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28. June 2014

Making of Paiper

the making of a paper-fold-inspired type family

01 paperstrip_3

Summary:

Paiper started as an innocent experiment at the intensive one-week TypeClinic workshops in Slovenia. After Gestalten Fonts approached me to publish it, and after I graduated from the TypeMedia course, Paiper developed into a six-member quirky, informal family for use in magazines, packaging design, posters, book covers, and logos.

Paiper’s design was originally inspired by folded strips of paper. Rather than stopping at a literal interpretation, the shapes have been re-crafted to work as a system of type, to perform well and harmoniously on paper.

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The paper-folding concept

During university, I became interested in type design. In the summer of 2011 I attended a workshop in Slovenia (it was my second time there), where each one of the participants was expected to develop their own typeface within one week! At this point, like most over-achieving design students, I wanted to come up with something unique. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I got the idea to play around with a strip of paper and fold it (without pressing it down flat) to get a lettershape.

I was thinking about tools. Each tool leaves a specific mark on a paper, a predictable mark, which becomes part of the personality of that typeface. The tool can be a broad-nib pen, a brush, or a completely imaginary tool. This is quite an abstract way to think about type design, but this is where the paper folding came into play. Fooling around with that paper, taking some pictures and tracing over them, I noticed a few details that were interesting. With my strip of paper I could not really build all the letters, but I was starting to put together an “imaginary” tool in my head that would make the shapes I wanted in a consistent way.

The idea behind the letter shapes are folded strips of paper

The idea behind the letter shapes are folded strips of paper

 

Developing the shapes

When I developed the basic letters, I was both folding papers and drawing almost 3D looking letters in order to see where the corners and where the rounded areas were supposed to be. The principle seemed to work for a lot of the lower case letters; these shapes seem to accept more “torture” and still be recognizable as what they are. I had more difficulty with the upper case letters because we are used to following a strict sans-serif or a serif model. When you start making flared serifs or semi-serifs, the shapes start falling apart easily.

At this point the typeface was called Paige. And after 3 one-week workshops I had quite an interesting character set. Here is the first specimen,, where I was comparing the roman and italic models.
 

The italic

The italic weights were a fight of their own. I made them on the next workshop. These were even more difficult because I wanted the letters to consist, as much as possible, of only one stroke. I wanted the italic to have a different treatment than the roman weight. After all, the italic is used for different purposes. I made the imaginary strip of paper bend at the end of the strokes, building some sort of serifs. This gave the italic more character and more stability. If you want to take a look at the results of that workshop and the «original» italics, check out Paige-Italic on my Behance profile.

The one-stroke-letter approach was impossible with the italic upper case, and I had to come up with some other quirky solutions. I am happy that we only had one week for this, because it forced me to act quickly and make some intuitive decisions.
 

Looking with new eyes after TypeMedia

It was at this point that Gestalten Fonts contacted me to possibly release this typeface. But I was was just embarking on my big adventure at TypeMedia, an intensive one-year type design master course in the Hague. I could not realistically commit to releasing a type family. During TypeMedia I learned so much about approaching type design, about rhythm, about spacing, about shape consistency. My final project was quite a serious typeface, called Editura, where I explored making a type family for body text.

After that year, I was approached once again by Gestalten. They had not forgotten about me! «What an honor!» I thought. But then I looked at my old typeface, Paige and «Oh my God!» I wanted to change everything. After this intensive type year, I could see so many things wrong. The letters we jumping around, the contrast was not consistent. The spacing was a disaster. I could almost not identify with that quirky style anymore. But I decided to take the challenge and release this typeface with Gestalten Fonts. I had never released anything before and this seemed like a good opportunity to do so. The schedule was quite tight, I had about 6 months to finish a type family and no idea what to expect from the process that was going to follow.
 

