Buenos Aires foundry Fer Cozzi joins TN 

Fernanda Cozzi learned type design through making graffiti with her friends, working on her high school newspaper, and—more rigorously—through the master’s program at the University of Buenos Aires. After working for several years as an independent type designer and starting her own foundry, aptly titled Fer Cozzi, she joins Type Network’s roster of talented type foundries with three stylish typefaces. TN’s Lucas Czarnecki sat down with Cozzi to learn about her eclectic inspiration, chaotic process, and why she loves working in Argentina.

Lucas Czarnecki: If you can remember a specific moment, when and why did you become interested in type design?

Fernanda Cozzi: I studied graphic design because I love letters—that’s the truth. I wanted to become a type designer before I even knew it was a thing.

As a teenager, my friends and I made graffiti and “tags,” so spray paint and markers shaped my idea of letterforms. And then, in college, the real love for typography was born. It happened during the calligraphy courses, the typography events … it was all I needed to become a true type groupie.

When I finished my graphic design degree, I enrolled at the University of Buenos Aires with a specialization in Type Design. There, it all made sense: theories, ways of doing, seeing, using, thinking letters … in a word, happiness. I can’t see myself doing anything else.

LC: What’s the story behind your first published typeface?

FC: My first published typeface was Síncopa, which started as my postgraduate project at the University of Buenos Aires.

Síncopa is named after syncopation: the unexpected, uneven, or offbeat rhythms in music. Syncopation transforms a regular metronomic beat into something that stirs us to feel, move, or dance. I wanted to explore the forces of stability and dynamism, of the beat and the offbeat. So, I tried to make letters that could sing like three of my favorite queens of jazz: Billie, Nina, and Ella. Síncopa seeks to emulate their bold voices and distinctive personalities with highly contrasting strokes and eclectic letterforms.

It took me a few years, countless tears, and a lot of work to finish it and feel like it was okay to release as my first commercial font. I constantly found things that I could change, fix, improve and I couldn’t close it. It was Alejandro Paul who pushed me to take a break from crying and finish it. The rush of “completing” the typeface was great! Full of fear and excitement, but really great. And there I really understood that I wanted to dedicate myself to doing this.

This letterpress-printed postcard from Buenos Aires Letterpress combines many of Fer Cozzi’s fonts into one lively composition. Featuring Gabriella, Tomasa, Inge, and some yet to be released.

LC: You worked on your high school newspaper and then at a few magazines later on. How have these editorial experiences influenced your type design practice?

FC: As a graphic designer, I focused on editorial design, mostly as a way to be close to typography. I liked giving my designs personality just by choosing this or that typeface. I loved the idea of giving different flavors or sensations by combining fonts, mixing and contrasting them, and putting together a new texture just by combining them as ingredients. That is still how I think about letters when I draw them.

I don’t have a focus on fonts for text, which is surprising for an editorial designer, but that editorial experience means that I test my fonts by mixing them together repeatedly. I like them to be combined, to coexist, to express themselves … and even if I become a constant generator of useless fonts, I hope it will not be because of a lack of character.

Rooted in her first lettering passions, Cozzi’s Tomasa, evokes the peculiarities of graffiti and urban tags.

LC: How did you decide to start your own foundry?

FC: The truth is that I did not know that I was starting my own foundry… even today I find it hard to think of myself as a foundry! In my mind, a foundry is a company, and I still feel like a girl at the bottom of the world drawing and trying to sell fonts.

But I think that I started this (Fer Cozzi) because I like to understand almost everything I do. Being the one behind the whole process, I have complete control over what happens, with all its advantages and disadvantages.

I had to learn how the production of the font is done, how to promote it, how to put together a EULA, how to do administrative tasks, and how to sit down for hours answering emails. And for me—a control freak—it is the best way to live in peace with myself.

It is a lot of work, especially if you are in or from Latin America, but the happiness I get from each achievement is incomparable. It keeps me constantly moving, learning, seeing, doing, and growing.

My day is a constant dance between pending things, urgent things, important things, and things that I want to do. Sometimes there is a lack of time and there is plenty of desire, sometimes it is difficult to find the balance and the drive to continue if the financial reward isn’t commensurate with the effort. But again, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. In adversity, I always find the support of working with colleagues and friends, looking for spaces to share and grow.

I can see how things have been giving and settling for me, and I feel like growth was organic, slowly but surely, consolidating what I did at every step, without rushing to get to where someone else believes “success” lies.

Not less important: I had no other option. I didn’t have the opportunity to join an existing foundry or build a career in the industry in that way when I finished studying. I had to find my own way to make it happen. And even now, I’m still trying to figure out how to do it.

Fer Cozzi’s Gabriella and Inge adorn the walls of a stairwell Buenos Aires’s La Uat Bar.

LC: Is there anything unique or peculiar about your type design process?

FC: I believe that on the verge of crisis, ideas emerge. So, I live constantly in crisis!

Honestly, I don’t know if I have anything unique … I try to force myself to be uncomfortable, not to repeat formulas or take the same process from one project to another. If I do not get nervous or have doubts about what I am doing, I look for a way to push myself to feel that, to doubt, to surf into the unknown. It is not thinking about doing something “experimental” beforehand but really having a more playful process. I usually use the mantra: “what if…?” or “would it be weird if…?” and push everything almost to the point of failure.

