review

Notes on Feijoa
by Catherine Griffiths

 

The other day [2007], my e-newsletter from New York’s type co-op, Village, cited New Zealand: “ ... very very proud to announce the release of Feijoa, the debut from the brilliant New Zealand designer Kris Sowersby. This subtly soft-edged serif face is built on classical proportions, but Kris’s design sensibility is clear in every detail. His is a unique new voice ...”

Kris Sowersby is the Wellington-based digital type foundry, Klim. He is a young designer with a passion for type design, a rarity in New Zealand, and his new typeface, Feijoa is the first of his to be released to the world.

The feijoa is an exotic from South America, but to we New Zealanders, it’s from our backyards – it’s part of who we are.

Sowersby’s Feijoa comes out of this same sensibility. In New Zealand, we take from everywhere and rework it as our own by bringing our eccentric culture and environment to bear.

This typeface percolates with Internationalism, reminiscent of the Dutch, even the Americans, when you look at the display version. The masters of typeface design affect Sowersby, who is well read on the subject, – he knows his type history. The contemporary big names too – Gerard Unger, for instance. Look at Unger’s typefaces, and you can see a path to features of Feijoa – you will see a similar aesthetic, almost a conversation between the two. Sowersby designs from a New Zealand emotional response with an eye to the world.

Feijoa offers full OpenType functionality, available as a family of four with the promise of more to come. Already, there is a comment out in the ether on the need for Bold Italic. The current family is: Medium, Medium Italic, Bold and Display, including a comprehensive glyphset. Sowersby’s indulgence in discretionary ligatures, standard and experimental, is part of the package, to cater for all types. Those who want lavish can turn on everything, while those who prefer restraint can opt for few or none.

Feijoa is as much a practical form as it is gentle and elegant. It is fluid and easy in its crafting, comfortable with its place in the world, legible, pleasing to read, and functional. Its generous curves and strokes can be off-beat at times – notice the thick stroke on the left side of the number 0 – for example, ‘2006’ forms a pair of sideways-looking eyes – and the prettily-shaped, well-formed variations of ligatures, which, when viewed as a full set, display rhythm, movement, perhaps almost an unrestrained liveliness, distracting and gratuitous for some, yet adored by others. The typeface reflects Sowersby’s care and attention to form and character – his particular solutions. For type-users, the personality of a typeface, the feeling and meaning that it can bring to content, is crucial to its choice. Sowersby understands this.

Useful to Sowersby during the fine-tuning of Feijoa, was the fervent dialogue on Typophile (www.typophile.com), the website dedicated to anything type-related. Certain features of Feijoa, such as the more uncommon ligatures and the set of unjoined forms (6, 8, 9, k, q, b, B, P, R, K), were targeted, which encouraged Sowersby to reason out his thinking, and consider his moves.

At one point, he slipped a little when asked the reason “not to join” the b and q.

Sowersby’s response to this informed concern, “I like it like that”, was perhaps a knee-jerk, when a more logical and lucid response would have been in his interest. But then his talent and sincerity pushes past these hiccups.

“Feijoa is my serious book typeface, representing four summer's worth of bloody hard work. I wanted a feeling of softness in a typeface, to design a type that didn't have all the sharp points and edges that can make digital type so stale and inhuman ... ”

Sowersby’s rigour took hold of the b and q, and he joined them.

You can purchase Feijoa from Village, set up as the “information channel and boutique storefront” for their 12 globally-based young type foundries, including well-known Foundry, Thirstype and Underware. Visit www.vllg.com – their zeal alone makes it worth it! Now amongst some of the best of type design is a coup for Sowersby. It’s a position he knows to nurture.

 

CG / Prodesign, 2007 / above: Feijoa Sample, Klim Type Foundry


 

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Notes on Feijoa
by Catherine Griffiths


ProDesign, NZ, April 2007

related links

Klim Type Foundry
Village
ProDesign Magazine


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