Monthly Archives: February 2013

New Horizons for Effra

We’re constantly working to increase the coverage of our fonts, so that they cover more languages and become even more international. Effra is one of our most popular typefaces, with clean lines and a versatile range of styles, so we’ve increased the character set to include Greek and Cyrillic alphabets.

effra corp2

The Effra font family was named after the Effra river which runs through Brixton, the area of London which is home to our UK studio. It has its roots in one of the earliest sans serif designs commercially available, Caslon Junior, designed in 1816. We originally updated the design, and expanded it to take in our Standard character set. The brand new Corporate Edition of the font expands the character set further to add Greek characters, and an extended Cyrillic character set that includes Serbian alternates. This means that Effra can now speak to over 2 billion people using their native script system.

As usual, careful attention was taken to give the new scripts the same texture and feeling of the original Effra. For the Greek, for example, the letter ‘omicron’ may look like the latin letter ‘o’, but in fact it’s a touch more condensed. Because the Greek alphabet uses several round letters, we have to make them all a fraction narrower so they won’t run too wide on running texts. The x-height of the Cyrillic is slightly higher than in Latin and Greek, because of the busy and squarish nature of most Cyrillic lower cases. It’s all about matching the feeling and texture.

We know that a lot of people have been waiting for the new scripts for this font, so we’ve released this font unhinted and will be updating it to add the hinting in the near future. The update will be free to download for anyone who has already bought the Corporate edition.

effra corp

Tibetan Calligraphy

Tibetan Calligraphy Workshop held by Tashi Mannox,  February 9th – 10th, 2013, London.

Two full days spent with pens and inked hands, for once away from our monitors and for the pleasure of the eye. On Saturday morning, over a couple of hours, the teacher, Tashi Mannox, introduced us to the basic features of the Uchen style. Among several existing styles, the Uchen is considered as the traditional one and became the reference for long text, reading typefaces.
fig. 1 Cover of our Tibetan writing manual
Tibetan writing manual
As with the Latin script, Tibetan is written accordingly to the thickness of the tool you are using; the proportions are based upon a structure built from the pen in use. The angle is 45 degrees (more or less, without being too dogmatic). The upper part of the letter is 3 units high (a unit is made of two pen strokes), the bottom part is another 3 units. A 2 unit high area above will contain the vowel signs. The glyphs are drawn in a constant width of 3 units.
fig. 2 Character structure based on grid determined by pen size.
Character structure
One important feature to keep in mind is how the strokes are traced. Traditionally, the pen is cut from dry bamboo (stronger than the young and green bamboo). This kind of pen has a degree of flexibility allowing to create the characteristic shapes of Tibetan strokes. The pen is constantly twisted to draw a modulated line. The space within the letters must be managed carefully in order to create balanced shapes.
fig. 3 Sample of a letter, with its stroke order
Character stroke order
The Tibetan script itself, within its boundaries, is very flexible. A lot of conjuncts are showing consonants and vowels embedded into each other, like in most of the scripts of the Indian sub-continent. Eventually, Tibetan words are separated by a dot that stands at the height of the headline of the letter.
fig. 4  Samples of conjuncts

conjuncts1 Conjuncts 2
fig. 5 Om Ma Ni mantra 

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For more images from the workshop see below.

Amélie Bonet, Pilar Cano, Eleni Beveratou and Michele Patanè

Petrobras Launch New Custom Font

Petrobras is one of the largest energy companies in the world, with a presence in 28 countries. It is a household name in Brazil with more than 7,000 petrol stations across the country. All this made designing a font for them an exciting but daunting undertaking.
Dalton Maag were approached by The LED Project, based in São Paulo, who asked us to help them with the typography for a new approach to the Petrobras identity. We began by looking at the requirements for the font. It had to be legible and accessible for everyone who would come into contact with it, from the person seeing it at the petrol pump, to the employees who would use it within Petrobras. It would be needed for typesetting in a variety of situations so several styles were included in our initial specification, Light, Regular, Bold, Extrabold and italics. It also had to be unique, but stand the test of time and remain contemporary in years to come. This was a lot to pack into one font family.Petrobras06

We wanted to evoke a sense of professionalism in the brand, but we also had to give the font a modern and international feel, to convey the personality of the Petrobras brand. We created a total of 40 concepts, working as a team with designers in Brazil and London, before getting together with the LED Project to narrow this down to the 6 most appropriate solutions. Our clients then selected two of these designs which we refined further until we arrived upon what became Petrobras Sans.Development 4

Petrobras Sans is a confident sans serif typeface with a firm construction that suggests the solidity of a multinational business, whilst including a softer human side. The terminals taper smoothly to create a more organic feel to the letter forms, which also adds individuality to the design. We created this difficult and interesting balance to reflect the human talent which is one of the key aspect behind the success of the company. Even with this great design we had to make sure that the font was easy to be read, so we used the classic principles of typography and made sure that every letter was legible even in the smallest sizes. However, the character of the font comes through at its best when it is used at large sizes.

Petrobras Sans is now being implemented by Petrobras to express their brand around the world.

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Aktiv Grotesk Advance


Over the last few years we’ve gained quite some experience designing the more complex non-Latin scripts. This has mostly been through our work with Nokia, but also with some other projects such as the dual language Arabic-Latin signage font for Metro Dubai, or the packaging for McDonald’s which also has an Arabic script.

In our own library we’re laying the foundation for a ‘global’ font with Aktiv Grotesk Advance, that one day will hopefully contain enough scripts to cover the majority of languages that are spoken in the world. This is, of course, a huge undertaking, considering that Aktiv Grotesk now consists of 16 font styles, and that in excess of 100,000 glyphs will have to be created to add the new scripts. We feel we’re ready to tackle it.

We’re planning to release Aktiv Grotesk Advance by the middle of May 2013. This project has been quietly under way for some time and does not yet include the new font weights recently published. The Advance Edition is an extension of the existing Corporate Edition and will include many more Latin glyphs for many minority languages and Greek Polytonic, to allow setting and reading of classical Greek. It will also feature Hebrew and Arabic Extended, supporting the many and various languages that use the Arabic script. Hebrew and Arabic will also be separately available as Aktiv Grotesk ME Edition.

We will also be publishing Cordale Arabic at the same time, to expand the range of our Arabic font styles with an elegant Naskh style typeface. Cordale Arabic can already be seen being used by the Qatari based bank QNB, who received a special advance copy of the font.

Bruno Maag