LC: Where do you find your major sources of inspiration?

FC: I love music, movies, books, food, and wine as much as I love typography.

The shapes of the letters and the excuses behind my fonts have to do, in many instances, with ideas from the things that surround me: a song, a book, a conversation, a pet. Everything affects my way of seeing, thinking, and making typefaces. I imagine that my “cocktail” of ingredients is different from anyone else’s just because we are what we are: unique.

Fer Cozzi’s June Expt Active and Curious demonstrate the two extremes of its variable axis, which spans from Active to Curious. Or, as she describes it: left brained to right brained.

LC: Do you have a favorite example of seeing your type in the wild? What do you hope designers use your typefaces for?

FC: I love to see how people use my fonts, because I really can’t imagine where they could work and almost every sample of use seems amazing to me.

I am especially excited to see my typefaces in projects that have an ideological or thought coincidence with which I agree. Women’s projects, or designs with a feminist approach, projects related to the LGBTIQ+ community are the ones I’m most excited about “being a part of” even if it’s just with a few letters. Because I think it completes the meaning of what I do and what I think.

But if you ask me, I would love to do projects that are used in album covers or videos for Britney, Rihanna, JLo or any Trixie Mattel and Katya show, or any other drag shows too.

LC: You’ve mentioned publicly that you aren’t a fan of trendy design. Do you have a favorite historical style or school of design? What will you do if that style becomes trendy again?

FC: In graphic design I love Wolfgang Weingart, and I know that his style is something that is somehow present in new waves of graphic design, but I can live with that. To do the things he did, it is necessary to know what rules, ideas, and ways of thinking he was forcing or breaking, so if it comes back and leads everyone to make things more expressive and less generic, I’ll be happy! I want a future full of more expressive fonts, graphics, etc. Not necessarily rare or experimental, but expressive.

Fer Cozzi’s Tomasa featured on plates at Pure & Naive, a wine bar and bistro in Kiev.

LC: What does it mean for you to be joining Type Network? Who among the foundry partners are you most excited to be working with?

FC: I’m not going to lie, I’m mostly nervous because the list of designers and foundries on Type Network is full of people I admire.
So … are we sure about this?

I think joining Type Network is going to be a nice step towards growth. Working alone can be fun, but it can also get monotonous, so I think the challenge and the thrill of joining is to be part of something bigger. I’ll take advantage of that to learn from others.

Being able to share space with people like DJR, XYZ, Occupant Fonts, or Ivy (to name a few) is a great opportunity for me … even if it’s only 6 degrees apart in a list on the website.

LC: You’ve mentioned Guido Ferreyra being an influence on your career. Can you describe that relationship? Are you glad to be formally working with him at Type Network?

FC: I’m super grateful of Guido’s influence: He teaches, challenges, and puts up with me since we met a few years ago. We can talk for hours about type related topics, share ideas about “the next steps” in our lives, or just try to get things done on the to-do list of the day.

Guido is one of my closest friends who I can go to when I have questions or need another point of view, even if I don’t always listen to him or we don’t have similar ideas. Above all, he is one of the people with whom I like to argue the most (I’m pretty stubborn, and so is he!) because I know that exchange will always make me learn something.

So, it is fun having him around and I’m pretty excited to work with him at Type Network; it will be interesting and enriching.

Fer Cozzi’s Inge is a tight display font with a strong sense of rhythm and solid texture, leaning forwards and backwards without breaking. 

LC: Do you find that living and working in Argentina is conducive to your type design work? Describe the design community in your city or country.

FC: Argentina is a very complex country, but I love it.

I wouldn’t be the person or designer I am if I hadn’t lived or studied where I did, and if I didn’t have the friends and colleagues that I have.

Cozzi in her studio, where she prefers to design as much as possible on paper.

The designs, the letterforms: everything we do and create is always part of a broader context of social and cultural thought.

Living in Buenos Aires I was able to not only learn typography academically, but also to participate in spaces that made me fall more and more in love with letters. Events and exchange spaces such as T-Convoca (an Argentinian group dedicated to spreading the practice and theory of typography) and Tipos Latinos helped me learn and meet people willing to share their passion. Similarly, I had the privilege of studying and teaching with professionals that I admire, whom I’m now proud to call colleagues, such as Alejandro Paul, Darío Muhafara, Eugenia Roballos, Betina Naab, Rubén Fontana, Yani&Guille, Max Sproviero, among others.

Argentina—and especially Buenos Aires—is full of learning opportunities. It’s full of people who want to learn, teach, and share. Thanks to that, I am what I am.

I know that Argentina is a messy, messy country and I have a lot of complaints … but I am also grateful to live in a country where education is public and free. That’s how I was able to pursue my university degree and receive a scholarship to do postgraduate studies in the same university.

LC: What’s next for you?

FC: A few years ago, I gave myself the chance to call myself “type designer” without pretense and a lot of doubts. The intention was to take more seriously what I had done just for fun. Now, my mission for the near future is to try to consolidate everything I’ve learned and develop myself in terms of professionalization and production. Make my work grow as much as I think I have ... and try to create a more mature version of Fer Cozzi.

All styles of June Expt, Inge, and Tomasa are now available in the Type Network store. License one or all of them today, and while you’re at it, explore the other typefaces available from Fer Cozzi. Have a licensing question? Get in touch.