About this font family
To design a text typeface “at the top with, at the bottom without” serifs was an idea which crossed my mind at the end of the sixties. I started from the fact that what one reads in the Latin alphabet is mainly the upper half of the letters, where good distinguishableness of the individual signs, and therefore, also good legibility, is aided by serifs. More…
The first tests of the design, by which I checked up whether the basic principle could be used also for the then current technology of setting - for double-sign matrices -, were carried out in 1970. During the first half of the seventies I created first the basic design, then also the slanted Roman and the medium types. These drawings were not very successful. My greatest concern during this initial phase was the upper case A. I had to design it in such a way that the basic principle should be adhered to and the new alphabet, at the same time, should not look too complicated. The necessary prerequisite for a design of a new alphabet for double-sign matrices, i.e. to draw each letter of all the three fonts to the same width, did not agree with this typeface. What came to the greatest harm were the two styles used for emphasis: the italics even more than the medium type. That is why I fundamentally remodelled the basic design in 1980. In the course of this work I tried to forget about the previous technological limitations and to respect only the requirements then placed on typefaces intended for photosetting. As a matter of fact, this was not very difficult; this typeface was from the very beginning conceived in such a way as to have a large x-height of lower-case letters and upper serifs that could be joined without any problems in condensed setting. I gave much more thought to the proportional relations of the individual letters, the continuity of their outer and inner silhouettes, than to the requirements of their production. The greatest number of problems arose in the colour balancing of the individual signs, as it was necessary to achieve that the upper half of each letter should have a visual counterbalance in its lower, simpler half. Specifically, this meant to find the correct shape and degree of thickening of the lower parts of the letters. These had to counterbalance the upper parts of the letters emphasized by serifs, yet they should not look too romantic or decorative, for otherwise the typeface might lose its sober character. Also the shape, length and thickness of the upper serifs had to be resolved differently than in the previous design. In the seventies and at the beginning of the eighties a typeface conceived in this way, let alone one intended for setting of common texts in magazines and books, was to all intents and purposes an experiment with an uncertain end. At this time, before typographic postmodernism, it was not the custom to abandon in such typefaces the clear-cut formal categories, let alone to attempt to combine the serif and sans serif principles in a single design. I had already designed the basic, starting, alphabets of lower case and upper case letters with the intention to derive further styles from them, differing in colour and proportions. These fonts were not to serve merely for emphasis in the context of the basic design, but were to function, especially the bold versions, also as independent display alphabets. At this stage of my work it was, for a change, the upper case L that presented the greatest problem. Its lower left part had to counterbalance the symmetrical two-sided serif in the upper half of the letter. The ITC Company submitted this design to text tests, which, in their view, were successful. The director of this company Aaron Burns then invited me to add further styles, in order to create an entire, extensive typeface family. At that time, without the possibility to use a computer and given my other considerable workload, this was a task I could not manage. I tried to come back to this, by then already very large project, several times, but every time some other, at the moment very urgent, work diverted me from it. At the beginning of the nineties several alphabets appeared which were based on the same principle. It seemed to me that to continue working on my semi-finished designs was pointless. They were, therefore, abandoned until the spring of 2005, when František Štorm digitalized the basic design. František gave the typeface the working title Areplos and this name stuck. Then he made me add small capitals and the entire bold type, inducing me at the same time to consider what to do with the italics in order that they might be at least a little italic in character, and not merely slanted Roman alphabets, as was my original intention. In the course of the subsequent summer holidays, when the weather was bad, we met in his little cottage in South Bohemia, between two ponds, and resuscitated this more than twenty-five-years-old typeface. It was like this: We were drinking good tea, František worked on the computer, added accents and some remaining signs, inclined and interpolated, while I was looking over his shoulder. There is hardly any typeface that originated in a more harmonious setting.
Solpera, summer 2005
I first encountered this typeface at the exhibition of Contemporary Czech Type Design in 1982. It was there, in the Portheim Summer Palace in Prague, that I, at the age of sixteen, decided to become a typographer. Having no knowledge about the technologies, the rules of construction of an alphabet or about cultural connections, I perceived Jan Solpera’s typeface as the acme of excellence. Now, many years after, replete with experience of revitalization of typefaces of both living and deceased Czech type designers, I am able to compare their differing approaches. Jan Solpera put up a fight against the digital technology and exerted creative pressure to counteract my rather loose approach. Jan prepared dozens of fresh pencil drawings on thin sketching paper in which he elaborated in detail all the style-creating elements of the alphabet. I can say with full responsibility that I have never worked on anything as meticulous as the design of the Areplos typeface. I did not invent this name; it is the name of Jan Solpera’s miniature publishing house, in which he issued for example an enchanting series of memoirs of a certain shopkeeper of Jindrichuv Hradec. The idea that the publishing house and the typeface might have the same name crossed my mind instinctively as a symbol of the original designation of Areplos - to serve for text setting. What you can see here originated in Trebon and in a cottage outside the village of Domanín - I even wanted to rename my firm to The Trebon Type Foundry. When mists enfold the pond and gloom pervades one’s soul, the so-called typographic weather sets in - the time to sit, peer at the monitor and click the mouse, as also our students who were present would attest. Areplos is reminiscent of the essential inspirational period of a whole generation of Czech type designers - of the seventies and eighties, which were, however, at the same time the incubation period of my generation. I believe that this typeface will be received favourably, for it represents the better aspect of the eighties. Today, at the time when the infection by ITC typefaces has not been quite cured yet, it does absolutely no harm to remind ourselves of the high quality and timeless typefaces designed then in this country.In technical terms, this family consists of two times four OpenType designs, with five types of figures, ligatures and small capitals as well as an extensive assortment of both eastern and western diacritics. I can see as a basic text typeface of smaller periodicals and informative job-prints, a typeface usable for posters and programmes of various events, but also for corporate identity.
Štorm, summer 2005