Dalton Maag creates customs typefaces that you’ve definitely seen. Their recent clients include BBC, AirBNB and Persil and their vast portfolio includes Rio 2016, Google, Intel, Amazon and Lush. Working on large scale projects for corporations and interesting smaller organisations, they’ve carved out a successful and respected niche from their London studio as versatile, astute and responsive designers. Bruno worked at Monotype in UK and USA before founding Dalton Maag, and has made a habit of collecting awards from the likes of Type Directors Club and D&AD.
My background has always been in typography, starting with a typesetting apprenticeship and followed by a typographic design degree at the Basel School of Design. It was during this first bit of further education at Basel that I was introduced to type design. Doing Visual Communication was simply an extension of my desire to continue my design education and deepen my understanding of type design.
As my education came to an end, I knew I wanted to be a type designer for the rest of my life. During some work experience at Stempel (yes, I am that old), I met Rene Kerfante who eventually moved to Monotype in the UK. He invited me to join Monotype to start up a Custom Type department. The day I started was also when I first met Just van Rossum, who spent a couple of months at Monotype for work experience. We were both huddled around the only Mac in the company doing fun stuff, whilst the Monotype staff were merely shaking their heads.
I started Dalton Maag in 1991 simply because there weren’t any jobs in type design at the time but also because I wanted to be my own boss. Since then, the company has grown steadily and organically, and today Dalton Maag employs over forty people, mostly based in London with one team working from Brazil. We have also partnered with Arphic in Taipei who help us with the development of Chinese fonts, and Sandoll in Seoul for our Korean work.
Today, I am spending a lot of time travelling, visiting clients to discuss their needs, speaking at conferences and listening to type users what they think of our fonts. I have also become involved in scientific research on legibility and readability, and area which has an increasing impact on our decision decisions. Creatively, the projects are now lead by our Creative Directors and the design teams who work closely with clients to make beautiful type.
Before we even think about a design, we discuss all the requirements with the client. And from the start we try to assess what their time scales are so we can manage their expectations straight away. The design direction is influenced by the branding needs of the client, and how they are dealing with all the other design collateral. But the design is also dictated by how the font is used. Display or text? Print, screen or both? Those are just a couple of the many questions we ask, as well as trying to get a feel for the extent of the number of font styles to be created.
Once we have an idea of the parameters, we will start developing a number of design concepts which we submit to the client, all interpreting our understanding of their needs. For this we usually create only a very limited character set containing key glyphs. Enough to set some dummy copy and to make an informed decision in regards to what the final font will look like. We usually provide these in font format to allow the client to actually put the designs into their other design collateral.
Once the basic decisions are made, we progress swiftly to refining the design concept and expanding it to a larger glyph set, as well as creating a first draft of the range of font styles. Up to this point we collaborate closely with the client, since conceptual decisions have to be made in consultation. With all the information in place we can then start working more independently and simply submit our work at key stages for comment and approval.
I believe that typography is about functionality, namely to convey a message via the means of the written word. Type design has to facilitate this functionality; I don’t really want to distract the reader from the message with a singing and dancing font. Of course, in the display world, expression is desirable, when a font should also attract the attention of the potential reader.