Fernhout is the new typeface inspired by a Wim Crouwel exhibition poster

In collaboration with design agency Thonik for Dutch Design Week, The Foundry Types incorporated the “simple primitive forms” of Crouwel’s Edgar Fernhout exhibition designs.

Date
10 December 2021

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The Foundry Types, an independent studio previously named The Foundry and known for its collaborations with Wim Crouwel, continues its artistic relationship with the legendary designer, who died in 2019, with the launch of a new font. Titled Fernhout, The Foundry Type’s directors David Quay and Stuart de Rozario present a display face based on the “simple primitive forms, rectangles and quarter-circles” of Wim Crouwel’s Edgar Fernhout exhibition poster and catalogue.

The new Fernhout font is rooted in design solutions found in 1963, the year the Van Abbemuseum commissioned Crouwel for an exhibition on Dutch painter Edgar Fernhout. Crouwel’s “edgarfernhout” solution is where today’s Fernhout typeface gets its “primitive forms”; it featured a “rectangle block system, two columns wide and four oblongs tall, circled segments, and angled indentations,” according to the team at The Foundry Types.

Although simple and playful, these basic forms raised challenges for the design duo, when it came to distilling key characteristics for Fernhout. “Crouwel’s carefully devised grid often allowed many glyphs to design themselves, but complex glyphs with diagonal strokes – ‘k, s, x, z, 2, 4, 5, 7’ – needed to be stripped back and simplified,” the studio explains. “Certain letterform characteristics threw up a few dilemmas – how to design an ‘i and j’ dot? So, we introduced another element – the square. This allowed a little more freedom to express the concept in a more refined way.”

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The Foundry Types: Fernhout (Copyright © The Foundry Types, 2021)

Among the trickiest of solutions to achieve came from another requirement: “To make two sets of figures – aligning and old style figures,” director Stuart de Rozario tells It’s Nice That. “The junctions to the centre section of the ‘3 and 8’ seemed impossible to achieve. In order to get these characters to be instantly recognisable, we devised a double quarter-circle.” On their approach to solving problems, Stuart de Rozario states: “Sketching and working out ideas on paper was the simplest and quickest way to develop and process our thoughts.”

The Fernhout marks one of many recreated Crouwel designs which weren’t intended to be used as complete typefaces by the designer. In 1988, a version of Crouwel’s iconic New Alphabet typeface was used for the sleeve of Joy Division’s Substance by designer Brett Wickens. According to The Foundry Types’ David Quay, Crouwel “would often be taken aback to know people would want to use [his typefaces] in their own design projects.”

GalleryThe Foundry Types: Fernhout (Copyright © The Foundry Types, 2021)

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The Foundry Types: Fernhout (Copyright © The Foundry Types, 2021)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, she worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.

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