The London-based operation’s retail catalogue initially offers 4 typefaces: Aeonik, Ambit, Coadna and RM Neue, and will continue to grow and evolve alongside a bespoke modification service.
The Brand Identity: Hi Mark. Congrats on the launch of CoType. How did you get into type design?
Mark Bloom: Thanks Elliott – creating my own type foundry is something I’ve wanted to do for over 7 years, so I’m very excited to finally launch it.
I am first and foremost a graphic designer and for most of my professional career, I have specialised in brand identity design. I actually ended up falling into type design by accident.
In 2011 I was commissioned by ICON magazine to ‘Rethink’ the Royal Mail identity as part of the magazine’s ongoing feature. As part of this ‘Rethink’, I not only redesigned the Royal Mail crown marque but the logotype too. The logotype drew inspiration from the existing logo, namely the extreme kick on the R and the pointy M. I then decided to draw a single weight typeface based on these characters which I named RM Regular – RM standing for Royal Mail. The typeface was never meant to be commercially released, just part of the fictional brand assets.
After the magazine was published, I received a lot of interest from design blogs who published my work – this, in turn, led to many designers messaging me asking if RM Regular was available to purchase. The interest was so great that just 3 months after the Royal Mail ‘Rethink’ was published, I released my first font RM Regular through an independent type foundry.
After the font was released I then faced the problem of it not having enough weights or italics but to be honest I was relatively happy just having a font out there in the wild. Design work then took centre stage again and RM Regular got put on the back burner. A whole 5 years after releasing RM Regular I released RM Pro, consisting of 3 weights (Light, Regular & Bold) plus italics.
As the years have passed my passion for designing fonts has grown. It is my aim to produce fonts that, as a designer, I would want to use in my own work. Fonts designed for designers by a designer effectively.
“It is my aim to produce fonts that, as a designer, I would want to use in my own work.”
TBI: The foundry currently offers 4 typefaces: Aeonik, Ambit, Coanda and RM Neue. Can you tell us about them?
MB: Aeonik was released last September and designed in collaboration with friend and ex-colleague Joe Leadbeater. I actually sat on the original design for several years but had always planned to release it at some point. One day I was chatting to Joe about the design as I wanted to get his opinion on it (Joe has a type design background). He made a few suggestions of things he could change or add and by the end of the conversation, we agreed to collaborate on it and release it through our own e-comm mini-site: www.aeonik.co.uk.
Coanda was a lot of fun to work on. It was originally intended to be an uppercase display type but has ended up as 5 weights in both upper and lowercase. It’s actually quite legible, even at small sizes.
Ambit is my take on a quirky but useable sans serif – it’s Aeonik’s cheeky brother I guess? I really wanted to create a font that had lots of personality and unique characters that would help distinguish it from others and make it instantly recognisable. The legs on the uppercase R and K helped to inform the rest of the design. I’m really happy with the final result.
As mentioned in the previous question, RM Regular evolved into RM Pro. However, even in this guise, it still only consisted of 3 weights and, if I’m being honest, I felt some of the characters needed ‘refining’ shall we say! As it’s been 9 years since the release of RM Regular I also wanted to modernise the font to bring it to a new audience. The result is RM Neue, a completely redrawn and redesigned adaptation of RM Pro.
“...it’s so important to consider how the font will work across multiple weights.”
TBI: Once you’ve had an idea for a new typeface, how do you begin?
MB: It can vary – with Coanda, for example, I designed several different ideas first, starting with a few key letters and numerals to help establish the personality of the font. Once I decided on my favourite route I then set about drawing the A-Z along with the numerals in a regular weight. After this, the next step was drawing the lightest weight and heaviest weight to allow for interpolation.
TBI: Can you give us any insight into the process of testing a typeface and making sure all of the characters work together?
MB: Once the design of a single weight has been somewhat finalised (A-Z plus numerals), we (my font engineer and I) start testing a beta of the alphabet in upper and lowercase with basic kerning, this is a good way to test how certain characters sit next to each other and gives me an opportunity to tweak the design where necessary. Character pairs such as ‘fi’, ‘fl’, ‘ft’ etc require ligatures – I don’t usually design these until I see how the letters sit next to each other as default. Once the basic character set is performing how it should, accents and special characters are then drawn to give us an entire character set.
Interpolation of weights is the next stage, this will sometimes make me aware of problems I might not have foreseen, such as the counters on bolder weights filling in too much, this is why it’s so important to consider how the font will work across multiple weights.
The last stage of the process is kerning and final checking of the font.
TBI: How will you balance running the foundry with your work as a designer?
MB: Hmm, that’s a tough one to answer as I really don’t know yet. I love both disciplines (Graphic Design and Type Design) but hope to find a happy balance doing both. I am fortunate enough to be in a position where I can be more picky about the type of design projects I take on, so will try and allow enough time in my schedule to work on growing CoType’s font library.
“Coanda drew inspiration from Wim Crouwel's geometric grid-based fonts such as Architype and Gridnik.”
TBI: Are there any particular typographers you cite as an inspiration?
MB: Like with my design work, I tend to draw inspiration from the past. For example, Ambit was inspired by 19th and early 20th-century grotesques by the likes of Miller & Richard and Stephenson Blake. Coanda drew inspiration from Wim Crouwel’s geometric grid-based fonts such as Architype and Gridnik.
I have a huge amount of respect for Bruno Maag (Dalton Maag), most notably his work for Nokia Pure. The book ‘Twenty-six Characters: An Alphabetical Book About Nokia Pure’ is one of my favourite books and perfectly showcases the huge amount of work that went into creating the font.
TBI: How often do you plan to expand CoType’s catalogue?
MB: I’m not sure but I certainly don’t want to release a new font just for the sake of it – for me, it’s a case of quality over quantity. Any fonts I release have to be 100% perfect, so rather than put a timeframe on something I often think to myself ‘it’s ready when it’s ready’.
With the fonts I’ve already designed, each one has come from seeing, what I believe to be, a gap in the market. I am yet to design a serif so I’m sure at some point down the line I will release one. I’m constantly looking for sources of inspiration for new typefaces so I feel pretty confident that, when the time is right, I will have that Eureka moment and the journey for a new font will begin.
TBI: Thanks Mark, good luck with everything.