Arctic Haute Couture

Words by Frode Helleland
Typography by Frode Helleland / Monokrom

In 2009, I started sketching out the basic alphabet of a modulated sans serif that would eventually become Vinter. In an effort to infuse the contrasted letterforms with tension, I wrapped them around a strict geometric skeleton. Vinter connects the dots between machine age geometry and modulated strokes. Round shapes are allowed to stretch to their natural widths. When juxtaposed with narrow shapes they set a pronounced staccato rhythm. Instead of taming it, I rather exaggerated it, elevating the skeletal structure to centre stage.

Researching comparable italic designs, I came to a strange realisation: None of the typefaces I considered “geometric” kept their key signature shape in the italics: The circle became an oval.

The machine age brought mechanical tools like the pantograph, making it possible to derive extended, condensed, slanted – or even backslanted – variants from a single master drawing. Despite the need to resolve optical issues, modernist sans serif types have had close mathematical ties between upright and slanted styles ever since. This is, however, not necessarily the only solution. 

Vinter is my attempt at an ideologically pure geometric serifless roman – an idea that also extends to its italic companion. The design pivots around the circular ‘o’. Unlike the mathematical one-to-one relationship of a modernist slanted roman, Vinter’s cursive maintains the geometry and modulation logic of the upright style using a mixture of slant and rotation. The surprising results are kept in check by more traditional forms, like the one-story ‘a’, the ‘e’ with slanted crossbar and the half-descending ‘f’.

Those first sketches are six years old now. When John Morgan Studio asked me to draw a slightly darker version of the original one-weight release from 2012, it provided the foundation for a bigger expansion. The new release is completely revamped, spanning ten styles and five weights