We take a look back at Romie with Margot Lévêque, as she reflects on the serif’s long-awaited update
Five years after its original release, French type designer and strategist Margot Lévêque has announced an update of her beloved typeface, Romie. The new version sees ‘Romie Regular’ completely reworked, with the addition of three more styles; Medium, Bold and Black. Her favourite feature of the family is the addition of a mythical and large ligature set, “I’ve been asked for it so much since 2017,” she points out, “crazy.”
The original iteration of the typeface began in 2017, with a young Lévêque as a student undertaking her Master’s Degree in Type Design and Art Direction. Originally, she had not begun the course with the goal to go into type. Rather, she had aspired to become a better graphic designer as she reveals “at this time I didn't want to be a type designer – it’s way too hard! But in truth,” she continues, “it all started by coincidence.”
“One day, in the middle of a calligraphy class with Julien Priez, after having drawn a lot of letters with my pencil, I drew this serif. “So as you can see here, someone drew a hammer!” said (loudly) my master’s supervisor, Jean François Porchez. He laughed so hard! As he impressed me a lot, there was no way to continue with this hammering serif. But fortunately, my classmate (cc Baptiste Bernazeau) told me: “you’re kidding! It’s so cool, keep going!” I listened a lot to Baptiste because he always had an avant-garde and offbeat eye for everything. I decided to vectorise it and that’s how Romie was born. Thanks Baptiste!”
The hardest parts of taking it from a display typeface to a full family for Lévêque were working alone, and keeping up with the creative pace. “I’m a freelancer and creating typefaces is not my full-time job,” she explains, “so, I have to plan to work on my typefaces on weekends and in my free time.” With this process comes a lot of self-discipline and investment, even more so working solo in comparison to the output of a bigger foundry. This is where the type designer chooses to embrace anti-perfectionism. “The hardest part is also to accept that it won’t be perfect but to go through with it anyway,” she notes, before recalling something her therapist told her: “you don’t force anyone to use your fonts. Just have fun, do your best, do what you think is right and the result does not matter.”
This rejection of a perfectionist mindset, “that it will never be perfect,” is what Lévêque sees as the main thing she’s learnt from the process. Initially, she had sent a beta version of the expanded Romie family to a panel of people who offered to provide feedback. “Of the 10 people,” she tells us, “everyone had different feedback. No one agreed, while everyone was more experienced than me. First, I was disheartened. Then, everything makes sense.” Following this feedback, which came in February 2022, the type designer made the suggested changes and followed traditional type design rules more closely. The result? “I did not like Romie anymore.”
“The shapes were certainly better designed, but I had lost the soul of my font. For example, I corrected my ‘R’ because its serif is super long – but way too big to make a perfect kerning! I corrected it and it was not Romie anymore. Sorry for your kerning, but I decided to keep this weirdo ‘R,’ I love it.” This became a pivotal moment, as Lévêque realised ultimately that as long as she liked Romie, that’s all that truly mattered.
“Yes I am always happy to improve my practice, I LOVE learning things and hearing feedback from different people. But an eye remains an eye. And at this moment in my life, I chose the ‘R’ that seemed the most right for me. And that’s the most important thing, it teaches me to make choices and to have confidence in myself. It’s scary to come up with a design that is not perfect. But I often say that I make my own recipe and I try not to pollute myself with what I see on the internet.
I create typefaces through the bias of two things only: books and old specimens. I don’t follow any type inspiration network accounts, I never take inspiration from what I see on the internet. Otherwise, I don’t think I would have the portfolio I have today. I learned the basics, I learned how to do type with paper and a pencil. Now I want to trust myself and focus on my own eyes. Day by day I’m less rigid, I’m trying to give up my academic approach. My fonts are my own art. As long as I like them, that’s all that matters. Then, when people like them as well, that’s pure happiness.”