Design concept

Typotheque’s project History has been in development longer than any other project the foundry has ever undertaken. Its beginnings can be traced to the early 1990s when Peter Biľak experimented with decorative layering systems inspired by 19th century Tuscan types.

Years later the project took a new twist when Biľak worked on proposals for the Twin Cities typeface. Instead of proposing one new typeface, he presented the idea of a typeface system that could take any form, inspired by the evolution of typography. While the Twin Cities proposal was a conceptual typeface that reused existing typefaces, History goes one step further. Based on a skeleton of Roman inscriptional capitals, History includes 21 layers, 21 independent typefaces which share widths and other metric information so that they can be recombined. Thus History has the potential to generate thousands of different unique styles through the superimposition of layers ranging from humanist renaissance, transitional, baroque, script-like, early grotesque and 19th century vernacular to digital types. Since all these fonts share the same widths and skeleton, the most interesting things happen when various seemingly incompatible elements are combined. Just try combining pixel letters with Didot-like serifs, or put 19th century slab serifs on top of a renaissance construction. While careless use can generate freakish results resembling Frankenstein’s monster, more careful experimentation can produce not only amusing, but surprisingly fresh and usable typeface samples.

Realising that controlling 21 different layers can be a daunting task, Typotheque originally delivered History as a set of OpenType fonts, and also provided an application called History Remixer. This web-based application processed single text input through an interface which allows the user to work with the layers, activating, deactivating, arranging, setting colour, and setting luminosity. The application has been later replaced by the web interface on the previous page.



decoratica white

Decoratica, unpublished, 1994