Genesis of Coline
Coline has been chosen to enter the collections of the French CNAP(Centre National des Arts Plastiques). To celebrate this good news, let’s dive into the work process that lead to the creation of Coline family.
After a study of the evolution of the “pocket books” published in the french collection Folio Gallimard since its creation in 1972, I noticed no evolution of type, except for the quality of printing, within 35 years. Most of the time wide typefaces were used, and it reflected in a low or inadequate line-spacing.
I decided to give it a go and to try to design a suitable typeface for small format books. Therefore the typeface should work in small sizes and benefit from large counters. It would have to be condensed, so the saved space can be re-injected elsewhere in the layout. For the same reason, the x-height should be rather big, furthermore the typeface will have a non-posh look which suits pocket books.
I looked a lot at the typefaces used by Simon de Colines (1480-1546). He can be considered as the french equivalent of Alde Manuce, as he is the first to publish small format books, intended for a student clientele. I chose to pick the influence of his early work, before Garamond, because of its frankness and robustess which could fit for pocket books.
I have to admit that I’m a sketches’ addict. The natural movement of the hand has been essential in the design I came up with. Sketching with the hand, with many back and forths between screen and paper (scaling up and down with the copy machine, cut-pasting with scissors and glue) enables to build a letter by its masses and not only its contours.
This method moves typeface design closer to sculpture, it looks at characters not as vectorial points but as a concrete material.
Then once you’re happy with your the nice shapes you found the long process of refining the shapes starts, as you can see here with the capitals of Coline Premiere.
At the same time I looked a lot at the work of Philippe Millot for the publisher Cent Pages; he is using only Matthew Carter’s typefaces in the whole collection of Cent Pages pocket books, but as free different associations within each book. I decided then to have different typefaces but still from the same family, so the designer can have a good range of tools and fun with it (use of the upright black with the normal regular, or vice versa).
I find it too conservative to say that if an italic is not slanted, then people won’t use it, it is putting barriers everywhere and having very little confidence in graphic designers’ capacities.
Hence the 3 members of Coline family, all 3 upright typefaces with their personal instrokes, outstrokes and rythm.
Now that the family was defined and the Coline Première basic set completed, Coline n°2 et n°3 needed some special attention, especially for their capitals. The biggest work has been to differentiate the three sets of capitals for the three Coline, while keeping a smooth gradation between them.
The same problem arose with the figures, the punctuation and the diacritics. Every glyph had to be decomposed in three steps of evolution from typography to cursivity.
The creation of Coline n°3 (Extreme) has been rather quick.
The fun part was to develop a black weight, which has been first sketched from regular, then scanned, digititized and harmonised. As it is more radical by nature, Coline Extrême was the occasion to experiment a bit more, around its violent cuts and its blistered curves.
This “evolution” of the features within the family induces the usage of each of its typefaces: Coline n°1 (Première) with its big counters and quite calm rhythm is the basic one for continous text, Coline n°2 (Cursive) tends to be a more lively version and can also be used as an alternate for continous text, Coline 3 (Extrême) tends to be a display or italic for the two others. But we could imagine the complete opposite, with a short text set in Coline Extrême, a few words within it emphasized with Coline Cursive, and a title set in Coline Première. It is up to the user to appropriate the tools and invent their use.