Wood types have many interesting qualities. Sometimes the least obvious ones add crucial characteristics to letters that end up giving a font its true identity. For example, seemingly accidental design flaws visible in some letter shapes, perhaps resulting from the hand of a less experienced type designer, could be what ends up making the font special. Or the gradual wear of wood type over time, creating damage and deformations, might give letters subtle yet crucial new attributes that contribute to the font’s uniqueness. The font gets worn in, like your favourite jumper.

Grotesk 20Cic Darker
A perfect example of an unknown Grotesque: Labeled as 20 cic Grotesk Fett, it shows signs of usage and peculiar letter shapes (notice the C, G, J or S) which contribute to a very own character.

Unknown Grotesques

Many fonts, often Grotesques, were produced out of functionality. They were reproduced following certain traditions, like that of the Akzidenz Grotesk, with more or less skill depending on the abilities of the person in charge. Often, fonts would just be given a generic label like Grotesk Nummer 7, Fett, 12 Cicero. The creative naming of fonts, except for a select few, were only introduced in the late nineteenth century as an effort to market fonts more effectively. At p98a, we have a few of these nameless Grotesques sitting quietly among the other, more famous candidates like Bernhard Fraktur, Fanfare or Reporter. One of them is labeled 8 cic Sans. We’re not quite sure where it comes from, nor do we know who made it. The font has been used over decades, showing visible wear on many letters and missing certain glyphs, which got lost over time.

Photo5213165930643828635
The 8 cic Sans sitting in its drawer, ready for use.
Corono
The 8 cic Sans in use on the C O R O N O Cards made by Helene.

C O R O N O

In March 2020, Helene was looking for a perfect type to make the C O R O N O postcards. She needed a nice headline font with letters of similar widths. 8cic Sans proved perfect for the job. The C O R O N O postcards were a bestseller and like the message, the font is the star of the show: simple yet full of imperfections, it creates a tension for the eye that makes reading it intriguing.

Set German Cut Png
Hot out the press - our Holophrasis cards, printed with 8 cic Sans, available in our online shop.

A New Purpose

After the success of the postcards and our enthusiasm for the 8cic Sans at p98a, we decided to reuse the font for a new set of postcards, which we called Holophrasis, available as posters (printed in Banco) and as postcards. The production timeline for this project was more extensive, with 12 different motives to be set and printed.

Egal Sans
The scans of the uppercase letters of 8cic Sans, with visible wear on several letters and some initial sketches for the missing glyphs.
Img 4688
An example of one of our polymer plates with fresh Day-Glo ink around the edges, allowing us to produce analog prints based on any digital sketch.

The Process

Because of this new and bigger project, we had to rethink our approach. The first decision was to use polymer plates for the printing, not the actual letters. This would allow us to preserve the already damaged letters and accelerate the printing process. It would also allow us the use of software to repair and complete the font.

We started by printing the existing 8cic Sans characters on our FAG SA (Fournitures pour les Arts Graphiques) Swissproof 52 press. We then scanned the results. After that, we carefully retraced the most damaged letters, aiming to strike a good balance between removing unwanted errors and preserving the spirit of the typeface. We also completed the font by adding missing glyphs in a font software. The cards were finally printed by our partners Die Lettertypen on a Heidelberger Cylinder, in Berlin Adlershof.

Type Media Portfolio Seite 12
The digitisation process in three steps: From a scan, to a rounded version in which the imperfections are preserved, to a clean, digital redraw with sharp edges.

A Bachelor Thesis

By giving 8cic Sans a lot of attention for this project, we all grew quite fond of it. In fact, it has just become the core concept for the Bachelor thesis or our current intern Felix, who has made it his task to further investigate the qualities a wood type develops by being a tangible, organic object, as opposed to a digital font. We will continue documenting the progress of the 8 cic Sans in further journal entries.