TYPEFACES / 2023 / TONKA
Tonka is a three-axis sans-serif superfamily designed in collaboration with Huw Williams. The project comprises a diverse range of styles optimized for various sizes and applications. Being fully variable, Tonka offers limitless design possibilities, making it suitable for complex typographic systems in print and animation. Initially, Tonka Regular was conceived as a revival of Super Grotesk, originally drawn by Arno Drescher in 1930 for VEB Typoart. However, as the project evolved and incorporated different styles, it gradually deviated from its original source, and questions how we can use historical typefaces in modern contexts.
The defining characteristic of Tonka is the flaring of the stems across the entire design space. Digital sans-serif typefaces, especially geometric sans-serifs, are usually drawn slick and clean, with precise details and straight stems, with clean curves and sharp corners. For years, I had been fascinated by how printed type found in old books differs from their digital counterparts. The sharp effect fades due to the conditions in print. Factors such as paper quality, size, and ink spread often lead to printed type appearing less precise. I always found this effect to add a specific atmosphere to type: an elegance and softness.
Tonka started with the wish to digitally digitize and replicate that effect without the design becoming sloppy or cheesy. One day, in 2019, I opened a book from my collection and found the soft geometric typeface that seemingly encapsulated all the characteristics I appreciate in a sans-serif typeface. This was my first conscious encounter with Super Grotesk. I compared all existing digital versions and even the pages from the original printed specimens (generously documented by Reymund Schröder, Jan Middendorp, and Rickey Tax). However, none of them felt the same as the poorly printed pages of the book from my collection. Scaling up those scans, I noticed that the stems appeared slightly concave, heavier at the top and bottom. What if I would digitize this version, based on mediocre printing, and ignore the high-quality specimens? How could I honor the feel of the historical material in the digital space?
After completing the character set for the regular style, I set aside the project for several months until I asked Huw Williams to join me in reviewing and expanding the project. Together, we explored ideas for various styles, some of which deviated significantly from Arno Drescher's original designs from the 1930s. The addition of a weight and width axis allowed us to explore extreme variations, while the careful adjustment of the stems' concavity tied all the styles together. Currently, the weight and width range is fully developed and features an extensive character set. Furthermore, we are in the process of implementing the slant-axis, which we expect to release by late 2023.
Tonka is inspired by the memories of that summer. At the beach, in the midst of another lockdown. It was late at night, we were alone under the cloudy sky. I wanted to swim, so we undressed. We ran into the water. The sea glowing around us. It was that summer when we knew we wouldn't see each other for a while. When we had no idea how things would turn out. When everything was possible. Tonka is inspired by that lightness of the best friendships and by the heaviness of goodbyes. It is the scent of that girl that we are both friends with and it tastes like that birthday cake I made for someone else: 5 layers, pistachio, strawberry, Tonka. Tonka reminds me of sneaking into the rose garden and of watching the Perseides fall. It's the scream of the seagulls early in the morning and the fog at the sea. It's that fox we saw in the light of the torch I gave you. It's the darkness of late night parties and the smoke in the club. You dancing next to me. That's how Tonka started. Under the stars in that summer.
