Know Your Type Designer
During the past ten years or so, there has been a veritable new wave of type design from Latin America. Designers from Mexico, Chile, Argentina and elsewhere have presented hundreds of new fonts, many of which are highly original. Latin American typefaces often have certain characteristics in common – a kind of exuberance and fantasy, a lust for life. The text typefaces by Argentinian designer Eduardo Manso have all of that, but in subtle quantities; they are also functional and very well-made. Manso, who lives and works in Barcelona, brings together the best of two worlds. Relato Sans, the latest offering of his foundry Emtype, has been one of the most successful recent text fonts on MyFonts.
Eduardo’s Relato is his most versatile typeface so far. But he made many more before it, releasing them through several foundries – and most of them available at MyFonts. So we thought it was high time to knock on his Barcelona studio door and do an interview.
Before moving to Europe, you studied graphic design in Argentina. Would you say there is something like an Argentian or Latin American style that design students are encouraged to strive for, or are the influences mostly international?
I think that in a globalized world it has become ever more difficult to speak of national identity in matters of design and typography. Besides, Argentina is a “young country” without much of a typographic tradition. And although we may be geographically remote, we have always been very aware of international developments. I don’t believe there is an Argentinian style, although maybe there are some regional tendencies. For example there is a certain “sweetness” to the Latin character which may show up in many typefaces created today.
Did you ever get formal education in type design? If not – how did you learn how to do it?
I am self-taught. I’ve read all the books on type design that I could find. I have also examined and taken apart all the fonts I could get my hands on, as if I were an apprentice of forensic typography. It has taken me several years to do my first text type family. In fact, before designing Bohemia [his first text face, issued by Linotype], I made several other attemps. I am a very persistent person and if I make a mistake, I turn back and try again. So I think my learning process has been one of trial and error.
You worked as art director and co-editor of the design magazine el Huevo (“the Egg”). In what way did this contribute to your development as a designer?
During our graphic design studies, I and four classmates founded el Huevo to write and publish about the design subjects that we were interested in. The project gave us an opportunity to express our points of view on design and typography. All the students that were involved in el Huevo had a lot of ideas and we were eager to make them public. After some years we became less motivated and abandoned the project, but I’m sure the magazine contributed to our formation as designers, and broadened our vision of design.
When and why did you decide to move to Europe? Why Barcelona? Any plans to go back?
I came to Europe to work here for a couple of years and then return to Argentina. I chose Barcelona because it is a city where design has an impact on many aspects of life and because I had some friends here. Barcelona is one of the world’s design capitals. Over time I fell in love with the city and I ended up staying. For more than six years I worked at the design studio Cosmic, and I am currently starting up my own firm. I have no plans to go back in the near future, but I don’t exclude that one day I will.
Could you say something about your early typefaces?
The first typeface I designed was published as ITC Merss. The process was more about learning how to use the design tools than about the design itself. It was an experiment, playing with the curves as if giving shape to something liquid. The result was very informal and kind of crazy!
Before publishing any of your great text typefaces, you made some other ‘deconstructive’ fonts such as Andromeda, Rina and Eroxion. How do you see that early work now?
Those typefaces don’t correspond to the way I approach type design nowadays, but I consider them as necessary steps in my learning process. I made many other typefaces that I never published, and which have also helped me to develop as a type designer.
Your most versatile family so far is the text family Relato/Relato Sans. Although it is clearly a very personal design, I feel that there is some Dutch influence at work. Am I right?
Yes, I agree. Relato is partly based on traditional calligraphic models, but it was also inspired by contemporary Dutch typefaces like Quadraat, Profile and Proforma. Relato goes one step beyond, trying to demonstrate that a text typeface can have a strong personality and be versatile at the same time. It was also inspired by the studies of Albrecht Dürer and of course my own ideas about the type design. Relato Sans may seem like a conventional humanist sans, but when looking closer you may discover a lot of interesting details. The italic, for instance, is very distinctive with its ‘angular’ curves. In each of my typefaces I try to come up with new elements, new shapes, something that justifies why it was created in the first place. I don’t believe in design for the sake of design.
You’ve written that Bohemia, released by Linotype, is based on the atmosphere of 19th-century typography. Did you look at any particular model?
Bohemia takes its inspiration from typefaces used in newspapers and magazines in the United
States in the late 19th century. In 1896 Theodore Low
De Vinne published the article The Century’s Printer on The Century’s Type in Century magazine, in which he presented his typeface Century Roman (created in collaboration
with Linn Boyd Benton) and in addition described the
typographic atmosphere of the time. Bohemia is not inspired by any one typeface in particular but by the atmosphere of that era. I have looked at typefaces like
FatFace, Didot, Bodoni, Caslon, Scotch Roman and Century Roman. I also experimented with
a combination of closed and open forms. Bohemia reconciles characteristics of transitional typefaces and ‘modern face’ – its main axis is vertical. But because of the
smooth and harmonic transition from the heavy verticals to the thin horizontals, it avoids the exaggerated vertical emphasis that characterizes most typefaces of
that style. Therefore, it works for body text as well as display. The Bold version is very heavy, in the spirit of Fat-Face.
Why did you decide to start publishing your own
Having published fonts at a number of existing foundries, I found that the benefits
were very limited. Besides, starting up my own foundry was a way of marking the ‘before’ and ‘after’ in my career as a type designer. My early work consists of
less serious typefaces, ‘fun fonts’; with the Emtype foundry I
am trying to do the opposite, in text as well as display type. I also think that the type market is changing all the time (in a similar way as the music
business) and there are ever more and more independent makers – of music as well as type. MyFonts provides us with a good platform to show and to commercialize
Not only did you write and design your own website, you also
programmed it using cascading style sheets. Many designers hire experts for the technical part of the job. Did you do it yourself just to save money, or also
because you like that aspect of the work?
I have a friend who says: “if another person can do it, I can do it, too.” I’ve been
working as a graphic designer for almost ten years, and I always try to learn new things. When I decided to start my own online foundry I learned how to design
web pages, and I have perfected the technique with time. I use the W3C web standards, as I believe that it are the future of
Internet: using tagged text and CSS will result in a web that is accessible and comprehensible to all. Writing is
another thing that I am passionate about, although unfortunately I don’t always have time for it. When I design a typeface I feel the need to write and take
notes throughout the process.
Do you have plans for future type families?
I’m always working on several typefaces at the same time as well as some custom work.
At the moment I publish a single family per year; the time that I have available does not allow me to do more. I like to dedicate much time to the process, and
try out many different things before finishing a typafece. I hope to be able to concentrate more on type design in the future, so that I can make several
families per year. I like the idea of designing typefaces in all kinds of styles, just like a good actor should be able to be able to play very different
characters. I think that as designer there are still a lot of parts for me to interpret. I would still like to design a script font, a grotesque, a slab serif, etc.
Having experienced typographic education as well as the daily practice
of graphic design in Latin America and Europe, would you say there are huge differences?
I believe that in some Latin American countries, such as Argentina, Chile or Mexico,
there are no great differences in design education with respect to Europe. I believe that the graphic design department of the University of Buenos Aires is
among the best in the world. But there certainly are differences in the graphic design practice, which I think are due to economic rather that cultural
Apart from working as a type designer and graphic designer, you are also a
teacher at the Elisava Design College in Barcelona. What’s the most important thing you are trying to teach to your students?
The single most important thing that I want my students to understand is this: no matter
how well you draw or how well you combine colors, pictures and forms – no matter how trendy your ideas are – if you do not know how to use type correctly,
you will be always a mediocre designer.
Thanks, Eduardo! We look forward to seeing your new typeface designs