Interview about Layfort @ IloveTypography
There is always room for exploration along the intersecting lines of different typographic styles. Layfort takes its inspiration from Art Deco typefaces and crosses that with a dash of industrial flavor to arrive at a distinct typographic voice. It feels fashionable but without frills, relaxed in a luxurious rhythm but with a serious undertone. Its tempo is irregular — its characters have distinctly varying widths — which conjures the bygone era of almost a century ago. This is not to say that Layfort is out of place in today’s world. On the contrary, that industriousness brings forth a hard-working typeface that does its job effortlessly and elegantly.
Below is a fascinating interview with Layfort’s designer and principal at Identity Letters, Moritz Kleinsorge.
What are, to your mind, the defining features of the Art Deco style in type?
In the early days of sans-serifs, this new genre looked somewhat quirky and unrefined. A century later, Art Déco was a key period in the transformation of sans-serif type. This era defined a vocabulary of shapes, and created a visual language that to this day we perceive as “elegant”. It elevated the sans-serif to a new level: decorative, prestigious, posh. Graphic features like elongated, flowing forms and geometric modularization gained some traction.
It was the stylized look of a pronounced stroke contrast in geometric sans-serif type that particularly fascinated me. I don’t know if the type designers of this period were inspired by Didone typefaces, sign-painting, or something else; but the look of narrow, high-contrast, sans-serif capitals with a vertical stroke axis has become iconic for the period. Even people who aren’t into type at all easily recognize it.
Is there a particular client that would be a perfect fit for Layfort?
My typefaces seem to be popular with architects, museums, and other cultural institutions — something I’m very happy about. I did keep these industries in the back of my mind while designing Layfort. The blend of then and now (without sliding into a retro look) lends itself to an architectural, monumental, or historical context.
In general, any brand or company that wants to convey the qualities of tradition or artisan craftsmanship while cultivating a progressive and forward-looking attitude can benefit from Layfort. And, of course, the industry most memorably connected to the Roaring Twenties, fashion.
Layfort seems like a perfect fit for a fashion brand. If it were a person, what would it be wearing?
One thing’s for sure: Layfort wears a hat! It could be a smooth cloche hat with a Coco Chanel Little Black Dress or a super-elegant yet comfortable Jean Patou outfit — at once feminine and confident. It could also be a Frank Sinatra-style Trilby hat and suspenders over a fine white Brooks Brothers shirt, but with rolled-up sleeves, ready for whatever hard work needs to be done. My listening to Sinatra’s classic songs while working on Layfort around Christmas may have influenced that latter image.
You mention that Layfort has an industrial feel to it. How do you draw that into a typeface, and how does that affect the way the typeface is used?
As mentioned before, early sans-serifs weren’t as stylized and refined as the strictly Art Déco designs of the following century. I wanted to bring some of that “industrial innocence”, if I may, into the design of Layfort. Its proportions aren’t harmonized and they are much closer to early grotesques than something from the Jazz Age. Later in the design process, I also opted for square dots and punctuation marks, giving it a more rigid, static, but also more contemporary and straightforward look. This, as well as additional design decisions like creating the “t” without a hook, sets the focus on an industrial flair — with rectangular shapes almost like the steel beams of the Chrysler Building and other iconic New York skyscrapers.
However, I want my clients to have the flexibility of adjusting the mood of the typeface on their own, so I also included the round dots and punctuation marks that I initially designed Layfort with. If you activate that OpenType Stylistic Set, in an instant, Layfort becomes more friendly and approachable.
So, Layfort is a great choice out of the box, but depending on your brief or personal preference, some OpenType-powered fine-tuning will go a long way when you’re using it.
We’ve seen Art Deco furniture make a come back in recent years. Do you see a similar trend for Art Deco inspired typefaces?
While I do not keep track of new type releases in general (except for the industry’s major ones) and prefer to rely on my own trend analysis and inspiration, I think there have been quite a few Art Déco-inspired typeface releases in recent times, but these were mostly caps-only display fonts aimed at a hobbyist market. As for reliable “workhorse fonts”, there’s still a lot of potential in the spirited appeal of Art Déco. And I’m sure that the time of generic geometric or grotesque typefaces will end soon, and we’re already seeing fewer of them released these recently.