Luck! No need to revive!

From the 1910s to the 1960s, dozens of designers in Europe and North America published books for graphic school pupils and apprentices teaching them how to letter. Each country had its own styles; the differences between books in, say, Germany and The Netherlands are remarkable. One of the most comprehensive guides to lettering was Ernst Bentele’s Schrift, geschrieben, gezeignet und angewandt (Letterforms, written, drawn, and in use) from 1953. He takes the reader on a guided tour through writing styles old and new: constructed and calligraphed blackletter; written and drawn oldstyle; ornamented letters; geometric grotesques; and very personal variants on Mittel-European script alpahabets.

Script-and-ball-terminal alphabet from Bentele's book Schrift.

When Korean type designer Minjoo Ham, whom we had known through her work at Seoul outfit S-Core, decided to stay on in Europe after graduating in 2015 from Type+Media (KABK, The Hague), we invited her to come to Berlin for a few weeks. Those weeks became months, and she is now an enthusiastic Berliner, working as a freelancer for international type companies. But the first 6 months she worked at Fust & Friends.
A couple of weeks before Jan travelled to the Netherlands to say hi to The Hague (his original hometown) and help Minjoo get on the train, we sent her a few scanned pages from Bentele’s book to try out options for possible digitizations. She chose a script that Bentele calls “freely drawn italic”, which was also our favourite. Two weeks later when arriving in Berlin, she brought a nicely drawn digital alphabet.

Already digitized

She was soon ready to show the first results of her scriptic explorations. One of the Fust affiliates curious to see the work was Florian Hardwig, who praised the work but said: “Why would you tackle this Bentele script? Alejandro Paul at Sudtipos has already done it.” That “revival” of an alphabet that never was a font is called Bowling Script, and it copies the capricious angles and erratic terminals of the 1953 model rather faithfully, adding an unballed version.

We did know Ale Paul’s Semilla, based on another Bentele script, but Bowling had somehow remained under our radar. We immediately decided that it was no use reviving this model. It had been done! But it had been a useful exercise.

Moving away from the model

A fresh veteran of the hectic last phase of Type + Media, Minjoo was a bit sad for the lost time. At F&F, we saw the new situation as a great opportunity. Together we sketched some lettershapes that indicated how this typical mid-century, whimsical alphabet might evolve into some more forward-looking (literally and figuratively), consistent, and contemporary. We also decided that by adding layers of background and highlight fonts, the new typeface might be more versatile, and usable.

Six months later, the work was done. Then personal circumstances delayed production; but another 14 months later, with the help of Benedikt Bramböck, a classmate of Minjoo at Berlin font production studio Alphabet Type, the family was ready.

Chromatic: multi-coloured + layerable

Once the basis of the font was ready, we saw possibilities to make Teddy into a layerable font, allowing for chromatic (pluri-coloured*) use and perhaps, later, when the typographic powers-that-be have decided fonts with built-in colour have a future, become a colour font. Minjoo made a Cloud version (creating a fat outline around complete words, not single letters), and highlight layer, and an Open version that is one font with the highlight cut out.

  • Multi = many. Pluri = more than one. So we prefer “pluri” here, because we don’t count like this: one, two, many. Same thing for languages: a font covering three writing systems, e.g. Latin, Cyrillic and Greek, is not “multi-script”. It should be referred to as “pluri-script”.

Ligatures & Alternates galore

A script-like display face like Teddy loves optimization options. And so Minjoo used her OpenType and Python savvy to create dozens, maybe hundreds, of ligatures and letter pairs/trios that are programmed to take the place of individual glyphs in combinations that call for more harmony and coherence.