Humane Fonts: the making of Reserva’s new typefaces

Check out the videocase (with English Subtitles) to know all about this project

Posted originally on Plau’s blog.

A brand new voice

Reserva’s brand speaks loud and clear in every touchpoint. There was only one missing element to make it unique: their fonts.

There has been many rebrands in the fashion world recently, most of them choosing a simplified approach (especially in the logotype). The intention is to become more universal, but the result is too neutral and at times, insipid.

Reserva’s fans and followers know for a fact that the brand speaks with a lot of personality. Neutrality is not at all part of its DNA. Rebelious and energetic is more like it. The issue, then, is how to make this attitude shine through the fonts it uses for communication.

Rony Meisler, the brands’ founder and CEO said it best: “Reserva is not an apparel company, but a communication company which happens to sell clothing. This means it grabs every chance of talking frankly and directly to their customers and fonts are a big part of that.”

That makes it more special when they invited us to create a “freaking awesome” family of fonts for their brand. Brands that champion typography as key to their success are a rare breed and the fact that they wanted something that didn’t fall for safe solutions made it even more enticing.

Many rounds of work later, three typographic styles emerged, all part of one suite of fonts: Reserva Sans, Reserva Serif andReserva Display. A family for everyday use (sans), one with an elegant, editorial ambition (serif) and one made for impact and attention-grabbing. In all, 25 fonts that are now part of the brand’s visual language, in all its plurality.

Betas: iterating through type

The project’s process took into consideration the idea of iteration and constant improvement. Rony says: if it is perfect then it was launched too late. We got the message and delivered betas throughout the project. Before we knew it, we could see the fonts in use in their website, stores and storires.

The making of a type voice

Big personality and presence were a requirement. We looked outside the fashion world, researching old specimen catalogs, other industries and sources of inspiration. Reserva did not want to look like other fashion labels after all. We came up with three creative avenues: ReservaDIN, “Hello Old Friend (serifs)” and Human Fonts.

DIN was used by Reserva — and other brands — for quite some time. Regarded as one of the safe paths, ReservaDIN’s idea was to take the main features of DIN and rework it to make it more friendly and proprietary.

Hello Old Friend concept was to make a contemporary version of Arena, a Berthold typeface that carried the right kind of personality for the brand. This also included the idea to make it into a variable font that went from Serif to Sans and a Slab in the middle.

Arena from a Berthold Type Foundry, the reference for the “Hello Old Friend” concept.

Human Fonts started from calligraphy (hence Human) to create a ductus (the bare bones of a given typeface) that could be dressed in Sans or Serif form.

This concept gathered most of what Reserva wants to be but with a more personal view and style. Also, the name is a nod to Reserva’s Human Resources department, which they distinctly named in a Portuguese term that translates literally into “Human Fonts”.

This idea being the chosen path, it was a matter of development to see the finish line. This included hours of rework, adjusting, kerning, spacing so it was launched well polished.

Midway through the project, a new idea came up and we decided to fully embrace it: to design a Display typeface that moved further away from the ordinary. Reserva Display was born out of an exercise to redesign the word Reserva with as much personality as possible. The demands of functionality in the sans and serif versions took away some of the rebel take on the brand. Reserva Display fixed this right away.

Reserva Display is readable, but its main role is to be seen and experienced.

One of the reasons why they wanted new typefaces was a maturing in the brand’s communication, which the letters had to reflect.

Reserva Serif is an editorial face for use in large sizes.

According to Rodrigo Saiani, the lead type design for the project, “The development of an unique tone of voice for Reserva needed to be fed back to the typefaces; The collaboration between Plau and the brand’s creative team was crucial for the project’s success. Their designers were very thorough in their feedback, which led to improvements to the design. Every crazy idea we brought to the table was received with curiosity and nurturing, with good chances of coming to life.”

Reserva Type Journal, a manual of style for the vocal possibilities of the Human Fonts.

Vocal paths

Typography is the stem-cell of communication. If done properly, their curves and nodes carry the genetic code of a brand. And because Reserva’s brand is done with a purpose in mind, to know the ins and outs of their typeface helps the creative team use if on purpose. Without further ado, here’s how they shape the brand identity.

