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The short but real VTF Lack story

Lack typeface project began in 2012 when Adrien was commissioned by Rio Nebulane, an electronic music band, to create their first album cover.

Rio Nebulane, First album. Design, illustration and typography : Adrien Midzic, 2012.

The fisrt thing achieved for this work was a visual language etablishment inspired by hieroglyph’s system. Then, a certain legibility became to be necessary to read at least the band name. So Adrien started to search an option to keep this mysterious visual flavor about hieroglyphs into a custom font. This first fruits are really important in the story of Lack, because the research of the limits of ligibility inside the letterform comes from here.

Logotype for test

The research leads design of some letters to compose the band name Rio Nebulane. After many tests proceed to find the good proportions and legibility, the logotype was ready.

Rio Nebulane, logotype, Adrien Midzic, 2012

Back in time, the first Open Type features

The previous tests offered a large choice of letter forms and Adrien wanted to keep them as much as possible. He discovered the Open Type font format. It was a big joy to play and work with this features for the first time. A stylistics set was added to the Lack.

Sample specimen of VTFLack first edition, Adrien Midzic, 2013

Where put and publish this strange font?

Adrien, really proud of this typeface searched a way to promote it. He found the perfect solution with Velvetyne Type Foundry, the really kind guys fascinated by all typographic fields, indeed the most strange.

So, Lack joined the VTF font catalogue in 2013, and it was the first free-font designed by Adrien Midzic.

It could live her own life and been used by graphics designer to serve their graphic design works.

Africavivre website. Design Clément Lecocq

Lack Specimen, a student work. Design : Maxime Barbier

3 years later, a trip and a new friend

Travels is always a good thing, in 2017, Adrien went in Greece for vacation and had the idea to try to make a greek font on his come back. Lack was a perfect typeface for that. He draw the greek letters inspired by his own shoots. At the same time a russian friend come in his life, and he decides to make Lack a real multilungual font! It helps him to draw the letter to make any mistake, because like the Greek alphabet, Cyrillic is really different.

Annoucement of the greek VTFLack version

Annoucement of the Cyrillic VTFLack version

Lack are being met

So in 2018, both of visuals and linguistics missing of Lack are being met.

VTFLack is now updated, it is a brave, contemporary and experimental typeface. It gives you the opportunity to compose in Cyrillic, Greek and latin. It comes in a single weight with her Italic. It started by extending the first VTFLack font edition, designed by Adrien Midzic in 2013. It works well as a display typeface, but is also designed to perform in all kind of texts sizes. Some crazy surprises are hidden into 3 stylistics sets.

Now the Lack’s emblematic set with its crazy uppercases is available in two stylistic sets called O.V.N.I-1 and O.V.N.I-2.

Another set named “Alternate” has also been created, in which alternative forms for some tiny ones are available.

Download the new Lack!

Trickster, a postmortem

When we released our latest typeface, Trickster, at the end of 2017, we also made a poster exhibition showing creations from 14 designers who designed beautiful application of the font. The event took place at La Générale, a place collectively managed by an association. As its website puts it, La Générale “is a laboratory made for creation, — cultural, artistic, political or social.” This former electric factory in the center of Paris was the right place to show our exhibit. We designed posters, asked friends and personnal heroes to do the same, and we end up with 14 fantastic propositions of how to use Trickster — a typeface that seemed barely legible but that is finally perfectly fontionnal for designers.

We hang posters, created a medieval mood for the event (the flyer, the food, the name) and invite our fellow type and graphic designers or regular John that want to see Trickster to come by and say hello.

If you miss the exhibit, don’t be sad because the party continues: you’ll be happy to read a few words the author of Trickster —Jean-Baptiste Morizot— wrote about to explain its influences, the origine and the why of this animal. You can discover some pictures of the even in the corresponding blog post too.

The making of Trickster

Trickster is a libre font I released at the end of 2017. When the Velvetyne crew and I published the typeface, I called it “a smooth blend of Merovingian writing, blackletter influences and contemporary shapes”. It’s a smart way to say I don’t know how to label it properly. The design being quite unusual (call it weird or ugly if you want, but at least it’s not your usual Helv) I thought it could be interesting to write about its development and what’s behind its design decisions.

