Why typography? What awakened your interest in the art of type?
The austere art of typography do not come easily in mind when you think about a future job. First, I studied four years in the ECAL (School of Art and Design of Lausanne, Switzerland), mostly graphic design. But, we had different kind of courses, cinema, photography, etc. and one of Type design, with François Rappo. Pretend that I had a ‘love at first sight’ with typography would be a lie: it was difficult, restricting, and off-putting. During three months at least I didn’t saw exactly what I was really doing. Then, working again and again, I started to interest myself in typedesign and its refinements: I found it interesting because typography is totally connected with an other art: writing. Typography for itself is meanless; it could make some interesting forms, but at the end there is a reader, for whom all must be done. Then, after my degree in Lausanne, I worked one year in the ANRT (Atelier National de Recherche Typographique) in Nancy, France. There, I had the possibility to develop my art in typedesign with great professionnals as Hans-Jürg Hunziker and Jean Widmer.
Who are your typographical paragons?
Eward Johnston and Eric Gill for their sense of ryhtm and counterpunch, Ladislas Mandel, José Mendoza y Almeida and Roger Excoffon for their ‘spirit’ and their way of humanistic type, Adrian Frutiger for his sense of shaping and balance. And finally Matthew Carter for is incredible knowledge in all the ways of making type.
Which book about typography have you recently read? Which one would you recommend?
Recently, I had a look on old ‘classics’: ‘The First Principles of Typography’ by Stanley Morison, which are a good introduction and neverthless a interesting reflexion on the aims of typography, and also his ‘Tally of Types’, more a book for scholars. I also red – but in french – «Études sur les machines à composer et l’esthétique du livre», an 1908 essay by Pierre Cuchet, who analyse how the composing machines like Monotype and Linotype influenced the style of book productions. Around the same subject, «La typographie du livre français» (‘The typography of the French Book’), a collective essay directed by Olivier Bessard-Banquy and Christophe Kechroud-Gibassier, which analyse the contemporary production of typography in books in France, especially a typical French situation of our days: the big publishing house produces bad-looking books, but a lot of small publishing companies, which dot not print more than four or five books per year, are interested of setting text generally very well, and often with an empirical manner.
To recommand books? Of course I will tell the ‘First principles of Typography’, but also ‘The Elements of Typographical Style’ by Robert Bringhurst (my ‘Bible’). Jan Tschichold’s „Ausgewählte Aufsätze über Fragen der Gestalt des Buches und der Typographie“ is a great text too, as does «À bâtons rompus» a french essay of Adrian Frutiger about his works.
If you could be a typeface, which typeface would you like to be?
I would be happy as Antique Olive or perhaps Fournier.
When you begin to design a typeface: do you grasp nib or mouse?
Both. I generally do a lot of small bad looking sketches, not to draw the perfect letter, just to have the idea, of what I want. Then, I redesign it on the computer.
What technical tools do you work with? Which scanner, which printer, which computer, which operating system, which programs do you use?
I do not use any scanner: I draw letters not from drawings but of what is in my mind. I work on a MacBook Pro, Mac OsX, Fontlab. For the printer, I try to test the fonts on different ones: inkjet, laser, etc. to look how the font live with theses different technics. The best tools stay my two hans and my two eyes.
Are you a pack rat or a purist? Hoarding on your hard drive 2.456.891 fonts or is Garamond, Bodoni, Frutiger and Futura more than enough?
I wouldn’t say that Garamond, Bodoni, Frutiger and Futura are enough. First, you have probably and hundredth of Garamonds, and not a lot few Bodonis. If I like to see a lot of typefaces, I prefear to use few, to understand the internal construction of a fonts, to know it well and so use it good, than zapping from one to another without really understanding it.
If your font folder only takes ten typefaces, which would that be?
Except mines: Adobe Caslon, Monotype Fournier, Bauer Bodoni, Gill Sans, Antique Olive, Golden Cockerel, ITC Mendoza, Balance, ITC Johnston, Courier.
Comic Sans and Arial are banished in typographical circles. Which typeface may in no case be installed on your computer?
If I agree about Comic Sans, I’m not so rude with Arial. But, I simply do not know who I should use typefaces like those of the ‘great age’ of Emigre. And, just a question of taste, I don’t like (even if I know that they are really well designed) Helvetica and Univers (too ‘clean’), Officina and Meta (I have seen them to much). Finally, I’m bored with DIN.
Which letter is your favorite? With which letter do you start when you design a typeface?
My favourite is the lower case a, but, generally, I start with an n, or an H.
What gave you the name of your first typeface?
It was quite simple; the font was designed primarily for a publishing house, which is also an association, founded in 1847 by – among others – Xavier Stockmar. I found that ‘Stockmar’ was quite good for a type name.
Do you have Plans for a next typeface?
I’m currently working on a ‘French typographic Corpus’ for the Printing Museum of Lyon / French Minister of Culture: so I collect most of the fonts created in France since 1850. I have the occasion in this work to rediscover old fonts which have never been digitalised, as the Garamond of the Peignot foundry, started in 1914 and published in 1926, cut by Henri Parmentier under the direction of Georges Peignot. I work these days on a revival of this strange Garamond.
Have you ever chisel a letter in stone?
I’m sad I didn’t yet. I would like to, in the future.
Thank you for the interview!
Thank you very much.