Redefining the type family and its purpose

It was clear that the concept had to be redefiend. So the new idea was to approach these two existing weights (Regular and italic) as a type family and expand it. What would a bold look like in paper strips? What about a hairline version? It all seemed exciting and intriguiging at the same time. We also had to come up with a new name because Paige was already taken. This is how Paiper was born.

Paiper should be an informal type family for display and text use. It should offer different weights that allow the user to make interesting posters and layouts. Fat and skinny. Poetic and serious. I looked back at the original designs and extracted the essence of the design from there

The roman weights come close to a sans-serif model; the flared stems give them more playfulness. The italic weights feature more prominent “serifs” which help ground them better onto the baseline and create a stronger rhythm on the page. The italics have more contrast and a more outspoken character than the roman weights (as is often the norm). The edginess of the original folded paper model is more easily recognizable in these weights.

Details of the six weights. The tops of «a» and «g» are treated differently in the italic for better recognizability.

Details of the six weights. The tops of «a» and «g» are treated differently in the italic for better recognizability.

Challenges and obstacles

After TypeMedia, I had a really hard time approaching the quirkiness of this original typeface. It was drawn very quickly and naively by a younger me, who did not know much about letters. This was both frustrating, because there were so many inconsistencies to be dealt with it was hard to decide how to continue on it. But it was also a great thing! The original naïveté gave room for innovation and playfulness. These details really should be preserved because, in the end, it is exactly that quirkiness that would make the typeface unique. I decided to take it as I would a commissioned project, without questioning the basic idea. My task was just to polish and refine it so that it functions in the given context, as well as to expand it to be a family of six members.

Below are animated gifs that show the progress of each glyph. The frames are exported from the different versions of the «UFO» files (I used RoboFont to draw the typeface), using this script.

Paiper GIF LC 381x450

Paiper GIF UC 381x450

The changes

The first thing that I changed was the proportions. Originally, the typeface was based on the proportions of FF Profile, a rather narrow design, meant for headlines. But now i wanted it to work for text, so the regular became much wider and a bit heavier. I made the serifs more consistent and re-considered all overshoots. Then there came a long period of time where I experimented with the curves and optical corrections. The paper folding principle had some drawbacks. On some strokes, it looked very calligraphic, but on others, the contrast looked wrong. The biggest challenge were round shapes like P, B, and O.

An overview of the shapes before and after the redesign

An overview of the shapes before and after the redesign

The concept was to see one corner of the imaginary fold carry through. But this had to be adjusted optically to give the letters some “meat” where they needed it. This was the only way that the typeface would become functional as a text type. I tried my best to keep the flavor of the original, but I definitely had to straighten out a bunch of things and kill a lot of darlings.

A rendering of the original idea paper-folded idea; superimposed is the final shape, with some drastic optical corrections.

A rendering of the original idea paper-folded idea; superimposed is the final shape, with some drastic optical corrections.

Especially the italic saw dramatic changes. Again, the proportions changed, but also it became apparent that the stem connections in basic letters like n, m, p were too not going to work. They were too deep and the stroke would have to become very thin in order to pull that off. But then it would not look like a paper strip anymore. A paper strip is theoretically monolinear (except for the bending points). I played a long time with the italic basic rhythm and strokes, making numerous tests. In the end, the model became much more rounded than the original. It is more organic and playful, and much less stiff. Of course, some details were lost. That stiffness gave it more of a paper feel maybe, but I was happy with the compromise and the new texture the italic created.

 

 

The result

Paiper is an informal type family. Its intended use is for magazines, book covers, packaging design, logos, and movies posters. Each family member has been drawn individually and delivers a unique personality to the mix, from elegant and skinny to poetic and chubby. I have played with interpolations, and some of the in-between weights looked pretty good. But at the moment, I am a believer in hand-crafted things, and I like to say that each weight in this family has been considered on its individual merit. Each member has earned its rightful place in the family and is indispensable. The very thin weights have less contrast and more definition. The black weights are more fluffy and entertaining.

You can download a PDF-Specimen here. You can buy the typeface from Gestalten Fonts here.

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