27 Jun 2019
Antonio Cavedoni is a type designer and researcher from Sassuolo, Italy. He studied type design at the University of Reading, then worked for seven years as a fonts engineer & type designer at Apple, in California. Since late 2016, he is back in Italy working on his new type foundry & lettering studio called the Fonderia Cavedoni, based in Milano.
Antonio will be speaking at the fourth #tptalks session on Thursday 4 July 2019 at Le Tank. Registration will open on 25 June 2019!
My ambition for the work we publish is for it to be technically solid and conceptually interesting; to have deep roots, and to look and feel like it.
What can you reveal us about your new Fonderia Cavedoni?
Antonio Cavedoni The Fonderia Cavedoni is a new label publishing original typefaces from Milano, Italy. The name “fonderia” is a bit of an archaism, but it still is the most concise word in present-day Italian to describe what it is that we do as makers of fonts. Plus it sounds good. Anyhow, I would like the Fonderia to be a hub for what I call lettering “at large”: a mix of type design, lettering, engineering, research and consulting. My ambition for the work we publish is for it to be technically solid and conceptually interesting; to have deep roots, and to look and feel like it.
For the past couple of years I’ve been sketching many new families of typefaces and right now I’m in the production stage of our debut release. I’m trying not to spoil any surprises, but I can say it feels to me like the combination of many different experiences and ideas I’ve been playing with since before actually starting to draw type, but with the lessons learned in 10+ years of professional development. I cannot wait to show it to the world and see what people do with it!
Letter cutting has a different tradition than type design (…) one becomes aware of other conventions, styles and ways of thinking.
Which advantages do epigraphy and stone carving offer to any current type designer?
Much like calligraphy or lettering or sign painting, letter cutting has a different tradition than type design and so, by practicing it, one becomes aware of other conventions, styles and ways of thinking. The practice of devising shapes to work on individual pieces of stone rather than in series allows the designer to quickly experiment and shifts the focus from individual letters to the relationships between them, the text they form, the meaning that text is conveying, the materials, and the overall context: where the inscription will be placed and how, when and by whom it will be read. It also forces the designer to work at 1:1 scale, which raises concerns that will be useful when working on type for multiple scales.
Finally, the practicalities of hand work enhance the designer & maker’s abilities to think with their whole bodies, rather than just their heads, and immediately confront them with the pursuit of betterment: of one’s drawing or spacing or cutting or finishing abilities, of the quality of one’s tools and materials and processes, of one’s overall results in the context of other epigraphic inscriptions of the past.
I used to think the appeal of letter cutting, especially in stone, was its longevity as opposed to other methods of letter production. I now think the directness of it is its greatest resource to me as a designer.
In short: it’s cool, give it a shot!
Do you remember when did you decide to conduct your career to the letter world? What made you choose that?
For me the world of letters hasn’t felt quite like a choice but more like a slowly growing awareness. I didn’t know what to call it. At a certain level I feel I’ve always been fascinated with letterforms, and I remember tinkering with my own handwriting since I was in primary school: making it narrower, or fiddling with the height of ascenders and descenders and caps. I had no idea what I was doing, I didn’t know words to describe what I was doing, I didn’t even know what “it” was. But little by little, the picture started to become less blurry: I kept being sucked into the various school newspapers and learning the first rudiments of typesetting, eventually started using the computer more and more when I was in high school, first my dad’s then the family’s computer, and finally my own one when I was about 17 or 18. I remember the first typeface I ever noticed as such: Humanist 521, Bitstream’s version of Gill Sans. Not a bad place to start! We were in 1996 or 1997, the first home internet connections started becoming available, and text was everything, everywhere. I was lucky to come across the book “Creating Killer Websites” by David Siegel, who was not only a pioneering Web designer, but a type designer, too. And that was one of the seeds that eventually led me to Reading, to Apple and here.
When you started, who were the teachers or professionals who had the greatest impact upon you?
There are so many people, including some I have never met but have influenced me tremendously with their writing, that I feel like I can’t but do a disservice to them all by making a list. So I must start by apologizing to anyone who’s not mentioned below. The first few people I got in touch with regarding letters were Claudio Piccinini, who was a type designer local to me in Modena, and Fabrizio Schiavi, also a type designer from Italy. The writings of Fred Smeijers and James Mosley had a great impact on me, starting out. I later was fortunate to have many terrific teachers while at Reading, especially the outstanding Gerard Unger. When I arrived in California it was Susie Taylor, Jack Stauffacher and Rob Saunders, amongst others, who introduce me to a lot of “the good stuff,” and so did Ann Hawkins, John Neilson and Tom Perkins when it came to letter cutting. But again, that’s just a very superficial list of people. I’m indebted to many, many more.
What drives you to make new typefaces?
I think what drives me is the fact that I really enjoy shapes. I always have, though I had no idea some parts of that enjoyment could eventually become a job, let alone mine. I have no art or drawing background whatsoever. When I was a kid, it was the shape of cars that attracted a lot of my attention—I was born and raised in Sassuolo, the next two towns over from it are Fiorano and Maranello, places that have a very special meaning in automotive history. Little by little, and mostly in an unconscious and somewhat haphazard way, I guess that initial attention eventually moved from the synthetic & physical shapes of cars to the abstract shapes of letterforms and numbers. How, I’m not so sure.
What is your ratio of self-initiated typefaces vs. typeface commissions? Which do you tend to be more passionate about making?
Apart for a few lettering jobs here and there I’ve only ever worked on my own projects when it comes to type design. And even that is apart from San Francisco, which I think can be considered a most unusual commission by pretty much any standard. I once asked a very accomplished and well-known type designer how he balanced commissions with self-initiated project, and as I remember it he told me his strategy was to “never say no to anything and see what happens.” I’m not sure I will manage to only ever say yes, but for now I’m open to seeing what happens.
Do you prefer a permanent/dedicated workspace, or do you like to keep mobile (i.e. cafes, outdoors etc)
Over the years I’ve come to favor private spaces rather than public or shared ones, but overall I like both permanent workspaces and mobile setups.
I have a small studio in Milano, very close to home, where I work and keep most of my library: if I need to work on an article or do some reading or exploration, the studio is the most comfortable place for me. When I have to produced finished artwork by hand, every once in a while, the studio is obviously the most comfortable place.
That said, I try to keep my work setup as nimble as I can: right now it centers around a tiny Macbook, which I carry around everywhere, loaded with a bunch of font software. As long as I have that, for the bulk of what I do I’m set. All else I need is some sort of writing instrument and some sort of writing surface—I don’t have preferences on notebooks or pens or pencils and actually enjoy the variety instead.
Thank you very much, Antonio!
– Interview by Gina Serret.