But as Medusa evolved Espinoza moved beyond his original inspiration, adding elements such as redrawn ornate capitals, swashes and ligatures and a set of small caps “carefully designed to produce an all-cap setting that is stylistically harmonious with the classic copperplate script,…”
As Espinoza explained in our interview, certain facets of calligraphic typefaces that lend them their beauty and grace can be compromised in the translation from calligraphy to typography, a fact that Espinoza was particularly mindful of in designing Medusa. According to Espinoza, “In almost all typographic copperplate version the letters b, o, v and w are distorted to make them connect in the middle and that, in my opinion, makes them look ugly. This is something that does not happen in the original calligraphic models, where these groups of letters connect at an upper level. In Medusa I made extensive use of OpenType programming in order to make it look as beautiful as it should be.”
In addition to showcasing this beautiful new script we hope our interview with Espinoza (below) gives readers a glimpse into the iterative and exacting type design process, which Espinoza likens to a spiral, saying “It reminds me of a sort of spiral: in each cycle of corrections your mistakes are smaller and you are closer to the right shape.” Espinoza, whose other typeface designs include Dulcinea, Krul and Winco, also retraces how his interest in typography developed and what inspires his current typographic designs.
Q. What first inspired your love of typography?
Espinoza: During my high school years I already had an interest in graphic arts and I used to design a little magazine that circulated among students. But I began to learn, understand and love typography when I was studying graphic design at the Universidad Nacional del Litoral, in Santa Fe, Argentina.
I thought at that time, that typography was one serious subject, less frivolous and with a longer tradition than graphic design. I still think in a similar way and I love to spend an awful amount of time drawing letters.
Q. Which of your creations have you been most pleased with?
Espinoza: This is very difficult to answer and as time passes by my appreciation is different. I would say I am proud of my family Lavigne Display and Lavigne Text. It is a family intended for women’s magazines and I am planning to expand the system in the future and include extra weights and possibly a sans version. I need some time, but next year I think I will be able to publish them.
And I am rather content with the new script “Medusa.” It is a copperplate inspired in part by a XIX Century Catalonian calligrapher, Ramón Stirling. The project started as a rather fair revival but soon I started correcting things I didn’t like in the original shapes and adding characters of my own. There are many features that are beautiful and work in calligraphy but should not be implemented in typography because it is a different medium with its own language and limitations. You need to exercise a lot of criteria to put elements in and out when working with this kind of historical forms. But in the end I am very happy. I put a lot of effort in respecting the beauty and standards of classic copperplate calligraphy and avoiding to make a clumsy typographic copperplate without the original grace.
In almost all typographic copperplate versions the letters b, o, v and w are distorted to make them connect in the middle and that, in my opinion, makes them look ugly. This is something that does not happen in the original calligraphic models, where these groups of letters connect at an upper level. In Medusa I made extensive use of OpenType programming in order to make it look as beautiful as it should be.
Q. When creating a new typeface, what creative process do you go through, is there a particular pattern?
Espinoza: There is not a single pattern I follow but I typically start with calligraphy (I love to practice a bit of calligraphy every day) and then begin sketching on top of scanned letters. The sketching process is the most important stage in type creation. It is where you conceptualize written letters; you change them into something more artificial, into a design idea. When I feel I got something consistent and interesting I digitize some letters and start correcting again, because the digital medium imply much more precision and this precision make tiny mistake completely obvious. There are many many set backs in the design of a typeface. It reminds me of a sort of spiral: in each cycle of corrections your mistakes are smaller and you are closer to the right shape.
Q. What does a typical day look like for you?
Espinoza: Lots of coffee and about 10 hours in front of the computer. Some years ago I felt this was unhealthy and started running in the evenings. Now I enjoy doing it every other day and I think I’ve found a good balance between desktop and physical activities.
Q. Who or what has inspired your work particularly?
Espinoza: I admire many calligraphers, lettering artists and type designers. I don’t make much distinction between these professions. They are all letter makers specialized in their areas. Considering this, I like creators who did and do things with a strong personality. Rudolf Koch, for example. Or Helmut Salden, a German lettering artist. But I could mention many more, and lots of them are German and Dutch.
Thoughts about type design in general or Medusa in particular? Leave us a comment and let us know.