Gardener is a typeface that contains 4 weights: Regular, Medium, Bold and Black. It also includes an Italic and a Sans Serif version.
This typeface is inspired by Japanese rock gardens, which is a style of Japanese garden traditionally found at temples or monasteries. Through carefully arranged rocks, sand, and sometimes moss, these landscapes create a balanced composition that reflects the essence of nature. They are meant to be seen, observed, and serve as an aid for meditation.
I have always been interested in the tranquility of Japanese rock gardens - with each elements carefully placed and arranged, they visually create a sense of calm to the viewer. While searching for a suitable idea for my typeface, I find this relatable to type design as both are visual acts of carefully arranging elements. I wanted to design a typeface that is calm, delicate, fragile and imperfect in a sense that reflects the serene feelings rock gardens give me.
I started by exploring elements in rock gardens that can be translated into a typeface. I was really pulled into the roughness of rocks and sands and was quite stuck for a while as all I could do was to make curves with straight lines - which was merely like putting a filter onto the humanist typeface I designed in week 1.
The key moment of change was when instructors reminded me of the sand element in rock gardens - sand is raked into patterns, resembling things like rippling water or waves. Instead of being the white space, sand could actually be the black space (shapes) of my typeface. I was suggested that I could imitate the action of raking sand when I draw letters in calligraphy - by turning the broad-nib pen. That really worked out and I soon found my ‘’hero shape’’ that I made use of in my whole type family.
Of course everything didn’t just go smoothly after finding one single shape. I still had to spend a lot of time figuring out how to transform that shape slightly so it suits the rest of the character set. I also had to figure out the weight proportion of the letters - as I have been turning my pen in calligraphy (it sometimes turns more than 90°), I couldn’t completely follow the normal weight proportion. Sometimes the contrasts would look really strange and I had to find a balance between different approaches. Here’s where trusting your eyes and listening to your feelings comes in - there are indeed rules in type design, but the more important thing is the design direction, decision, and how the typeface speaks to you.
After finding a good direction and a system for my main weight, I started exploring a Black weight and interpolating other weights through that. The Sans Serif and Italic version also started getting into form at a similar time. This was my favourite part in the process seeing the main style transform into unexpected textures and feelings. At this point in time, Gardener is far from perfect and definitely need a bit of developing and tweaking in the future. It mainly works best in a relatively smaller text size, while the Black weight has potential to be used for display.
The 6-week type design programme that you’ve been waiting for starts on 4 June and ends 12 July 2024.