A conversation between Greg Gazdowicz and The Canvas
What was your most immediate discovery upon entering type design?
Christian, says if you don't like surprises, you shouldn't get into type design, because that's really what it comes down to is when you release the typeface, you don't have that much control over who buys it. Maybe you [other font foundries] choose to have that kind of control, but we [Commercial Type] don't. And so, people will choose to use your work in ways that you don't agree with.
Could you share the type design process starting from when commercial type is contacted about a project through to the launch of a typeface?
So with custom work, we begin with what they need, want, what's not working, or sometimes if they have sources already. Or what they have and any questions/answers providing greater context. From there we start with headlines, or important information that they use on their website, newspaper, magazine, whatever assets are needed to provide context. If it's a magazine, we usually take a headline from past issues or an issue coming up.
I always start with an ‘n o p’ and ‘H D O’ as a very base starter. ‘HDO’ for caps, and ‘nop’ for lowercase. Because from there, you can quickly assess characteristics that can then extrapolate to all the other characters. Once I have those refined, I immediately begin making the other letter forms that are within the headline -
When you say we, is it you? Or is there a team working on a single type?
Depends. There are times and times when it's all of us, or even when it's some combination of a few of us.
Commercial Type is known for Fridays dedicated for personal projects. Tell us how that experience may have reshaped your personal process and/or development of independent design sensibilities?
The day is a time for us to try out our own ideas that maybe we didn't get to do for a project or just something we've been thinking about. Majority of the work doesn't end up somewhere. It's formed a good perspective that not everything has to be so precious, it can be very one-off and quick. Not every idea is going to be good. These Fridays really allowed me to figure that out. At its core, it’s to experiment with a bunch of weird ideas. And sometimes that stuff gets used for custom projects, because we had this backlog of our ideas that we can just show the clients. But a lot of the time it ends up as a release that's apart of our library.
What advice would you give a student or someone considering typography?
I would advise to definitely practice a lot of graphic design. Typefaces are generally meant to be used by graphic designers. That's a difficult thing that most people don't really talk about, sometimes it can be art but not solely. Second, to be more aware of broad cultural understanding or visual representation. And I think that's like an extremely important thing that people should really pay attention to: your upbringing, things you've experienced or are experiencing, creating that sensitivity and awareness of your surroundings. Expanding on that more: general influences, you know, your creative output. I would highly suggest looking at typefaces in general, I was always a fanboy of Dutch masters, but I think it's still good to look at everything. Again, taking it all in to develop your taste. You know, I think once you really understand things on a deeper level with this kind of idea that you're trying to understand them [type designers], you start to see these patterns and broader concepts begin to make sense. You have to see the macro and micro at the same time with type design.
If you could collaborate or partner with a brand, who would it be?
I’d like to collaborate with brands in cycling and roller blading. For the longest time I was pushing those brands away, and I've recently thought that was strange since it’s one of my hobbies. Also the cycling and roller blading community is becoming more known as having a lot of creative people that are within it, would be nice to tap into the scene.