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 Page 1 of 2 


An interview with ACME
Exclusive Interview

By: Brendan Staunton


Graphic design orthodoxy dictates that each element - image, graphics, text and fonts - should be carefully refined and then artfully combined into a meaning which is more than the sum of its parts. Abbreviation is obviously crucial to this process, especially in the use of fonts where there is a need to communicate as much as possible graphically in order to minimise text.


So what should we make of a font which rebuffs these most hallowed of conventions? A font which is anti-abbreviation and where each keystroke, rather than producing a letterform, supplies instead a set of instructions on how to design a letterform! To even conceive of such a font is more than perverse, it's positively subversive.


But this subversive font exists. It's called AF Constance and is part of the debut collection from a new foundry called Acme Fonts. Started in 1996 by graphic designer (and lecturer) Christian Küsters from Oberhausen in Germany, Acme Fonts provides a showcase both for his own typeface designs and for those by other designers. However, Acme Fonts has ambitions beyond being just a foundry... but we'll go into that later. In the mean time, I thought I'd ask Christian how they got their name.


"When I was doing my MA in the States this word 'Acme' just kept appearing everywhere. I saw it in Marvel comics, in cartoons like 'Roadrunner' and 'Bugs Bunny' and even in films like 'The Big Sleep' where it was used as the name of a bookshop.


"Anyway, I did some research and found out that the word was a kind of generic term for a company and that it comes from a Greek word which means 'the best of' which I thought was perfect for our work. Well, not really, but it has these two meanings plus the pop references which relate it to both high and low art, so I thought it quite appropriate for our collection because some of the forms in there are very pop - in the vernacular in a way - whilst some of the other fonts are very well worked out."


Select a link for a larger sample & further information:


Amateur 69





Champ Fleury


Indy 500


Nicoteen 13




Track 1-2


Video Wall


Inky Black
How did Acme Fonts start out?


"Whilst studying in the States, I designed the first letterforms for a font based on the shape of a steam iron. I got really into it and the computers made the technical side of it so much more accessible so it was quite easy to do. Then, when I was doing my MA, I did typography classes where we learnt to operate fontographer . Actually that's how my typeface, 'Retrospecta' came about. When I was studying, deconstructing some of my tutor's typefaces was part of my learning process."


Who was your teacher?


"Matthew Carter. He showed us his fonts and said 'this is what I did and they're available if you want to use them."


So, how did he react?


"Very well. He just saw it as a typeface and He knew what I was trying to do. I liked his attitude."


And how did you and Andy meet?


"We met at the London College of Printing where I was a student and Andy was lecturing. Then I went off to the States and when I came back to London we met up again and - after I'd got used to seeing him without his long beard - we found that we still shared similar ideas, so we decided to work together."


If Christian seems to quite enjoy the process and the conceptual possibilities of font design, Andy is more focused on font technology and the potential it offers for freedom from those traditions.


"We design typefaces but we aren't type designers. It's just something we use in our work and that we constantly think about, especially when we can't find the right typeface for a particular job. In fact we now tend to put all our ideas into a typeface rather than writing about it. Creating our own typeface for each job helps us create, if you like, a permanent instantaneousness which saves a lot of time. It's like a shorthand of a shorthand of a shorthand..."


But isn't it a slow way of working?


Christian agreed:


"But it helps us lock ourselves into thinking about what we want to achieve rather than getting lost in aesthetic points about what is fashionable this week. It can be difficult to avoid those things that you see everywhere around you."
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