Anna Fahrmaier and Michael Hochleitner are Typejockeys, a Viennese graphic design, type design, and lettering studio. Originally a trio, the company was founded in 2008. The team met each other during their years at Die Graphische, a design school in Vienna. After graduating, Michael headed to England, where we were both part of the 2007–8 class at the University of Reading’s Master of Arts in Typeface Design program. Last week, I spoke with him about his foundry’s recent typefaces, especially Arnika.
Dan Reynolds: We haven’t seen each other since the Fontstand Conference in September. Tell me about your most recent release.
Michael Hochleitner: Well, we don’t have a very high frequency of commercial releases! [laughs] We originally designed the fonts that became Arnika for Graz, Austria’s second-largest city. The family represents a synthesis of the fonts previously used to manufacture Graz’s street signs. Arnika is very much like Henriette, a Typejockeys family that was inspired by Vienna’s street-sign types. Graz approached us because of Henriette.
The problem with street signage is, that very long or very short street names have to fit on the same plate. So it makes a lot of sense to use typefaces with multiple widths. We prepared templates for them, using Arnika as a variable font. The system is very flexible. They appreciate that, and the templates work just fine.
DR: That is a good use of variable-font technology.
MH: It really is. The street signs in Austria are enamel, and there are not a lot of producers who can still provide them. The predominant producer has its own versions of city-street typefaces, which it digitized internally. These fonts weren’t made by type designers, and there are a lot of things in them that need improvement. And the fonts aren’t publicly available, making cities reliant on their business. Graz did not want this kind of dependency.
I tried to improve on the previous templates, making a narrower version that is a proper condensed, so no more squeezing around fonts! Since we created Arnika for that initial purpose, it has four widths but only one weight. Graz did not need exclusive rights to the design, so were able to also release it publicly. We think that the style isn’t just appropriate for street signs. It is a delicate design, which works really well for editorial purposes. And for packaging as well.
Arnika is based on what Graz street signs were using already. Graz is a big city. Over time, there have been several producers who made its street signs. The typefaces they used varied a lot. The people who drew them tried to do the same thing, but only sort of. For instance, some drew a straight-legged K, while other times, the leg was curved. I decided that the curved option works best in condensed widths, but I like the straight leg better when the letters are wider. My research process involved taking photographs, evaluating the different letter shapes, and trying to improve things. There are some things I kicked out and completely changed. I went to the workshop where they built the signs. It was interesting, and I enjoyed the project a lot.
We decided not to market Arnika as “the Graz typeface.” Naming typefaces is hard. We searched for a name for a very long time. Every typeface name you could imagine is usually already taken. Someone makes a display typeface overnight and calles it “Graz”, for instance. Name taken. We decided to use the word Arnika because there is a street with that name in Graz. We were also thinking of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who comes from Graz (or Styria, anyway). Strictly speaking, there is a healing plant – if you are into homeopathy – named Arnika. Our design reminded us of health products and cosmetics. The letters have a clean and healthy touch. Also, when a name starts with an A, that’s not a mistake.
DR: Henriette is a typeface you designed based on existing street signs in Vienna. It didn’t replace what was being used for street-sign production, right?
MH: The Vienna street signs only use a heavy weight, in several widths. I extended the design to have several weights and italics, but Vienna does not use them officially. I mean, the city of Vienna does use the free version – the black weight, which has been a free font since the beginning. Not for the street signs, though. I guess that’s how things go!
A crucial part of Typejockeys, when it comes to custom work, is lettering. I really enjoy that, and I think it is an important feature of our company. Some of the ideas could become typefaces at some point, but for most of these, it does not make sense to do that. It is also nice to do something that is just for one purpose.
Lager beer’s invention in Vienna in 1841 signaled a radical change in beer-making’s history. The unity of eight of Austria’s finest breweries wanted to reference this invention with a truly-original beer. Typejockeys was commissioned to design this piece of lettering that would reflect lager’s this imperial heritage. The hand-drawn lettering was used on labels. It references the typographic style of the era, incorporating certain imperial vibes of the K.u.K. monarchy (1867–1918).
Fast food and quick lettering: a perfect combination. The Viennese ad agency DDB Tribal asked Typejockeys to contribute to its newest McDonald’s campaign idea. Art director Dian Warsosumarto had a specific form of lettering in mind, which Typejockeys carried out to perfection. The campaign included German and English examples.
Everyone in Vienna propably knows Türkis Oriental Food. And there are only a few who haven’t eaten a Kebab or Falafel Dürüm after a fun party night. Typejockeys, who know the special taste of Türkis food well, added some spice to the logotype. The new design is recognizable but more inviting and appetizing. Yummy!
