NaN’s contextual-alternative-loaded sans NaN Tresor won’t stop till you have every option possible
“To be honest, it results from a certain boredom,” Berlin-based type designer Christoph Koeberlin tells us, recalling the circumstances that led him to partner with type foundry NaN to create their incredibly playful, contextual-alternative-loaded sans NaN Tresor. “I find many type revivals boring that reanimate an old typeface without adding anything new to it,” he continues, combatting as much through NaN Tresor’s unique approach. “I find it boring how such a powerful invention as variable font technology is usually handled,” he adds, with rarely any other options than weight and width.
With NaN Tresor, Koeberlin lives up to his intentions, crafting something far from the conventional variable fonts we’re accustomed to, bringing the inconsistencies of historical type design to a digital context, whilst allowing the typeface’s distinctive foundations of design and technology to flexibly inform one another. All the while, it is enriched with an enormous body of contextual letterform alternatives, weights and styles. “Only the variable font makes it possible to experience what I wanted,” Koeberlin recalls, “to create a typeface that, like its historical models, is very lively and charming,” allowing itself aesthetic, structural and curvaceous variation across its three optical sizes, S, M and L. “Every contemporary font contains 500+ characters that have to work in all combinations,” he adds, “and in NaN Tresor, there are a few more… almost 2000,” not stopping until the typeface’s user has almost every single option possible.
Discussing the historical inspirations behind NaN Tresor, Koeberlin details the breadth of his mission, explaining, “it is my revival not of a particular optical size of a particular typeface, but a whole genre,” paying personal homage to the very first grotesque typefaces. “There are typefaces where the charming inconsistency is particularly pronounced,” he suggests, noting Breite Grotesk as a contender, “but in general, I didn’t limit myself to a single typeface but tried to reproduce the feeling of an entire era,” graphically interpreting it for a modern context. “A certain bumpiness is intended,” Koeberlin remarks, “so the challenge for me was to dose its irregularities so that they are slightly irritating but never disturbing,” dutifully achieving as much – capturing with it a satisfying balance of individuality, functionality and silliness.
Turning to NaN Tresor’s name, Koeberlin reflects on the long period he spent searching for the right one before turning to ‘Tresor,’ the German term for a safe. “After months of searching for names I was happy to leave the name to Luke (NaN),” he explains, liking the scale and capability of the typeface to that of a treasure chest, where a plethora of valuables can be found beneath its lid. “But I also immediately understood a nod to the legendary Berlin techno club Tresor,” Koeberlin concludes, “which made me like the name even more!”