It’s reasons for being:
Since 1986 I’ve been thinking about of Herbert Bayer’s ideas on a typeface that dispenses with uppercase and is more representational of the phonetics of speech all filtered through the bauhaus’s reductive minimalism.
I’m doing some work for my kids school and liked the idea of a readable, unusual headline font for the Summer newsletter.
The use of having the letterforms as readable as possible has an obivous appeal as did a take on the modular nature of modernism. Modernity (of the early 20th century) did seem to lack a smidge of humour so I’ve tried to give modernism a happy face. Taking the hard off Ezra Pound’s ‘Hard, clear and direct’.
First a box was made in which all the letters would reside, unless they refused to oblige – ‘i’, ‘l’ and ‘j’ are too thin to stretch whereas ‘m’ and ‘w’ are too wide to squash. The set widths go with the modular ideal and would make the letter spacing simpler; getting the spacing between letterforms correct is a right bind.
After making a series of curves of increasing sizes and working out the width of the stem (which are shown above the letter-forms), I set to work puting the letters together; a bit like putting together scalelectrix in to a track.
While fittng the curves to the straights I would mouth the letter and try to think of it’s perfect form; for instance the v is very sharp. This wasn’t very scientific but got me thinking about a small ‘o’ and a long ‘o’ to mimic the way we pronouce the letter in different words. This led to all the vowels getting alternative shapes.
After that I decided to try the font out on the classic ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’ and realised that making lots of ligatures would be a good idea.
I’ve now called it Ezra Phonetic after the ‘over intense’ poet Ezra Pound.