DR: You mention that you don’t release new typefaces very often. I don’t think that’s a problem at all. How do you develop your typefaces? Do most of them grow out of custom projects, like Arnika?
MH: Custom work is what we pay out our bills with. If clients don’t want exclusive rights, we are open to releasing the typefaces at some point for the public. And we’ve made some large custom families. The work that we did for XXXLutz is a great example. I’m proud of Post Sans. For people who live in Austria, this typeface is everywhere. They use it well. It is one of the most satisfying projects I’ve ever worked on. What the Austrian Post does with the typeface and the icons we designed for them is beautiful. They use it for everything. Every stamp and all the pieces of paper they leave in your mailbox. For instance, they use it on the slip they leave behind when you miss a package delivery. I’m happy when I miss a package now! But that’s only me.
Typejockeys designed this original script typeface exclusively for Three Hutchison. Emphasizing catchwords and headlines, the fonts build the basis of the new minimalistic corporate identity – going hand in hand with their standard in-house typeface Helvetica. Drei Script was developed as a Variable Font; advanced OpenType features make sure the typesetting always feels lively and brings an authentic handwritten rhythm and look.
Founded over 200 years ago, Wiener Städtische is one of the largest and most prominent insurance companies in Austria. Companies of this metier are often associated with bureaucracy and dullness. Matters of life and death, about which no one wants to talk, make them not particularly popular either. Yet who doesn’t want to be able to rely on a trustworthy insurance company when an emergency comes up? This paradox and this conflicted image constitute precisely the kind of challenge at which the advertising agency DMB excels. The fresh new branding they developed for Wiener Städtische shall shine, above all, through the new corporate type family Typejockeys designed for them: Sorglos Sans.
With more than 280 stores, the XXXLutz Group is one of the largest furniture retailers in the world. After 74 years they decided to have their own typographical voice, but also once and for all, solve font licensing issues, for good. Typejockeys had the pleasure to develop a type family consisting of a corresponding sans and serif, each in five weights. The character set supports all the languages XXXLutzs needs to communicate with their international customers, including those written with Cyrillic characters.
There is also the Drei Script typeface. Drei have been using it for years. They use it for all their advertising. When it comes to custom projects, most companies will want a generic sans serif. I guess we have gotten lucky with our clients. Consider the typeface we designed for Wiener Städtische, a huge insurance company. I’m very happy with the design, which does not look generic. It is exclusive, though.
DR: Switching gears, I think that Antonia is great. It has a novel design, and the way its optical sizes are named is also innovative. Some other type designers also told me back then that they were annoyed not to have come up with the idea of calling optical sizes H1, H2, H3, and Text.
MH: But the people who notice that are fellow type designers!
DR: Yeah, they don’t license the fonts.
MH: You know, Antonia also derived out of a custom project. It was for the linguistic department at the University of Innsbruck. Since the ’70s, they have collected information about the Tyrolean and South Bavarian dialects. They archived it in an analog way. They needed a method to transcribe the sounds and built a system to solve that. Later, they got funding to create a proper typeface – but they only needed a regular style. We came up with a way for the diacritical marks to be typed, enabling them to create a searchable database.
DR: I knew about the linguistic font, but I did not realize that it had been the impetus for the entire typeface.
MH: They just needed a regular style, not optical sizes or weights. So we said, “OK, we just made another serif typeface. Nobody wants to buy serif typefaces. What can we do it? Let’s turn it into a huge family with optical sizes and weights because we are stupid.” And we did, and that’s how it came out. I did this together with Franziska Weitgruber.
DR: What about your other typefaces, like Ingeborg?
We are in a niche area when it comes to the design world. I am not picky when it comes to style. The fun in the whole thing is covering all these different areas. I like making display typefaces. I think I’m rather good at script typefaces.
I think Gretel Script is a well-working typeface. There are a lot of typefaces that are in the same genre. We worked on the typeface for three years, and during that time, it felt like every other week, a typeface with a similar look would be released. We worked together with a calligrapher, who helped us to get the connections and the forms right. We also thought hard about how to digitize it. You know, whether to go with a rough look or with clean curves. There are different approaches to these kinds of typefaces.
We also added optical sizes. Gretel Script was our first typeface to have them. It is arguable if you need optical sizes for script typefaces, but I think you do. Often, it annoys me if I use Sauber Script, for example. If I put a headline and a subheadline next to each other and both are in Sauber Script, it is obvious that the smaller setting is just scaled down. Optical sizes solve that. But this is a niche thing. You need to find a designer to values quality and wants a typeface in that style. There are probably only a handful of people in the world matching this profile, but I guess, that’s how we roll [laughs]