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At the beginning

Trickster is born from one of the frenetic pen and paper doodling periods I have sometimes (between 2 periods where I make all my tries on screen). Among the many letters I draw, there was this radical and unusual a. I like it so much I draw it again and again until I switch to the computer and designed the glyph directly with Bezier curves.

First sketch

This letter was a challenge: how to derive an entire typeface from this atypical letterform? Is it even possible? At this time I looked a lot at a kind of medieval calligraphy called Luxeuil writing (or Merovingian writing). Merovingian writing is quite illegible now because of its many ligatures, forgotten letters constructions, and the use of a writing tool that allow to go back from bottom to top and cause very black stems (you don’t do that usually in calligraphy).

Merovingian writing

Merovingian writing

Writing of Laon

Writing of Laon

Gessing that the Luxeuil writing I was looking at so fondly may have impact my design, I loosely used some of its shapes and tried to mix them with the a. So my first sketches looked like that:

Early draft; quick and dirty

The g comes from the Merovingian construction, like the o, while the square-alike m and n are influenced by the a. The open head of the g, with the descending end of the loop comes from the writing tool and the need to stop your gesture when writing. I suppose it could be linked to the need of exhausting the ink to avoid stain when lifting the pen to start the next letter. So it’s a calligraphic feature with a reason, however I can’t help but seeing a drop of blood flowing (we’ll talk about it later). The typeface had a Blackletter feeling, so quickly I move to a bolder weight. The lettershape followed the movement and I redesigned m and n in a more classical way. The p, n, m had now a really calligraphic voice. (Yes, the dot on the i is a mess, and curves are generally wrong).

Bolder Trickster

Bolder Trickster

The stems are broken like some Blackletters models, but I suppose Infini — a font I’m really fond of — influenced me too. It’s a feature you could think outdated until recently, but a really good use like Infini showed us it’s still relevant today. So I jump on the train.

I liked the way it looked, so I dug my ideas deeper: I made the weight even bolder and quietly started to make the remaining lowercase and the capitals.

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Even bolder. It finally has the right weight.

Street Cred

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Disclaimer: I’m not a tag addict, I don’t know anything about it (or very little, thanks to my fellow colleague Elliott). But I work in a neighborhood where tags bloom on corner shops. I can’t tell much about this or this tag, crew or style, but I like the gesture, I like the flow — and without noticing it I merged some stylistic elements from the street in my design. It’s obvious in those several versions of the f.

fffff

Eventually the second one was kept (and a modified version of the third as alternate).

This f was quite a challenge because it has a lot of white space on its right, and in the same time it blacken the word when kerned to correct this issue. I had to find the right balance.

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And it needed some ligature substitution to work properly. Even a i+f+i solution:

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Other letters received this kind of street look medication, mostly in alternate shapes; like this creamy/burger s.

mastering

The X and x, the alternate k, the s, etc. could be filed in the same design decision: gesture, gesture, from the past and the streets.

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K I S S

So tags are a good inspiration, but the typeface needed to work its medieval-ish look (a half serious half pop culture medieval look). So I started to make the uppercase this way.

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I was unsure about it: they were fun, but those very calligraphic, lined Blackletter capitals felt too cliché. So I started to doubt and try a more simple design (thanks Jérémy for your input on this topic). I kept the structure, but cleaned the design (see the A). I added spikes to ornate the stems a little, and used my tag trick to make them bouncing (upper diagonal of the K). The O and Q are a good mix of calligraphic/tag/simplification solution. Even P, X, V, U try to retain and share the gesture in a half calligraphic half contemporary way. To me the S with its curvy loopy movement has a really street structure. The M has a fun design, looking like the signature of a comics super-villain.

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It helped me to better understand what Trickster wanted to be: a blackletter for the 21th c. So I started to simplify and clean the lowercase too, but without loosing the warmth and the softness of the calligraphic gesture.

