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Martin Majoor on Creating FF Scala

When designing Scala I exercised great freedom in executing my ideas thanks to the possibilities of new digital design technologies, and I was able to think very freely about the concept of serif and sans. Many of the generally accepted ideas did not seem logical to me. As an independent designer I was luckily not obliged to follow them.

FF Scala was released in 1990 by FontShop International as its first serious text face, but it was only when FF Scala Sans was issued three years later that the family became extremely popular. In 1997 I augmented Scala with other weights such as light, black and condensed. I also designed a set of four display versions called Scala Jewels. The use of a serif typeface and an accompanying sans resulted in a very happy combination for graphic designers around the world.

Serif-Sans-Mix. The Nexus Principle

At the time Scala and Seria were designed, my motto had been two typefaces, one form principle: the serif version and the sans version coming from the same source — or better, the sans being derived from the serif. One doesn’t need a lot of imagination to think about a third version, a slab serif derived from the sans by simply adding thick serifs to the sans characters. My initial type design philosophy simply changed into three typefaces, one form principle.

I call this the Nexus Principle, nexus being the Latin word for connection. And from 2002 to 2004 I designed Nexus, a family of three ‘connected’ typefaces including a serif, a sans serif and a slab serif version. I still believe that the serif should come first, then the sans serif, and finally the slab. Nexus started as an alternative Seria with shorter ascenders and descenders, but the design quickly became its own typeface with additional changes in the proportions and details, including a redrawn italic. The result was a workhorse typeface similar to Scala, with added features like small caps in all weights, four different sorts of numbers, ligatures, etc.

In addition, I designed two sets of swash capitals, two sets of swash lowercase endings, and a corporate monospaced font in four weights. When the FF Nexus family (Nexus Serif, Nexus Sans, Nexus Mix, and Nexus Typewriter) was released in 2004, it was one of FontShop’s first OpenType font families. The addition of the word ‘Mix’ in the name ‘Nexus Mix’ is a result of my idea that a slab serif is really a mixture between a sans and a serif.

The Situation Now

When I started with type design in 1983 I produced only a single serif typeface. It has taken me twenty years to get where I am now, with my latest typeface consisting of three complete versions.

In a way, the last 15 years have been revolutionary for sans serif typefaces. As more and more type designers become aware of sans serif’s origins their sans designs become full partners alongside their serif designs. Maybe the next 15 years will bring a revolution for slab serifs, and in the future it might even be possible that the Nexus Principle expands into a fourth or fifth dimension. Time will tell.

Martin Majoor

Martin Majoor

Majoor has been designing type since the mid-1980s. In 1988 he started working as a graphic designer for the Vredenburg Music Centre in Utrecht, for whom he designed the typeface Scala for use in their printed matter. Two years later FSI FontShop International published FF Scala as the first serious text face in the then-new FontFont Library. In 1993 FF Scala was augmented with a sans serif version, FF Scala Sans. The Sans and the Serif versions complement each other admirably. They follow the same principle of form but are two distinct designs. FF Seria and FF Seria Sans followed in 2000, and in 2004 FF Nexus with Sans, Serif, Mix and Typewriter versions were published.

Martin Majoor’s Type Design Philosophy »

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