Posted in Typeface

Exclusive interview with Fontsmith’s Stuart de Rozario


Last year we brought you an exclusive series of interviews with London based Fontsmith and their design team. Since then things have continued to expand in Fontsmith’s Clerkenwell HQ and to update the collection we bring you (relatively) new addition Stuart de Rozario.

Name: Stuart de Rozario
Time at Fontsmith: 18 months
Role in the studio: Type Designer

Did you always want to design type and how did you get started?
Letters and type have always been a curiosity to me, as early as the age of 5. I can recollect at infants school the big letters of the alphabet in caps and lowercase above the blackboard. Also, I vividly remember discovering the contrasts between the thick and thin strokes of a pencil when scribbling and wearing down one side to create a blunt and flat edge (like a broad nibbed pen).

One day in class a few years later, we were given the task of copying a page full of Old English style letterforms saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword” using a wooden looking pen dipped in ink – I was intrigued by the flourishes made by thick and thin elements, letterforms elegantly shaped by the hand angle and movement of this wide, nibbed reed pen and how different the letters looked compared to the conventional letters that I had  previously learnt to write. From then – I was hooked. I was given a Parker calligraphy pen set and began practising calligraphy extensively in art class and on the back of my school books. The Headmaster was impressed with my new found talent and asked if I would be interested in writing the pupils names on the school certificates which was great as not only was I doing something I loved but it got me out of my Maths lesson too! This early encouragement I believe set the foundation for my lettering and type design career, even at that young age. So you could say that I started way back 30  years ago.

Which commercially available fonts from Fontsmith have you worked on?
In the 18 months I have been at Fontsmith, I have worked on numerous bespoke typefaces such as ITV Reem, expanding Lurpak Sans to consist of Cyrillic and Greek, various word marks and logos alongside a few commercially available typefaces such as Phil Garnham’s latest typeface FS Emeric and FS Joey Pro which is now available in Greek and Cyrillic.

What are you working on right now?
I am currently in the process of designing my 1st Fontsmith font family for release (due out in early 2014).  It’s under wraps at the moment, so I can’t say much about it — sorry to be a spoil sport, but watch this space!

What is your greatest (type design) achievement to date and why?
It’s always difficult to name a specific greatest (type design) achievement – having been in the type industry for 15 years I have worked on some exclusive brands and typefaces, but as any designer or creative will say ‘My greatest work, is my latest work’, – I am no different. I have been very privileged to have worked on some great projects and fonts in that time but I can sincerely say that I am most proud of my current typeface (in progress).

Designing typefaces can be a very personal thing. I invest a great deal of energy, time and love developing font families and ultimately they are an expression of me and my philosophies on type design. I put my heart and my soul into every letter, in essence the work becomes part of you. You embody the work – the work embodies you.

As a designer I strive to make things for the better and try not to complicate things. I believe that the simplest solutions can often be the best solution. A clear, functional and purist approach to my work is what drives me. It’s this ethos that I tend to stick by and would say it’s this approach to type design that is my greatest tool.

Can you give us an overview of the process you would usually take when creating a new typeface?
Analyse the brief. Ask questions. Research. Sketch ideas. Draw on screen (not literally). Space the letters. Kern the letters. Print out tests. Provide a solution. Finito!

What is your favourite part of that process?
I would have to say that each process has it’s own different buzz (except from kerning – nobody likes kerning). Understanding the brief and researching a project is rewarding. Drawing initial sketches and early conception stages can be very quite therapeutic by trying to unite differing shapes and forms to create a cohesive working unit is challenging and fascinating. Also, seeing the promotion material and when people show their appreciation  by buying the font gives you the feeling that you are doing something right after all the hard work and time that you spent on nurturing a typeface.

Do you find yourself drawing inspiration from any particular era, culture or movement, and how does that impact on your work?
I wouldn’t say that I find myself drawing inspiration from one particular era, culture or movement, but I do have an appreciation for most things. I still have a huge affection for anything calligraphic and from any era and culture, latin, persian, chinese or indic scripts inspire me greatly. Calligraphy doesn’t have a direct impact to my everyday work but I would say it’s the single most influential art form throughout my career.

Outside of Fontsmith whose work and faces do you most admire?
Far too many to mention but those who had a big influence on me (in no particular order) are Wim Crouwel’s lettering and posters and Josef Muller Brockmann’s graphic design style left a huge impression and are both still fresh and relevant 60 years on. Hermann Zapf’s typefaces Optima, Melior and Zapfino. Erik Spiekermann’s Meta, Officina Sans and Serif and the original Nokia SansAdrian Frutiger’s Univers. Lucas de Groot’s Thesis collectionBarry Deck’s Template Gothic. Jonathan Barnbrook’s Exocet and Prototype. Jeremy Tankard’s Enigma. Francesco Griffo’s Bembo. Giovanni Mardersteig’s Dante – that’ll do for now.

Where is the coolest place you’ve seen your work applied?
There’s always a warm feeling you get and it’s kinda cool when you see your work especially in another country. A few years ago I visited the Great Wall of China and the shop at the entrance  gate I found that a logo I had worked on 10 years previously was on a packet of crisps (not that I was looking for a packet of crisps I might add!), but how cool is that!? To think a small part of  you is a Gazillion miles away is pretty cool.

If you weren’t a type designer what would you be?
It would have to be a professional golfer. Traveling to lovely, sunny and exotic places and whacking a small ball around, then back at the 19th hole for a swift half or two… Bliss!

Thank you Stuart for taking the time out to talk with us — and very best of luck with your first Fontsmith font family. Looking forward to seeing it.

Stuart can be followed on Twitter

Fontsmith is a leading London based type design studio founded in 1999 by Jason Smith. The studio consists of a team dedicated to designing and developing high quality typefaces for both independent release as well as bespoke fonts for international clients.



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