Editor’s Note: Today we are pleased to feature the new and free font families Yrsa and Rasa by David Březina and Anna Giedryś and their story behind the design process.
Yrsa and Rasa are open-source type families published by Rosetta, with generous financial support from Google. The fonts support over 92 languages in the Latin script and two languages in the Gujarati script. The family currently has five weights. The fonts were designed and produced by Anna Giedryś and me, and they are now released and ready for downloading.
I’ve written two articles about the project’s development in which we discussed what we meant by remixing and how we approached harmonization of the two different scripts, Latin and Gujarati. Today, as we release the fonts into the wild, I will explain what we’ve learned from this six-month-long exercise.
First, we need to clarify who did what. Anna was the lead. I was merely a supervisor, occasional stern critic, main revisionist of the Gujarati, and coder. Briefly put, if there is anything to like, it is Anna’s; if anything is wrong, it is mine.
Design As Redesign
Is it useful to start from an existing design? We believed it would be faster to start from Merriweather than to draw a new design from scratch. And it was faster, but not as much as we expected. We found that we wanted to change more than we had originally planned.
As we worked, we found that the version of Merriweather we started from had some inconsistencies: stems with different thicknesses, serifs that were a bit different from each other in unexpected ways (I am not referring to the classic type design tricks), and some shapes that we simply would have done differently.
Some of our changes were deliberate design decisions to make the texture more lively. Others were differences of opinion — some small, some large (we hereby disapprove of Merriweather’s sterling symbol). A lot of the corrections that Anna felt needed to be done went beyond what we initially expected to be a straightforward restyling.
In contrast, converting Skolar Gujarati to Rasa took much less effort. Only the bold weight required more creativity to harmonize with Yrsa’s contrast and weight (see our previous post for details). A matter of less difference of opinion?
Design As Testing
On the other hand, and on a more positive note, Anna got to design with real text in no time. When starting from scratch, type designers typically have a handful of letters to work with, which cannot provide a real-life testing environment. Even a to z is insufficient, because capitals and punctuation are missing. This situation makes going from the big picture of typography and layout to the micro-level of type design really tricky.
A designer could easily miss the intended niche for their fonts. Imagine digging a tunnel from both sides of a hill but without navigation. Fortunately, in our case, we had a complete set of characters to test and proportions we were fairly happy with. This allowed us to make critical judgments about what works and what does not and to make informed design decisions.
For the Gujarati, that applied even more. Seeing the whole, large character set and how it was set up provided a comfortable safety hammock.
Design As Dialogue
It is enlightening to have a conversation among curves and forms with a fellow type designer and to uncover their thoughts and misdemeanours in great detail. But it should be a dialogue, not just listening or parroting.
There comes a point when an opinion ought to be voiced, and that can take some energy. We previously stated that every design is a redesign; now we can safely say, from experience, that every redesign quickly turns into a design.
Design As Service
Now, take the fonts and make something nice with them! Every font remains incomplete until someone uses it. We both hope you will like using them.
Yrsa and Rasa are released under the Open Font Licence and are free to use. They will soon be available in the Google Fonts directory and on Adobe Typekit.
The main purpose of the typefaces is continuous reading on the web (think Medium), while supporting a British visual style (now with a decent-looking sterling symbol), a Gujarati visual style (with several kinds of rupee symbols, which change according to their appearance in Latin or Gujarati text) and printed matter (think books).
Extra care was taken to make all of the supported European languages shine — not just English but Polish, Dutch, Czech, Catalan, Slovenian, Romanian and others. There are a few ligatures, too, such as the capital German ß, and tabular figures for both Latin and Gujarati.
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