Ode, a Fresh Start for a Broken Script

When designing a typeface, I prefer to explore a construction principle rather than revive an existing typeface idea. These principles or writing models are based on the tools and techniques originally used. Understanding these workings are often a great source of inspiration for me.

The starting point for my latest typeface Ode was the Textualis, one of the various broken script writing models. It has a strong modular build suggesting that it's easily constructed. Albrecht Dürer further reduced it in his Underweysung der Messung, mit dem Zirckel und Richtscheyt, in Linien, Ebenen unnd gantzen corporen.


The origins of abc

We see it every day on signs, billboards, packaging, in books and magazines; in fact, you are looking at it now — the Latin or Roman alphabet, the world's most prolific, most widespread abc. Typography is a relatively recent invention, but to unearth the origins of alphabets, we will need to travel much farther back in time, to an era contemporaneous with the emergence of (agricultural) civilisation itself.

Robert Bringhurst wrote that writing is the solid form of language, the precipitate.[1] But writing is also much more than that, and its origins, its evolution, and the way it is now woven into the fabric of civilisations makes it a truly wonderful story. That story spans some 5,000 years. We'll travel vast distances, meet an emperor, a clever Yorkshireman, a Phoenician princess by the name of Jezebel, and the 'purple people'; we'll march across deserts and fertile plains, and sail across oceans. We will begin where civilisation began, meander through the Middle Ages, race through the Renaissance, and in doing so discover where our alphabet originated, how and why it evolved, and why, for example, an A looks, well, like an A.


Reviving Caslon

Part 1: the snare of authenticity

How much should a revival of a typeface look like the original? Well, just as with performing an old song—an analogy Matthew Carter has made—there is something you have to like in the original in order want to revive it. And you can't depart from the original too much, or you lose the charm of the old song that appealed to you in the first place. But if it is too much like the old versions, it might be stale and dated, irrelevant. So what do you keep and what do you change? And change in what way? That's the challenge every revivalist faces.


Biome — the making of a typeface

A biome in nature is essentially an ecosystem. It's also the name for my new typeface family. The 14-weight Biome™ Wide family is now available on Now that the design is complete, I'm able to look back on the process.

The drawings that led to Biome (previously known as Nebulon) were completed in 2006, but I discovered, when I uncovered the drawings recently, that I had been thinking for a long time about various unconnected concepts that eventually worked their way into the same typeface. I was surprised to realize how many different ingredients went into this design. Obviously, other type designs were considerations throughout the process, but things besides typefaces tended to make their way into the stew of ideas that eventually got synthesized into the new typeface.


An Introduction to OpenType Substitution Features

I have published this article as a page. You can read it here. Right now I'm unable to get the JavaScript working within a WordPress post. Once fixed, the page will redirect to a proper WordPress post. In the meantime, if you'd like to comment, then you can do so below, through Twitter, or via email at

Read An Introduction to OpenType Substitution Features.


Founders Grotesk

The impetus for Founders Grotesk originally came from Duncan Forbes of The International Office. We had often discussed the nature and usefulness of the classic grotesks, and the possibility of creating a new one. After trawling through my 1912 Miller & Richard specimen, he became enamoured with their series of Grotesques, particularly the No.7 all-caps showing.