Reserva Sans is the spinal chord, the structure that guides the brand voice. Meant to be used for the heavy lifting, small size communication. It is rooted in calligraphy with contrast as toned down as possible

Serifs are usually taken as too serious and scholarly, but heavier and thinner weights for Reserva Serif make it as fun to play as their Sans counterparts. The serifs are really thin, making it more suitable for larger point sizes (above 18pt is ideal).

Reserva Display is meant to be seen, not read. The designers can abuse it, experiment with it and go crazy. It’s quite rebellious, with flat serif mixed with curves that don’t quite settle as one genre or another. We though of it as being dressed for an afternoon beach side party.

In Reserva’s typefaces, there’s a lot to be found: readability, legibility and personality. All of them perform its proper function without being stale.

This versatility helps Reserva be themselves but not always the same. Different versions of the font change the tone of voice..

Reserva’s three type styles used in tandem in a poster designed to celebrate the project.

If God’s in the details, let’s dive right in!

Prior to the start of the project, Reserva used three typefaces in its communication: Intro, Din and Helvetica. All mechanical sans in its construction; all great fonts; classic typography, already used by many other brands thus not as striking.

Reserva’s fonts flee the geometric and neutral style, currently trending in recent fashion rebrands. Human Fonts used calligraphy as a distinct foundation from what the corporate world has embraced.

“Calligraphy is the ultimate expression of the human hand. Each person has its own handwriting. So carrying that into the font’s spirit gives us a heck of a story to tell.” This is how we define the project’s guideline.

In practice, this results in a cursive fluency of shapes, a touch of “real life” in it, so to speak.

This style, inspired by the human hand is technically called “humanist.” They are letters that are less concerned with mathematical proportions and more with how the eyes sees things. It’s an organic, non-geometric drawing. It is good to note that calligraphy is usually the basis for most serifs, but not sans. In Reserva’s case the calligraphic approach is carried through to the sans.

The calligraphic design allows a lightness and a greater freedom to the letters. In Reserva Display, some letters are marked by very rigid (m, n, are some of these), straight, triangular serifs, while others are highlighted by curves (such as a).

And what makes all the families part of the same universe? They letters carry the same structure, even though they are different designs. It is as if the letter A had the a common body in sans, serif and display, but wearing different clothes in each of them.

Typefaces can have “spoiled children”, that is, glyphs that are part of, yet stand out from the rest. In this case the characters are mainly the uppercase R and O. The capital R received special attention, being the brand’s initial.

The capital O is curious, because it is a letter that does not usually draw much attention, but in the case of Reserva it has an angle that makes it stand out, seeming to relax a little, unlike the vertical angles, which are more common.

Another special character is the ampersand. They say that this is the most beautiful glyph in typography. They are particularly charming in our Human Fonts and we hope they always find an excuse to use it!

It would not be Reserva if it were not rebellious. Whether it’s the R, the O, the F-inlet, or the G-belly, these letters make up for being as different as the brand they represent. Of course without dressing up whenever they need to.

A rebellion with cause, for sure. Imagine as if Reserva had a tailor made shirt. But not just a shirt. A coat, a sneaker, a pair of pants … Every piece for an occasion. Now we can only suggest that the creative team find the most diverse and unexpected uses for the fonts we lovingly made.


Rony Meisler, Rodrigo Saiani e Valter Costa

Type Design
Rodrigo Saiani

Editorial Design
Ana Laura Ferraz, Carlos Mignot e Gabriel Menezes

Graphic Design
Rodrigo Saiani, Lucas Campoi, Carlos Mignot, Ana Laura Ferraz, Felipe Casaprima, Gabriel Menezes, Aline Caruso e Valter Costa

Rony Meisler, Marina Taddei, Naiana Lemos e Equipe Reserva

Risotrip Print Shop Co.

Plau’s wants to make fonts as popular as music. Our fonts can be activated at Adobe Creative Cloud, purchased on our own site or through our partners at MyFonts and Fontspring.

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Typographic identity studio — making type as popular as music is what we're all about.

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Plau Type & Design

Typographic identity studio — making type as popular as music is what we're all about.