Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Gallery: Stefan Hattenbach/ Type Designer

Like most fellow graphic designers, I'm a bit of a type nerd. I have a hoodie embroidered with typography lingo. My deck of font flashcards have softened with age. And for enjoyment, I cull through hundreds upon hundred of typefaces to find that perfect fit for my latest project. It was during one of these sessions that I stumbled upon font designer Stefan Hattenbach's beautiful work.

Founder of Mac Rhino Fonts, Hattenbach works from his picturesque studio in Stockholm, Sweden, where he has produced such notable fonts like Delicato (which I'm using for an upcoming project—more to come in a future post!), Graphics, and Sophisto. Stefan was kind enough to take time out of a crazy schedule to sit down and answer a few questions:
Girl Of All Work: Do you think that most of the typefaces you've designed reflects your personality?
Stefan Hattebach: Yes, they probably do. Not so much as a thought-out plan, but more of a way they got executed. I think it's very hard not to put some of yourself into any kind of artistic profession. Many designers have their style, and I see nothing wrong to show that personality as long as it's a secondary thing. Also, in my opinion, display typefaces can be more "playful" than classic text faces.
G: How does your environment affect the way you design?
S: I work as an independent designer and have run my own business for 15 years. This gives me a lot of freedom and allows me to choose whom to work with. Graphic design is some part of my work, and is gives me the chance to try out and work with type as well.
The rest, about 75%, is more closely type-related, such as logotypes, graphic identities, and of course, type design. I'm not sure if I have a certain "Scandanavian style?" Born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden, I've always felt more like a "European." I've travelled a lot, which has given me loads of inspiration overall. Type design is a very odd profession in Sweden, so that gives me a rather unique position. I find that fact very positive.
G: If you weren't designing type, what else would you be doing?
S: I've always been interested in architecture. To me, it has a similar way of thinking—constructing something that has to be a bigger picture. Of course, on different levels. For example, you could see the construction materials as the body parts in a letter and the light and room as the white spaces—that it's also equally important to get a rich and complete end-result.
Another passion is music. I'm a former DJ and listen to music practically every day. I could also very well have seen myself working as a producer or something similar.
G: Please don't cringe...but the difference between established font foundries like yours and a site like 1001freefonts.com?
 S: Isn't it obvious?! Most of the typefaces on "free font" servers are:
1. Stolen ideas or "wanna-be's"
2. Overall of very poor quality
3. Single weights and often missing basic characters.
Even if there are many places distributing these kind of typefaces, I don't think they are actually used in professional work that much. So it's mostly an expression of "bad taste" rather than a "plague" within the graphic design business.

G: Your personality during work-mode?
S: Concentrated and playful at the same time. I hate to do something "half-good." But at the same time, I nowadays tend to break the rules here and there. I think we have to get that organic feel back. The computer is great, but has often made things too perfect. I find many good typefaces a bit stiff, because they are too perfect. Lately, I've seen some good signs of playful solutions though.
G: And I have to ask this: what do you think about the switch from Futura to Verdana in the new IKEA logo?
S: In one way, I can understand IKEA. They have made a choice for an acceptable solution to cover web and print with only one typeface. IKEA has had Futura so long that it has become a familiar part of their identity. Now, Futura is not the perfect typeface either when it comes to readibility. Especially in smaller sizes. The web and pdf document will increase and probably replace much of the now printed material. 
On the other hand, I'm sure this is more an emotional reaction from people, rather than practical. Myself included. I have even signed a protest list on Facebook. It won't make IKEA change back, of course, but sometimes it's healthy to just make a stand.

(photos via Mac Rhino Fonts /Stefan Hattenbach)


  1. One of my favorite font designers!

    - Junior

  2. Thank you! I wonder who you are?

    /Stefan H

  3. I've never really thought about who designs the fonts, well I have, but only of a nanosecond. promise I will from now on.

  4. Me, too! I love the sketches, and the wood blocks.

  5. Did anyone catch this? It's about NBC being sued over illegal font usage!

  6. Very good post, just the help I was looking for! Thanks for sharing