The Story of FS Pimilco

Fernando Mello New typefaces
21 Nov’11

Jason and Phil have always known that I’m very into the visual language of the 70s. I know that Jason shares my love of the seventies and Phil will sometimes admit to being a fan too. I think that’s the reason they were both so supportive in the development of this font. And of course we all share an interest in good-humoured and intelligent design: we like to think its a Fontsmith characteristic and is something we try to bring into all our fonts.

FS Pimlico began life in 2009 when we’d just released FS Sally, which was designed to be a versatile but serious text font. Because of that I decided to move away from my original idea of doing something more serious and publishing orientated, and I started to experiment.

In fact, the beginning of the font came from casual sketches of a fat lower case ‘a’ with a funny shape that looked a bit like a penguin. That’s how I came to develop FS Pimlico Black, which was an unusual weight to begin the family with but it provided the basic skeleton for the whole font family.

It’s unique in being a design that is bubbly, fat and friendly but which also works typographically in a different way to other fonts that have similar brush-writing influences. Most other similar fonts have that same brush-writing feel, which often restricts them to use in larger displays. And because they have limited character sets, they rarely deal with a complex typographical hierarchy.

There were a lot of other influences for me at the time, which all mixed in to the process. I was certainly influenced by brush-writing, as well as my growing collection of old Letraset and early digital systems catalogues. I’m really into vintage: digging out old clothes, signs, toys... and collecting old vinyl, from old funk records through disco and more, often just for their cover art. I started buying synthesisers around this time as well. Experimenting and trying to play them in my spare time with varying degrees of success! At the same time I heard that places in London, like Pimlico and Vauxhall were hosting Nu-Disco nights, which were becoming quite cool at the time and attracting celebrities alongside London’s fashionable elite.

This was the Pimlico I had in my mind when developing the font, part of a modern seventies revival, fashionable, exaggerated, cutting edge – yet for me at least – one that would stand the test of time. It was an unusual process starting with the black weight. After seeing the first few black weight letters it was Jason who suggested creating the version with shiny highlights, which ultimately gave it a very distinct look and has helped to make the family standout. The visual research I did for how they should look and what shape they should be, was an important breakthrough in the development of the font.

I was recently asked, what’s so special about it? I said: It’s a sans serif with swashes and shiny bits! But it’s also friendly, powerful and visually appealing. And for me it’s a workhorse, ready to solve difficult typographic problems. Overall, I hope people recognise it as being a successful experiment and can see that it is a good-humoured, human font as well as being extremely useful. The intent is for it to become something that lasts.

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