Unlearning… can we unleash ourselves from what we’re taught, so we can invent something new?

A recent discussion on Episode 19 of the Interrogang podcast touched on this topic, and my typeface Aligne, got a mention. They talk about how what we’re taught influences what we make as professionals and whether these habits are bad or what makes us different.

Here’s a little of what they had to say:

Kyle: “In type education programs, I see a lot of students, they try to bring all that baggage of what they think a font is ‘supposed to be’ into the process instead of saying ‘hey, let’s be open-minded about it.’ So this probably goes back to your question about breaking things down first, saying, ‘I don’t want to bring all of my preconceptions into the process; I just want to bring my skills into the process.’ And I think a lot of students do that; they tend to say, ‘Oh, a ‘g’ is supposed to look like this, or a ‘s’ is supposed to have this thing on the end of it. No, not necessarily, like you know, unlearn a little bit… so that might be a bad habit. I don’t know if that’s quite what you’re getting at.”

Kyle hit the nail on the head when he said: ‘I don’t want to bring all of my preconceptions into the process; I just want to bring my skills into the process.’

As students, we forget that type design is subjective; it’s personal, it’s how a particular individual sees the world. There are no rules or regulations; we are simply creating a system out of individual parts that must work together to create rhythm and an even texture. When you understand the system, you can break free of traditional models and be in a space where you can explore or invent something new.

When we learn from our teachers, we have to remember they are teaching us their process, what they have learned and the tools they’ve gathered. In all of the type design classes I have taken in the past, not one teacher thinks or does everything the same way. As students, it’s our job to experience, understand, and develop our own process, one which works best for us. This is how you will develop your voice in type design.

“If a ‘g’ had to look a certain way, we would never have Leinster Type’s Aligne, and that would be a tragedy.”

With Aligne, I wanted to expand on the traditional contrast models of Translation and Expansion to see if I could develop something unique that could still be a successful system at the same time.

Kyle and Joshua’s thoughts on Aligne were:

Kyle: “Aligne is a high contrast geo-sans type family that falls in the 3rd category of contrast model, neither translation nor expansion, but “central.”

Kyle: “This central model of contrast takes each letter as its own context for carrying weight which makes for some stark geometrics shapes. It’s got an innovative freshness to it that makes you want to use it in bigger, wide-reaching branding projects and features some of those odd-ball moments where the contrast is different than in any of the other two models.”

Joshua: “I love Aligne so much. I don’t understand how a font that is so quirky can be so normal at the same time.”

Kyle:It feels correct in a weird way.”

Joshua: “It’s just, it feels so normal, it feels so natural, but when you look at the individual parts, they’re all so crisp and unique and in some cases very odd, and the ‘g’ oh the ‘g,’ how I love its little thunderbolt of a ‘g.’”

Joshua: “It’s good fun that has been had, but it feels like it should be crazier in long text, and it’s just not.”

Kyle: “Yeah, it shouldn’t work on paper, but that’s the skill of a type designer. If you’re venturing into this third category of contrast, it takes some real skill and some real experience designing typefaces in the other two models so you know how to combine them in this innovative third space. And yeah, Aligne does it great. Troy knocked it out of the park.”

I think Kyle and Joshua understood what my goal was with Aligne. I made it work because I created a successful system. When you understand how to develop a system, you are free to invent your own.

If you’d like to learn more about typeface systems, subscribe to my mailing list to hear about my upcoming type design courses, one-on-one coaching opportunities, and get access to my free trial fonts.

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