In early 2008 I was visiting Burg Hochosterwitz, an impressive medieval castle. I noticed some interesting architectural drawings in the fourteen gates that lead up to the castle, with lettering that showed some majuscule letter-shapes that I had never seen before. The style was roughly what we would describe as a mono-linear slab-serif style. The letter W drew my attention because of it’s unusual construction. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the serifs had an unconventional trapezoid shape, which I found interesting as well.
But the letters did not come from a typeface, they were hand-drawn. And the lettering on these architectural drawings was clearly not executed by a calligrapher or a person that was used to dealing with letters; the quality was not very good, the shapes changed slightly from word to word and the letters seemed to be drawn with the same tools that the person used for the drawings.
What was particularly interesting to me was that the upper-case characters that usually are constructed with diagonals such as A, V or W were constructed only with round and straight segments. I took some photos on site and I tried to do some further research on these drawings. The creator was an Austrian architect and historian called Paul Gruëber (1852-1924). In the early 1900’s, he had analysed the old castle’s gates and drawn architectural plans. Copies of these plans are displayed in the gates, and this is what I saw.
In autumn 2008 I joined Dalton Maag as an intern and I got the chance to work on a project of my choice. I had the chance to show Bruno and Ron my sketches and ideas for the font which ended up being Grueber. I learned what font design is all about, and it was a pretty steep learning curve, as all I had as a starting point was the inspiration of a small set of uppercase letters, executed in a crude and inconsistent way.
After I had decided on how the uppercase shapes would be constructed in detail, and what the serifs would look like, I added the rest of the majuscule set. After that I came up with a matching lowercase design. These design decisions were not all made straight away, it was an evolution and involved constant refining. And after weeks and months the concept seemed to take shape.
During this process it became clear that the unusual shapes of some of the upper case letters were perhaps a bit too extreme for usage in text, and therefore we made the decision to draw conservative shapes for these letters. This made the font a lot more usable and legible. But I didn’t want to lose the original quirky letters that inspired me and were the reason for starting the project. So the decision was made to include them as a set of alternative letters via OT feature, which seemed the perfect solution.
For the bold weight, I wanted to go for a fairly extreme weight to create enough contrast to the already strong Regular. The extreme weight meant that some serifs had to go. It wasn’t really a problem, it actually gave the bold weight an interesting character and a very unique design.
The Dalton Maag Team decided that they liked the typeface enough to include it in the library, but by then my internship was over, so I finished the work from home. Shortly after this, I was offered a position at Dalton Maag — so although the font has never been a best-seller, for me it paid off, and it means a lot to me personally.