A variable font that pulses to the beat 🔉

The first release of Bureau Nuits, Uxum Grotesque, will make your hands clap!

Noemi Stauffer
Apr 30, 2020 · 6 min read

Bureau Nuits is a graphic design studio based in Bordeaux, France. FF caught up with Jules and Romain about the studio’s debut typeface, Uxum Grotesque, a variable font that reacts to the sound of your handclaps — or of any music, really — on its minisite.

Striking at display sizes and readable at text sizes, Uxum Grotesque is both distinctive and functional.

Congrats on the release of your very first typeface! Can you tell us how Uxum started as a project?

Thank you! Uxum was originally commissioned by the branding studio Muxu.Muxu in an effort to reconnect their own brand with its roots in the Basque Country. We therefore sought ways to use graphic elements typical of the Basque language but through a more contemporary approach. To do so, we naturally opted for a grotesque, granting us a certain freedom when drawing its letters. The challenge was to create a distinctive design that would carry the brand’s ambitions while harmonising its communications.

Why is it called Uxum?

It’s Muxu spelled backwards ;) Muxu means ‘kiss’ in Basque and was the name of the client that we originally designed the typeface for, so it’s a little nod to their studio ^^

What are its main characteristics?

The idea for us, as per the commission, was to create a typeface that would be both functional and expressive. Uxum is a neat ‘identity’ typeface with subtle typographic aberrations. Its pretty complete glyph set makes it adequate for running text, and its peculiar shapes bring it character when used in titles and headlines.

To give the typeface breadth, we added a series of historic ligatures like ‘ct’ and ‘st’ and a few alternate characters, like a double-story ‘a’ with a sharp, right angle in its bowl.

Notable glyphs: the alternate ‘a’ with its 90° angle

It is noteworthy that you are releasing your first typeface as a variable font. Why make it variable?

From the start of the project, it was clear to us that we wanted to do a variable font, for two reasons: first because the client operated in the tech industry, and was on top of digital trends, so it was natural to follow this direction, and second because we firmly believe that variable fonts will be part of the design tools of tomorrow (even if the first project of variable fonts is in fact quite old) so it was important for us to learn how to conceive them. It was an exciting challenge that brought us huge opportunities.

Did you have any prior experience in designing fonts?

No, not really, I have been doing graphic design for eight years now with an approach always focused on typography, so I initially started drawing my own characters in an innocent way. I later wanted to become more professional at it and take it one step further. So I took the time to develop an eye for type, attending conferences, reading books and essays, drawing characters, failing, drawing them again, and exchanging with professionals (yes it’s easy and possible).

With willingness, passion and a bit of patience, we believe that nowadays it is possible to learn anything we want, especially since we are lucky to witness the growth of a very active type community, who is eager to share its knowledge through a technology that is every time more accessible (it wasn’t always the case). If we could give an advice to anyone who wanted to progress in this field, it would be not to hesitate to share your work, show it, get feedback and exchange with professionals.

Design proofs of the work-in-progress typeface

Did you face any challenges while creating the typeface?

Yes many! Which also made it exciting. The most significant challenge for us, that we are still working on optimising, was to properly adjust the contrast of the characters across the different weights — controlling the optical width and ensuring a right balance between black and white, so that some glyphs wouldn’t seem heavier than others. This was particularly difficult to achieve in the typeface’s heaviest weight, Ultra. It’s a long process… We are already working on a second version of the typeface.

That’s what’s so fascinating about fonts, they are never really finished, you need to come to terms and tell yourself: “Ok it’s fine, let’s launch it now and it will make a good starting point.”

Make sure the sound is on! 🔉

Where did the idea of making users interact with Uxum on its minisite, by clapping their hands, come from?

At first we thought that it would be cool to animate the buttons of the site with the font’s variable features. From there, we thought that it would be even nicer if there was an interaction directly in the font tester, and Luc, who created the site (using Webflow) got really motivated!

People can now play and interact with Uxum in the sound or musical atmosphere of their choice — in a way, they can make it their own while creating an experience.

Your studio, Bureau Nuits, focuses on graphic design. Is it a natural progression to expand your services to type design?

Of course! We are convinced that today, custom fonts are visual tools that allow brands to easily convey their values while remaining consistent across their communications. We notice their use more and more, and it’s a growing need, as typography is everywhere — it was never so present in our daily lives than it is today.

More about Uxum Grotesque: Minisite | Specimen

Follow Bureau Nuits: Website | Behance | Instagram

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