomáš Brousil and the articles in Czech-English Typo magazine. “Thanks to them, I realised that you can actually design typefaces,” he says, citing also his teachers at the Danmarks Designskole as those who were encouraging his first type design pursuits. But before venturing on this new path, David had studied computer science in school, and naturally found himself drifting towards web design, graphic design and, last but not least, typeface design. Shortly after was an MA in Typeface Design at the University of Reading where he also did a PhD.

Now, David runs his own type foundry named Rosetta and specialises in multilingual and multi-script typefaces. The foundry is home to a family of collaborators and bespoke fonts, the most recent being the second release of Handjet. This typeface came about in autumn 2018 while David was teaching a workshop for a group of graphic design students at the Faculty of Fine Arts, based in Brno. “Type design seems intimidating,” he says, adding one of the reasons being the Bézier curves which “seem daunting to use”. Addressing this, he decided to base his first workshop exercise on the Handjet printers and avoid using any curves in the process. “the students were asked to draw a font and use a single element to build all characters. This is a very easy task in any modern font editor and it is a lot of fun”. So such lengths that all of the students had designed their own font with both basic English and Czech alphabets by the end of the day.

“Later,” he adds, “I realised that I could morph the shape of the element and make it into a variable font. I did not leave the house for a few days,” and instead he designed the characters for the European Latin, Cryllic and Greek alphabets. The result of which is a simple to use font containing 23 elemental shapes, designed wholly to make the designer’s life a lot easier through the use of a coarse grid – or in this case, the letter “n” is five elements wide and eight elements tall. “Douglas Hofstadter describes a state of frenzy when he was designing his grid letters. At the same time, he observed that the process does not take away your creative freedom. Interestingly, less choice does not mean less creativity, and more choice does not mean more creativity. Creativity does not correlate with choice.”

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Rosetta Type Foundry: Handjet (Copyright © Rosetta Type Foundry, 2018

Another notable feature of the Handjet is the use of linear interpolation – a technique used often by type designers today who want to achieve a continuous curve between the data points. In the case of Handjet, this was applied to give a smooth transition between the shapes and weights. “If you have two bézier contours made of the same number of points, you can interpolate between them, i.e. find any contour in-between the two,” explains David. “For example, by interpolating between thin and black letters, you can make a number of weights in between (and even outside this range). Interpolation is also used in variable fonts.” For Handjet specifically, David has only applied interpolation on the contour of the element shape, meaning that you can achieve a circle, square, star, heart, a lozenge or even an egg. “Some of the element shapes are more complex and need more points, so I had to be a little creative and draw the simpler shapes with more points and hide the extra ones in the right places.”

These shapes sit harmoniously alongside the lettering, patterns and pictograms, the latter two parts being undeniably enjoyable section of the design process for David. Along with reindeers, snowman and Christmas presents, there are also more silly depictions like a stretchable sausage dog, a parliament of owls and many trees. “You can make your own bucolic scene,” he says, giving thanks to Google for receiving the funding to open-source the project, as well as adding support for Arabic, Armenian and Hebrew. “This was both fun and a challenge. I should thank here my consultants Borna Izadpanah, Khajag Apelian, and Meir Sadan for their help and insight.” And let’s not forget Google Fonts, which is where you’ll be able to get your hands on the font in the near future.

Each component works together within a single variable font, meaning that the user can produce their own custom variations and animations. Handjet, in this sense, is effectively versatile and freeing, and we can’t wait to see what comes next from the foundry; rumour has it that David is releasing a new version of the typeface Gridlite and plans to focus on his writing at Design Regression. Oh and there’s a Bauhaus-inspired typeface that "has been collecting dust for way too long”, so let’s just say there’s plenty to look out for.

GalleryRosetta Type Foundry: Handjet (Copyright © Rosetta Type Foundry, 2018)

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Rosetta Type Foundry: Handjet (Copyright © Rosetta Type Foundry, 2018

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.

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