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Kyoorius DesignYatra '10: Typography - a serious business

By Biprorshee Das , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | September 06, 2010
On the first day of Kyoorius DesignYatra, Bruno Maag of Dalton Maag spoke on the growing significance of typography

Good calligraphy is always pleasing to the eye, and going by the words of Bruno Maag, managing director of Dalton Maag, a company that designs fonts and logos for many leading brands, one cannot ignore the growing significance of better font design.

On the first day of Kyoorius DesignYatra 2010, Maag spoke on the "business of type". According to him, every font has its own tone of voice and underlines the message that one wants to convey to the reader.

"I am Comic Sans. I know a lot of people think it is a rubbish font. I, though, think it is a good font, depending on how it is used. Each font is a different expression," Maag said.

During his discourse, he emphasised his passion for typography through the examples of various projects, which Dalton Maag has handled.

He spoke of two British real-estate companies - Knight Frank and Urban Splash. While the former is around 150 years old and a premium property company, the latter is a younger one from North England.

"For Knight Frank, the typography had to be quite traditional, because the audience had to be approached with a bit of sincerity and care. There had to be some sort of authority. For Urban Splash - completely opposite. The brief was to make the font such that it could grow continuously and be playful," Maag said.

He then spoke of the Ubuntu Project. Ubuntu is a computer operating system, distributed free as open-source software.

Having been asked to revamp the OS, a part of the brief to Dalton Maag was that the font had to work well on all mediums, and must look good in print as well as on screen.

"We had to find out how the fonts behaved on the computer screen down to the smallest point. Serif fonts were out. Sans serif fonts were used. We developed around 350 characters based on Latin, Greek and Cyrillic characters," said Maag.

Explaining the importance of display font and text font, he used the example of the Toyota font family.

Maag said that display fonts have a particular function. They have to instruct the reader as a title. One must be able to look at the font and identify the product. "Hence, the Toyota display font is quite bold, takes up a lot of space, and the characters are quite distinct."

The text font, on the other hand, is a functional design and must be legible down at the smallest points.

Maag added that there is more room for creative play in display fonts, since reading is secondary.

He came down heavily on the logo of fashion designer, Jonathan Saunders, which according to Maag, is not up to the mark.

"It is so wrong at so many levels. What is wrong with the logo is its execution. This person who designed the logo obviously did not have a clue about typography. Has this person never done any calligraphy whatsoever?" he exclaimed.

He thereafter showed his version of the logo, which he termed as a definite improvement, in an attempt to rectify all the issues Maag had with the characters in the logo. He advised designers to pay enough attention to italics and spacing.

Furthermore, he said that Dalton Maag is now dabbling in Arabic, Hebrew and even Devnagari font design and considered it to be a big challenge. He spoke of the challenges with Arabic design, faced while handling projects for Metro Dubai and McDonald's.

On the Devnagari font, he exclaimed to a cheering audience, "You guys are insane! There are over 600 characters."

Towards the end of his speech, Maag emphasised the need to protect intellectual property. "I spend a huge amount of money on my fonts. This is intellectual property. You need a font. You have to buy it! It is not okay to just copy the font on your computer. If you do that, I cannot buy my lovely wife a Christmas present," he jocularly exclaimed, albeit the seriousness was apparent.

"You are depriving me of income, which I can reinvest into new font products. IP is important. It is important if you want to be successful and if you want to make a living out of design. It is something you have to lobby for," Maag said, drawing his discourse to a close.

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