Developing Yrsa and Rasa
An Interview with Anna Giedryś of Rosetta Type
There’s usually more than one designer behind complex, multi-script typeface families, such as the recently published Yrsa and Rasa typefaces from Rosetta Type. TypeThursday sat down with Anna to learn about the parts of Yrsa/ Rasa she worked on. If you’re thinking about designing multi-script typefaces, it’s a great read.
TypeThursday: It’s great to have you, Anna, on TypeThursday.
Anna Giedryś: Thank you for having me.
TT: Could you share with us a bit about yourself?
The eleven-years-old me already had a keen interest in type! But it took her fifteen years to realize it can be a serious profession.
AG: You could say I am a type designer with too many other interests. After college studies in exhibition design, I became interested in graphic design and visual arts — illustration, calligraphy, and lettering. Later on, I studied visual communication at the fine-arts academy in Poznań (Poland). There is a lesser known, but excellent, type design course and there I got hooked. Other subjects, such as illustration and lettering, became my means of procrastination. I guess, they help me to stay in touch with graphic design at large.
By the way, not so long ago I re-discovered a notebook from my school times, with a few pages of sketches for type designs. The eleven-years-old me already had a keen interest in type! But it took her fifteen years to realize it can be a serious profession.
TT: In terms of typeface design, you’re working with Rosetta Type at the moment. Is that correct?
Yes, that is correct. My collaboration with Rosetta started several years ago, soon after the foundry was established. First it was just occasional freelance jobs. I was designing specimens, slides, or illustrations for articles. In fact, some of those things are still my responsibility. Over the time, I started working on type design projects as well. For example, I assisted with Skolar PE Light and worked on a couple of custom projects. The latest, open-source type families Yrsa & Rasa were published just a few days ago.
Developing Yrsa and Rasa
TT: What aspects of the Yrsa and Rasa project did you work on?
AG: The project consists of two parts: Yrsa which is a Latin type family based on Eben Sorkin’s Merriweather and Rasa which is a Gujarati type family based on David Březina’s Skolar Gujarati.
In contrast to designing my own typefaces, it did feel a bit like retouching, but I learned a lot.
As of Rasa, the original Gujarati shapes were from David who designed several Gujarati typefaces already. He supervised the project and dealt with the complex-script coding. I was responsible for corrections in weight and contrast and I was for making the Gujarati stylistically more related to the new Latin. In contrast to designing my own typefaces, it did feel a bit like retouching, but I learned a lot.
With Yrsa, on the other hand, I felt more confident and changed the original typeface much more. While Merriweather is rather down-to-earth and straightforward, Yrsa is softer, taller, and more polished.
Correcting Weight in Gujarati
TT: You worked on translating Skolar Gujarati into the new typeface Rasa. This required corrections in weight and contrast. How was this process for you?
It gets especially limiting in scripts with reversed contrast, such as Gujarati, where the horizontal parts of letters are the thickest.
AG: Correcting the weight and contrast might sound like an easy job, and while it is pretty straightforward in light weights, it gets really tricky in bolds. In light weights the differences between thick and thin strokes are very small — the contrast is small. Hence the corrections are straightforward. Also, there is a lot of white space around the strokes, so the corrections do not require altering character widths or structure. On the other hand, in bold weights, it becomes more challenging. You don’t have enough white space around the strokes. It gets especially limiting in scripts with reversed contrast, such as Gujarati, where the horizontal parts of letters are the thickest.
TT: Could you give an example of a character that was particularly challenging for you in the heavier weights? What strategies did you employ to resolve this limitation of space?
AG: The complicated and dense compound syllables (conjuncts) are probably the most challenging. For example ‘ṅakṣa’ or ‘hla’. In ‘śaca’ or ‘phra’ you can run out of white space quickly. I do not think there is a universal design recipe here. You simply need to come up with a decent compromise between the intended weight and clarity of the essential form. Keep it legible, but not darker or lighter than other characters.
Abstracting from Calligraphy
TT: Did you have to have a knowledge of calligraphy to work on these adjustments?
AG: Yes. The knowledge of calligraphy is definitely helpful while working on scripts that have strong calligraphic roots, like Gujarati in this case. You need to know how the strokes behave when thickened or when changing direction. Where adjustments to the calligraphic model are needed and how to introduce them. But one should not confuse the knowledge of calligraphy with actual skills. Those two don’t always come together and I think in type design the first one is more important.
TT: So, while knowledge of calligraphy is important in typeface design, you have to divert from the calligraphic model when needed. Do I understand you correctly?
AG: Yes, it is what type designers do on a daily basis. For example, the endings in the Gujarati digit four or the conjunct ‘dna’ would look different when written with a broad nib pen, but they need to be more pronounced in type. In Latin ‘z’ is a classic example. If we followed the calligraphic model dogmatically, we would make the diagonal thin and the horizontals thick. That’s what some people do in italics, but it is unusual in upright styles.
TT: That’s a lot of great information, Anna. Thank you so much for being here for TypeThursday.
Would you like to try Rasa and Yrsa? Check out Rosetta’s Github page
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