Mathieu Desjardins, or Mat for short, started his Montreal-based foundry after the surprise success of his first typeface just three short years ago. Since then, Pangram Pangram has published a total of 17 typefaces, including several by designer Alex Slobzheninov. Unlike most foundries, Pangram Pangram allows users to download their fonts completely free… with the understanding that commercial projects require commercial licenses. Mat says the practice is based on trust, adding that the “foundry of the future” will prioritize designers over profits.
If you can remember a specific moment, when and why did you get interested in type design?
I do! As a graphic designer, I am constantly in contact with fonts. They are part of the designer’s landscape of tools. I play with them and rearrange them to fit my needs. Always adjusting; always tweaking. At some point in early 2015, a friend gave me a book about typefaces called Designing Type by Karen Cheng. Being a super hands-on and self-thought person, this book resonated with me. It’s less about theory and more about how the characters and their relationships with each other. I powered through the whole thing in a couple days and when I turned the last page I felt motivated enough to start designing my first typeface!
What’s the story behind your first published typeface?
The first font I designed, Pier Sans, I published for free on Behance (more on that later). Like I mentioned, after putting down the book I started my first font almost immediately. Got the right software and started playing with shapes, curves, and forms. I was more familiar with illustrator at the time, so I did all the letters in illustrator and then imported them back into the software and tweaked them. I got the hang of it pretty quickly.
At the time of creation, Google Fonts was getting more and more attention and Montserrat was among the most popular fonts on there. Almost half of the designs I saw were using Montserrat, so I thought there was a trend or need there. The inspiration for the font came from this style of Grotesks; I wanted to create something that was useful yet unique. A font that could be compelling in titles and efficient in body text. For the case study and specimen, I decided to wrap the font in a nautical theme and call it “Pier Sans.” It gave context to the font and inspired people to use it in similar ways.
How did you decide to start your own type foundry, Pangram Pangram?
When I posted Pier Sans on Behance for free, it got a lot of traction. That gave me the motivation to design more fonts, but I needed a site to distribute them. The following year was all about that—creating the website and designing 2 more fonts (Stellar Sans and Charlevoix Pro). In the search for the right domain name for the site I came up with the name “Pangram,” but since pangram.com wasn’t available I just went with pangrampangram.com; hence, Pangram Pangram for the foundry name. I also started offering licenses for commercial usage.
At that point, I started to consider myself an official type foundry.
What is your process for creating a typeface?
The first and most important thing for me is to research and understand trend patterns. As in fashion, I feel there are trends in type. Finding that trend (or, even better, anticipating it) is the key to my creative process. This assessment usually helps in defining what I look for in the search for inspiration. I usually have specific details, curves, or even full characters in my mind that I start drawing in the software almost right away, going back and forth while doing the research. The other characters evolve naturally from the shapes and lines of the initial glyphs.
Why do you let people download and use your fonts for free?
Great question! So, “free for personal use” is a part of my business model. Coming up in the world as a graphic designer using a bunch of typefaces for a bunch of different projects and clients, I always needed new fonts and especially needed to try them in context. I quickly found that most foundries let you try the fonts just on their website in a preset manner, which is, in my opinion, a bit useless and frustrating.
The basic logic behind my approach is that the designers use the fonts and then their employers or clients pay for the license. On top of that, free or not, designers end up sharing their font libraries with each other, so I thought I might as well go with the flow instead of going against it. I think it makes everybody happy! The designers get to play with the fonts and share them and, if they use them for a commercial project, then their employer or client can pay for the license.
Of course, this model is trust-based, but I have faith in the design community and so far it’s been a good bet!
Have you seen your typefaces being used out in the world? If so, what is your favorite example? What does it mean to you to see people using your typefaces?
I’m fortunate enough to have seen my work in a number of places and, I must say, it’s a very special feeling every time! Whether I see it walking around my home town of Montreal—in restaurants, local brands, and indie band posters—or in something big—like the rebranding campaign for the internationally known English football club Southampton FC—I always feel blessed and motivated to continue doing what I do.
Some notable clients who have used my typefaces include Apple, Harvard, Greenpeace, Uniqlo, Hypebeast, Casetify, Mackage and Penguin Books. I’m still amazed by the list of people and companies who appreciate my typefaces.
What do you hope to accomplish with type design?
I want Pangram Pangram® to become a place where people come back to get trend-conscious, quality typefaces over and over again. I want to collaborate with more artists and brands. I hope to remove some boundaries between the type-design world and the designers/artists who use type. I want to inspire people to make their designs greater through great typefaces.
I often ask myself, “what is the foundry of the future?” I think it will be one that provides inspiration, not fonts.
Designing Type by Karen Cheng, the book that ignited Mat’s type design career.
Mathieu Desjardins’s Behance profile, with specimens for all his typeface designs.