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HP commissions global scripts from Type Network

In an increasingly international economy, companies need to support a variety of languages with high quality global scripts. When Wieden+Kennedy enlisted Type Network to expand Forma DJR with five new scripts for HP Inc., we coordinated a team of designers from around the world.

By Kate Beckwith

Tech giant HP Inc. switched their brand typeface from HP Simplified to Forma DJR as a part of a global upgrade in the voice of their brand. As their new design language spread to reach global markets, they asked TN partner foundry DJR for a license to the Latin styles of Forma DJRand then for Arabic, Devanagari, Greek, Hebrew, and Thai versions of the typeface. David Jonathan Ross turned to TN, and Director of Custom Type Dyana Weissman engaged the breadth of our extended partner network.

Type Network coordinated eight type designers working from six countries to develop these scripts. Aleksandra Samuļenkova took on Forma DJR Greek; Tanya George worked on Devanagari; Wael Morcos and Khajag Apelian made Arabic; Liron Lavi Turkenich was enlisted for Hebrew; Knaz Uiyamathiti of Cadson Demak developed Thai, and Type Network partner Victoria Rushton was brought on for drawing additional Latin characters.

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David Jonathan Ross draws letters of all shapes and sizes for custom and retail typeface designs.

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Forma DJR Case study Scripts

Using Forma DJR as a starting point, each design team worked independently to draw their assigned script. At a project midpoint, the designers shared proofs of their work with the whole team, creating an opportunity to incorporate new inspiration and techniques from the others. This produced an international, integrated typeface.

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With Weissman’s help as project manager, the designers handled the job of imposing Forma DJR’s hyper-rationalist dogma of tight spacing, closed counters, and brutal minimalism onto the curvaceous and open counters of scripts like Greek, Arabic, and Thai. Despite these constraints, there were two entry points for the scripts. The subtle incurves of the stems give Novarese’s original design a warmer feeling than, say, Helvetica. DJR added the second: slightly rounded corners.

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For example, the designer of the Greek script, Aleksandra Samuļenkova, had to deliberate over the question of whether or not some letters should feature in-strokes (η) and exit-strokes (α, μ). Such in- and exit-strokeless Greek letters are not uncommon in Greek typefaces, but they often originate from amateur Greek extensions of Latin fonts, or from professional-but-unaware non-native designers. However, an increasing number of professional native Greek type designers are fully embracing these misunderstood, Latinized Greek letter shapes, seeing them as a natural evolution of the script.

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On the one hand, with respect to the integrity of the script, Samuļenkova normally wouldn’t dream of leaving these strokes out. On the other hand, the rhythm of the Greek text was much more Forma-like absent these strokes. It was tempting to gratify the character of the typeface at the cost of the character of the script.

After reflecting on the options and consulting with Ross and Weissman, Forma DJR Greek ended up with a hybrid solution of the in- and exit-strokes in aforementioned η, α, and μ, with ascetic indulgence in some other characters.

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Forma DJR Arabic designers Wael Morcos and Khajag Apelian had their own approach to the needs of the Arabic writing system. They further rounded Forma’s corners, softening the typeface and lending a tactile quality that evokes the sense of ink on paper. They also integrated tapered stems by modulating the vertical strokes, most visibly in the Alefs and Lams, accentuating the feature of the Latin. This slight flaring gives the typeface a graphic quirk and friendly attitude.

The different optical sizes of the Arabic script addressed the issue of spacing in specific ways: The Micro size has relaxed spacing. The Banner size is very tightly spaced, giving the typeface a compact look when used in its intended larger sizes. Apelian and Morcos achieved tight spacing for the ordinarily open and loose Arabic script. First, the connection stroke entering and exiting the medial forms of the letters was shortened without changing the proportion of the letters themselves.

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Second, they added kerning pairs to reduce the gap that occurs after some letters, like Rah (ـر). In other letter combinations, the horizontal two dots above and below the Nabirah were replaced by a contextual alternate consisting of vertically stacking dots. Finally, the vocalization marks were given a steep angle, allowing them to fit in a tighter horizontal space, avoiding undesired overlaps.

This project required a feat of coordination, amidst a global pandemic, no less. Drawing the custom scripts took four and a half months, including the addition of some new Latin characters to fill in HP’s specifications. The result is a suite of scripts that stand confidently on their own, while cohering as a series under the Forma DJR umbrella.

One of the cool parts from my perspective is that Forma comes in a range of weights and optical sizes, so even though a lot of liberties were taken, they’re still matching the weight range. Some of these scripts don’t have a lot of typefaces with different optical sizes, so this is helping to beef up that niche.

David Jonathan Ross
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Once the script designs were finalized, Type Network put each of them through our rigorous technical review process, helmed by library manager Maria Glenda Bellarosa and font engineer Guido Ferreyra. Attention to all the small details guaranteed not only that the new scripts would integrate seamlessly with the existing ones, but also ensured that each font would function in every relevant use case required by the client, from tiny sizes on screens to large sizes in print, and everything in between and beyond. Bellarosa specifically brought along her years of experience with global scripts from her time working on Google’s Noto fonts. This added an extra layer of assurance that every script would be carefully reviewed by someone who understands its particular nuances.

We went into this knowing it would be complicated, and now we’re prepared for even more expansive global projects. We can confidently tell clients what it requires, and we can absolutely deliver it to them.
—Dyana Weissman

Type Network partners with the best type designers from around the world to deliver quality type in any script. When you come to us for a brand typeface, we first collaborate on the brief to agree on design direction, costs, schedule—and team. For most projects, we’ll introduce several options for you to choose from.

We handle project management to ensure we stay on time and on budget, but we also put our clients in direct contact with designers. Before delivery TN rigorously tests the digital files.

This is type consulting from Type Network. With our foundry partners, we’ve created many custom typefaces and adapted and expanded many families from our library. We can tailor any typeface in our library to your needs. We help clients create a typographical branding system for any medium. And by following our tested process, we can assure a predictably great type product.​​​​​​​ Contact us to start the conversation.