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The a is a good example: it looses its inner upstroke which simplify the shape, and also gives it a more contemporary voice (the inner counter is very graphic). But if you look closely you see that the down upstroke that ties the bowl to the stem keeps a calligraphic style (and so the attack of n, m, p). In the same time, letter like c could be seen as oversimplified compared to letter like p. The c is indeed very geometric (look at the white counter) but you can still see the gesture, so the words can flow when mixing all the letters together.

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Drip, drip, drip

I told you about the Merovingian g. I liked its dripping open head, so I have repeated this feature on some other letters, like r. (The f kind of relate even if it came more from graffiti and was influenced by a medieval weapon.) The r goes beyond the xheight because Merovingians did it, and it add rhythm to the text. It is an interesting shape, but it kind of touches everything to avoid white holes and therefore create black spots when merging with stems on the right. You could rage about it, but to my eyes it makes original patterns so I kept it this way.

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Still, it doesn’t added as dripping feelings as I wanted, so I made alternate letters and go berserk.

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It’s just 5 letters (barely since it impacts the alternate s) but it changes a lot any logo or text set with Trickster.

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In addition to this bloody stylistic set, I put some fancy stuffs, like this long tailed y that can go beyond left letters only if they don’t have descendant. And a swash e. And alternate letters. Search in the OpenType features of Trickster, you’ll find things to spice up your design.

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Swashy y.

Go figure

Figures were another struggle, similar to capitals. I made several attempts with useless ornamentation and oddities. But I wasn’t convinced.

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Following the uppercase design, I choose a sharper approach. See how the 2 makes a loop creating a geometric shape. The 6 and 9 mix a no-contrast style and contrasted elements. When I found the right formula, they were easy to draw. Then I adapted them into old style figures.

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The punctuation was a fun thing to do. I started with a diamond-shaped dot, derived the comma from it and it was working immediately. The ? followed the style of the 2. And finally the hyphen is like a frenetic gesture that looks more like a scratch — and it fills well the space.

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For the quotes I didn’t reuse the comma as it, but make them turning more and changed the starts to make it round (better integration with the words in the sentence).

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Finally, the more decorative stuff like &, ¶, % were easy=)

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End of the journey

If I need to resume: Trickster is a Blackletter for tomorrow. But to promote it today, we made a poster exhibition showing creations from 14 designers who played with Trickster. The vent took place at La Général, a place collectively managed by an association. La Générale “is a laboratory made for creation, — cultural, artistic, political or social.” This former electric factory was the right place to show our exhibit. We hang posters, create a medieval mood for the event (the flyer, the food, the name) and invite every designer or simple curious that want to see Trickster

I did one and mused with my font to create an original lettering. Since Trickster is a libre font you could do it too.

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One of the sketches for my poster.

Thanks for reading.

And use Trikster, it’s free.

Mariant la Truie et l'Ourse : double release party on 27/11/2017

WE’RE PLEASED TO WELCOME 2 NEW TYPEFACES:
TRICKSTER & HYPER SCRYPT

If you are in Paris next Monday, come to La Générale from 18:00 to 23:00 for a double release party. We’ll launch Trickster, a typeface by Jean-Baptiste Morizot who also created the well known Bluu, and Hyper Scrypt, a typeface from Jérémy Landes, designer of the Solide Mirage.

This double release party will take the form
of a double exhibition!

Hyper Chapelle

Hyper Chapelle is an exhibition by AAAAA Atelier whom, inspired by the stained glass of the Metz Cathedral, created a futuristic and psychedelic utopian pop communication. AAAAA Atelier commissioned Jérémy Landes to develop The Hyper Scrypt Typeface for this exhibition. Hyper Chapelle took place at the end of last summer in Tata Gallery in Metz, discover it for the first time in Paris next week.

Trickster posters
For the launch of Trickster we asked a fine selection of contemporary graphic designers / studio to express their own vision of this new font via the creation of a poster.

Discover posters from Félicité Landrivon, Studio Feed, Agence Murmure, Dreams Office and much more.  

Mariant la Truie et l’Ourse
27 / 11 / 2017 — 19:00-23:00
La Générale
14 avenue parmentier, 75011 Paris, France

Join the event