For our second project with It’s Nice That for Local Characters we partnered with Astrid Stavro, creative director of Atlas Design. Astrid has lived in many different cities but chose Trieste in Italy as the inspiration for her typeface. Her idea was to modify FS Sally to create a font representative of the split personality of her hometown.
‘If you walk around the city of Trieste, you’ll notice it’s full of contrasts,’ Astrid told It’s Nice That. ‘The architecture is Austrian, you walk around and actually feel as if you’re in Vienna rather than Italy. There is also Roman architecture, sometimes in the same square’. Having studied architecture myself this was an interesting concept for me and I could imagine the mix of styles she was referring to.
Astrid’s family business run by her father and dating back to her great-great-great-grandfather also in Trieste was another source of inspiration. She asked him to send her some photos of the letterpress blocks he had used in his printing office and used them as a reference for her ideas. FS Sally was the right typeface for the job, because it has chunkier serifs in a similar way to some of the woodtype she showed us. It was also an interesting challenge to imagine a typeface that would look as if it were made of parts of different wooden blocks, or metal type, glued together.
The concept that Astrid briefed us with was to splice two contrasting fonts together – something I had never done before. My first task was to modify FS Sally Regular to be closer to the Modern style. I was quite excited to see how FS Sally would look with these modifications and was really pleased with the result. I increased the contrast and redrew the top serifs so that they were longer and more in tune with the higher contrast, we also added ball terminals to some of the lowercase characters. When everyone was happy with the new modified version of FS Sally Regular I then set about splicing it with FS Sally Bold around the middle of the x-height creating a completely new set of glyphs.
I immediately noticed that certain parts became too complex or detailed and had to simplify them to improve the design and make sure it was legible. For a few of the characters I provided two alternatives so that we could discuss with Astrid which one would work best.
Finally the spacing and kerning had to be adjusted and we extended the character set to include figures, maths symbols and punctuation.
We were nearly finished but my final tests were to make sure the characters worked together as a system. This was to be a fully functioning font so it’s not just about getting the individual characters right, it’s about making sure they’re fully functional in the wild, whatever the situation. These tests threw up a few more minor adjustments which needed to be made.
The finished typeface was named FS Sally Triestina and is really unusual. It’s always really interesting to see how a designer will use a new typeface when you hand over the finished files. The font looks great in the posters and specimens created by Astrid and her team – I couldn’t be happier with the result.
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