It wasn’t that long ago that new typefaces were only released with a couple of weights – and maybe an italic design or two. Those who designed typefaces and made fonts did not have the luxury of time or the financial means to develop large all-singing all-dancing typeface families. The first designs of Helvetica® were released without italics – as were the first additions to the ITC Avant Garde Gothic® family. And Hermann Zapf’s iconic Palatino® was first announced as available in just two weights and only one italic design.
While less common today, many designers still cannot devote months to creating a fully realized typeface family. Since new typeface design is a financially speculative endeavor, designers often have other “paying” jobs like creating custom typeface for clients, or working as freelance graphic and interactive designers.
So it is with Akira Kobayshi. In addition to drawing new and original typefaces, he is a type director at Monotype, and in demand to develop custom branding typefaces for a variety of Monotype clients. It was these responsibilities that put roadblocks in the development of the Akko® typeface family.
Kobayshi’s original intent to was to create a “soft” organic sans serif typeface. Early in the process of developing this design, however, he realized that a more “industrial strength” sans, with the same shapes and proportions, would also be a natural addition to the family. He was able to devote several months to the creation of these designs – but then custom typefaces and other projects put demands on his time.
“This new addition to the Akko family takes the distinctive design and communicative power of the original, and applies it to a remarkably versatile and space-saving suite of faces of six weights, ranging from thin to black, each with an italic counterpart.”
Akko and Akko Rounded were announced in the spring of 2011, but Kobayshi knew that at least one more collection of designs needed to be added to the family. He knew that a highly legible condensed design would add depth and versatility to the original complement of typefaces. It took four years of on-and-off dedication, however, to complete what would become the Akko Condensed suite of fonts. In many ways, drawing Akko Condensed was just as rigorous as creating the original design. “The difficult part was keeping counters open when the width of the letters is extremely narrow. When you compare Akko with other popular sans like Helvetica and Frutiger®, you’ll notice that the normal Akko is already about 10 per cent narrower than these designs. Creating condensed versions of this already ‘semi-condensed’ family was a challenge.”
This new addition to the Akko family takes the distinctive design and communicative power of the original Akko and applies it to a remarkably versatile and space-saving suite of faces of six weights, ranging from thin to black, each with an italic counterpart.
The designs are available as a suite of OpenType® Pro fonts, allowing for the automatic insertion of small caps, ligatures and alternate characters. Pro fonts also offer an extended character set supporting most Central European and many Eastern European languages.
Will there be additional designs added to the Akko family? Only time – and Kobayshi’s fertile typographic imagination – will tell.