Curves made of steel

One of my favorite designers, who is also my MA teacher/PhD supervisor/Matchmaking partner/fellow Linotype designer, is Gerard Unger. There are very few designers like Gerard. Why? First there is the brilliance of his work. Second, it is the inspiration that he brings to anyone who hears him talk about type design. Then, there are his superb manners, for he is most supportive of all creative design efforts even when these efforts are very humble compared to his. I’m thinking here of my very lousy first sketches at Reading. Gerard never made fun, even when it was obvious that I had no idea what I was doing.

But it’s not just that. The curves that he draws are special. Gerard builds curves made of steel. They are molded with the strongest of twists, so full of coiled tension that you feel like they can barely be contained. And yet they are, and in perfect proportions and modulation. It takes a lot of force to tame curves like these, and yet the end result is so elegant that it completely betrays the volcano within. Look at that a. Isn’t it gorgeous? Notice the lower serif, pointing forward. Absolute genius: it is both static and dynamic, stable yet full of tension. Look at the top serif. Can’t for the life of me imagine moving it a single unit. One can draw many different serifs, but this is the perfect one for this specific typeface. Did you notice how the lower edge of top arm moves into the serif? There is this sense of inevitability. It is as if the curves were meant to be, even before they were drawn.

The reason I write this is because of another Reading graduate and good friend, Jose. He had posted a recent interview in which Gerard quotes my description as in the title here, and it suddenly occurred to me that I wished to explain more. Not because anyone asked me to, or to get brownie points for the PhD (that is going really well anyway), but because some things are meant to be shared. Swift is one of my favorite typefaces (you guessed by now, right?) and so here we go. My first rhapsody!

comments / leave a comment

Your comment