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Rui Abreu

Rui Abreu first taught himself the craft of type design by making experimental geometric fonts. He then traveled a steep learning curve by continually challenging himself. Originally from Porto, Portugal, Rui draws inspiration from his early surroundings. “Porto is a very charismatic city,” he said in his Creative Character interview. “The city’s old trading activity is still visible on many storefronts, so lettering and type are part of the urban landscape. That probably did have some influence on my typographic disposition.”

After publishing his early typefaces through a foundry called Fountain, he launched his own one-man label, operating out of Lisbon, Portugal: another city boasting a rich history of ornamentation and lettering. “I certainly think I’ve been influenced by the city and its character,” he said. “Many of its aspects are difficult to translate in typographic terms, but the city’s general aesthetics, specifically the late gothic and baroque ornaments, and the definite presence of literature and books that one feels in Lisbon, all have worked as stimuli for me.”

It didn’t take long before the self-taught designer was creating highly original, beautifully drawn typefaces. Font families created under his own foundry represent sophisticated takes on popular genres: Gesta is an elegant sans-serif with a squarish silhouette; Azo Sans is a geometric sans with a humanist touch; Grafolita a stylist connected script. “There is something appealing in working with simple conventional forms. This could seem limiting in terms of artistic expression, since they come with conventions you can’t break. However, the challenge of designing a good typeface is to somehow exceed yourself and achieve something good within tight limits. Azo Sans, which is a geometric sans, is an example of such a challenge.”

Rui is a talented, versatile artist. His broad range of skills include video directing and editing, animation, 3D art, printmaking and composing. So how did it come to be that he is such an accomplished type designer? “The fact that I increasingly got more interested in type design,” he said, “and eventually started working on it full time, has to do with my tendency to build things, and above all to draw. It seems to me that type design is a good thing to focus on, since it is a microcosm of everything else.”

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