Huge thanks to Huw Williams for working with me on Tonka for the past 2 years, for all the technical support and creative input. I could never have done this project without you. <3
SLANT (COMING SOON)
ABENAKI, AFAAN OROMO, AFAR, ALBANIAN, ALSATIAN, AMIS, ANUTA, ARAGONESE, ARANESE, AROMANIAN, ARRERNTE, ARVANITIC (LATIN), ASTURIAN, ATAYAL, AYMARA, AZERBAIJANI, BASHKIR (LATIN), BASQUE, BELARUSIAN (LATIN), BEMBA, BIKOL, BISLAMA, BOSNIAN, BRETON, CAPE VERDEAN CREOLE, CATALAN, CEBUANO, CHAMORRO, CHAVACANO, CHICHEWA, CHICKASAW, CIMBRIAN, COFÁN, CORNISH, CORSICAN, CREEK, CRIMEAN TATAR (LATIN), CROATIAN, CZECH, DAWAN, DELAWARE, DHOLUO, DREHU, ENGLISH, ESPERANTO, ESTONIAN, FAROESE, FIJIAN, FILIPINO, FINNISH, FOLKSPRAAK, FRENCH, FRISIAN, FRIULIAN, GAGAUZ (LATIN), GALICIAN, GANDA, GENOESE, GERMAN, GIKUYU, GOONIYANDI, GREENLANDIC (KALAALLISUT), GUADELOUPEAN CREOLE, GWICH’IN, HAITIAN CREOLE, HÄN, HAWAIIAN, HILIGAYNON, HOPI, HOTCĄK (LATIN), HUNGARIAN, ICELANDIC, IDO, IGBO, ILOCANO, INDONESIAN, INTERGLOSSA, INTERLINGUA, IRISH, ISTRO-ROMANIAN, ITALIAN, JAMAICAN, JAVANESE (LATIN), JÈRRIAIS, KAINGANG, KALA LAGAW YA, KAPAMPANGAN (LATIN), KAQCHIKEL, KARAKALPAK (LATIN), KARELIAN (LATIN), KASHUBIAN, KIKONGO, KINYARWANDA, KIRIBATI, KIRUNDI, KLINGON, KURDISH (LATIN), LADIN, LATIN, LATINO SINE FLEXIONE, LATVIAN, LITHUANIAN, LOJBAN, LOMBARD, LOW SAXON, LUXEMBOURGISH, MAASAI, MAKHUWA, MALAY, MALTESE, MANX, MĀORI, MARQUESAN, MEGLENO-ROMANIAN, MERIAM MIR, MIRANDESE, MOHAWK, MOLDOVAN, MONTAGNAIS, MONTENEGRIN, MURRINH-PATHA, NAGAMESE CREOLE, NAHUATL, NDEBELE, NEAPOLITAN, NGIYAMBAA, NIUEAN, NOONGAR, NORWEGIAN, NOVIAL, OCCIDENTAL, OCCITAN, OLD ICELANDIC, OLD NORSE, OSHIWAMBO, OSSETIAN (LATIN), PALAUAN, PAPIAMENTO, PIEDMONTESE, POLISH, PORTUGUESE, POTAWATOMI, Q’EQCHI’, QUECHUA, RAROTONGAN, ROMANIAN, ROMANSH, ROTOKAS, SAMI (INARI SAMI), SAMI (LULE SAMI), SAMI (NORTHERN SAMI), SAMI (SOUTHERN SAMI), SAMOAN, SANGO, SARAMACCAN, SARDINIAN, SCOTTISH GAELIC, SERBIAN (LATIN), SERI, SEYCHELLOIS CREOLE, SHAWNEE, SHONA, SICILIAN, SILESIAN, SLOVAK, SLOVENIAN, SLOVIO (LATIN), SOMALI, SORBIAN (LOWER SORBIAN), SORBIAN (UPPER SORBIAN), SOTHO (NORTHERN), SOTHO (SOUTHERN), SPANISH, SRANAN, SUNDANESE (LATIN), SWAHILI, SWAZI, SWEDISH, TAGALOG, TAHITIAN, TETUM, TOK PISIN, TOKELAUAN, TONGAN, TSHILUBA, TSONGA, TSWANA, TUMBUKA, TURKISH, TURKMEN (LATIN), TUVALUAN, TZOTZIL, UZBEK (LATIN), VENETIAN, VEPSIAN, VOLAPÜK, VÕRO, WALLISIAN, WALLOON, WARAY-WARAY, WARLPIRI, WAYUU, WELSH, WIK-MUNGKAN, WIRADJURI, WOLOF, XAVANTE, XHOSA, YAPESE, YINDJIBARNDI, ZAPOTEC, ZAZAKI, ZULU, ZUNI
PAUL VAN DER LAAN (BOLD MONDAY)
CARMEN DUSMET CARRASCO
RUTHERFORD CRAZE (MASS-DRIVER)