Fonts that fight back: Schriftlabor goes retail
If you are familiar with the type design app Glyphs you will recognize the name Rainer Scheichelbauer. He’s their chief evangelist and among the liveliest workshop-leaders in the type community. But even if you’ve met him, you can be forgiven for not knowing his type foundry in Vienna: Schriftlabor.
Until recently, Schriftlabor worked exclusively for corporate clients, producing custom fonts like the Sephora Type System which won a CommArts award this year. Over the summer, Scheichelbauer and his colleagues decided to add retail sales to their workload with a set of four faces: Attorney, Galata, Lawabo, and Traction.
The increasingly competitive retail typo-sphere might seem a bit scary to a studio that's been a successful bespoke market. TYPE spoke with Scheichelbauer about his foundry’s retail aspirations, asked why consumers should take note and what the future holds for Schriftlabor.
What inspired Schriftlabor to move into retail?
Two things. Like many other type designers, Viktor Solt-Bittner and I had a bunch of type designs lying around for years. Or actually . . . decades. Some of them started out as Fontographer projects in the nineties, no kidding.
My rounded sans Lawabo, for instance, began in 2003 and spent a lot of time in the drawers until we finally had the resources to finish and release it. Much of the engineering, plus the beautiful italic was done by Miriam Surányi, a very young, very talented designer who I had the luck to sign up.
Former Readingite and now Schriftlabor type director Lisa Schultz has been taking care of Viktor Solt-Bittner’s typefaces, Attorney and Plantago, both of which predate Lawabo. Plantago is still in the pipeline, and has changed a lot since its first sketches. If everything goes as planned, you will see more of Plantago later this year.
Secondly, there are many people I have met at the workshops and classes I have been giving over the past thirteen years. Many people who started their first designs right there in front of my eyes, which I consider a big honor. And it seemed only logical that we would release some of those typefaces. Many of these works are from young Austrian designers, like Tamara Pilz and Kurt Glänzer. My hope is that our release program will be as much of an impulse to the type scene in Austria as the workshops have proven to be so far.
Some background from TYPE
Three of Schriftlabor's faces—Attorney, Lawabo, and Traction—include the typical features that one might expect from a premium typeface: More than a dozen style & weight combinations, extra figure styles, small caps, multiple language support, and so on. While developing the remaining font, Galata, Schriftlabor took a different approach.
Galata comes in one weight and style, but what it lacks in options, it makes up for by being the “world’s first game font with artificial intelligence.” Built-into Galata are three playable games: tic-tac-toe, rock-paper-scissors, and Marienbad. Unfortunately for the users, though, Galata is close to unbeatable.
Galata is also one of the few fonts with a political angle; Scheichelbauer began working on Galata while at Istanbul Typography Seminars (ISType), which coincided with massive protests aimed at Turkish President Erdoğan. Scheichelbauer decided to integrate some of the resistance rhetoric into the font: for example, try typing “Erdoğan” and Galata will write “Erdo-gone” instead.
Read more about Galata's story on AIGA's Eye on Design.
What’s different about Schriftlabor? Why should people pay attention?
I think we are a little freer in what we are doing because we make our money with corporate type and font engineering and do not depend on retail as much. Of course, I leave it up to you to decide whether you can see that in our designs. But I think you will admit that even with our initial quadruple release, you can see what a wide range we are trying to cover.
We decided to make free trials available for download, so there is no barrier for people who want to test typefaces or try one for pitching, without risking money. We are not alone with this approach, but not many other foundries are doing this.
What does Schriftlabor have planned for the remaining months of 2017 and beyond?
On the retail side, expect at least two more releases, which we are going to present at Typo St.Gallen in November. After that, we have scheduled releases every half year.
In terms of custom fonts, there is stuff happening too, but as you know, most of these projects have strict NDAs, so I cannot show you anything yet. Suffice to say that the Sephora Type System we developed is a hint toward what we’re capable of.
Something I am not happy about is that all our fonts—while they all have nice glyph sets—are still Latin-only. I mean, hey . . . we just started with retailing. We hope to add Cyrillic to most of them over the next year or two. Of course, existing customers will get a free update.
If you like this story and others posted here, join us! TYPE is non-profit, supported by members, sponsors . . . and advertisers. Charter Membership is now only $29 in the US ($59 outside). Your contribution makes it possible to distribute the quarterly magazine, build a new web site, and plan events all over the world.