Coline is a typeface family especially designed for small format books such as pocket books. Its seven typefaces are structured in three sets: Coline première, Coline Cursive and Coline Extrême. Three variations growing from a sturdy pure roman to a nearly handwritten design. From the classical reason to the romantic mind.
The three variants and their weights allow a large range of contrasts to extend the conventional opposition roman/italic. A freedom of combinations allied with efficiency in space saving by a compact letter design.
The name “Coline” comes from Simon De Colines, active in Paris during the first half of the xvith century, one of the first french printer to publish cheap small-format books for students.
After a study of the evolution of the “pocket books” published in the french collection Folio Gallimard since its creation in 1972, I noticed that there was no evolution of type, except for the quality of printing, within 35 years. Most of the time wide typefaces were used, and it reflected in a low or inadequate line-spacing.
The Coline typeface family is designed to work in small sizes and benefits from large counters. It is condensed, so the saved space can be re-injected elsewhere in the layout. For the same reason, the x-height is rather big, furthermore the typeface has a non-posh look which suits pocket books.
To start the design of it, I looked a lot at the typefaces used by Simon de Colines (1480-1546). He can be considered as the french equivalent of Alde Manuce, as he is the first to publish small format books, intended for a student clientele. I chose to pick the influence of his early work, before Garamond, because of its frankness and robustess which is a good fit for pocket books.
Two bibles of small format, both from 1528, helped to define the general proportions of letters.
The natural movement of the hand has been essential in the design I came up with. Sketching with the hand, with many back and forths between screen and paper (scaling up and down with the copy machine, cut-pasting with scissors and glue) enables to build a letter by its masses and not only its contours.
This method moves typeface design closer to sculpture, it looks at characters not as vectorial points but as a concrete material.
“Frankstein” u, for Coline Cursive, cut and glued many times.
After the happy-go-lucky times of sketching comes the long process of refining the shapes, as is shown here for the capitals of Coline Premiere.
During the design process, I looked a lot at the work of Philippe Millot for the publisher Cent Pages; he used Matthew Carter’s typefaces only for the collection of Cent Pages pocket books, and combined them freely within each book. I then decided to create different typefaces within the same family, so that the designer can have a good range of tools to play with (use of the upright black with the normal regular, or vice versa).
The idea that if an italic is not slanted, people won’t use it sounds a bit too conservative to me. It is showing little confidence in graphic designers’ capacities.
Hence the 3 members of Coline family, all 3 upright typefaces, each of them with its own instrokes, outstrokes and rythm.
The hardest work on this whole family has been the capitals of Coline cursive and Coline Extreme. They had to be cursive and to be different for each of the three Coline, while keeping a smooth gradation from standard typographic shapes to more handwriting flavoured ones.
The same problem arose with the figures, the punctuation and the diacritics. Every glyph had to be decomposed in three steps of evolution from typography to cursivity.
Very first sketches for Coline Extreme Black, and final version.
The creation of Coline n°3 (Extreme) has been rather quick and based on instinct.
The fun part has been to develop a black weight, first sketched from regular, then scanned, digititized and harmonised. As its design is more radical, Coline Extreme black was the occasion to push the experiment of sculpting masses a bit further, playing with violent cuts and blistered curves.
Sketches for the black weight from the regular one, and their digitized final versions.
This “evolution” of the features within the family induces the usage of each of its typefaces: Coline n°1 (Première) with its big counters and quite calm rhythm is the basic one for continous text, Coline n°2 (Cursive) tends to be a more lively version and can also be used as an alternate for continous text, Coline 3 (Extrême) tends to be a display or italic for the two others. But we could imagine the complete opposite, with a short text set in Coline Extrême, a few words within it emphasized with Coline Cursive, and a title set in Coline Première. It is up to the user to take the tools over and invent their use.
Here you can download the “A is for” test fonts collection and use them for demonstration purpose only, if you are a professionnal and you need to convince a client before purchase, or if you are a student and want to try one of our fonts for a school project.
Please remember that this type foundry can continue providing new designs only if you buy fonts once in a while :)
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