Carima El-Behairy co-founded the P22 type foundry in 1994. Since then it has developed many sustainable fonts. One font in particular has been picked for us this afternoon: Cézanne. A successful font in tune with this year’s theme at TYPO: Sustain. So how does a font built in 30 days end up on German beer bottles of or in blockbuster movies? Even if you are not a type freak, Carima’s presentation about Cézanne wakes you up: the P22 type is everywhere. From your local grocery store to the glass door of a fictive shop in the award-winning TV show Mad Men, Cézanne is all over the place. Cheese, chocolate, wine, whiskey. They even called it the “food” font. When did it all start? In a rush when a collaborator left to Philadelphia in 1996 and asked P22 to develop a font for an upcoming exhibition of Cézanne at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2 months before the show was supposed to open … The team in Philadelphia didn’t have a clear idea of what they wanted, so P22 had to get inspired from the old Cézanne’s paintings. Fortunately they also had some sketch books where Cézanne spilt some ink in text and sketches. That was enough for P22 to produce the Cézanne regular, containing 200 characters at the time. In its young history P22 had already created fonts inspired by art. Carima went through a few examples in her presentation. The Duchamp font or Daddy-O inspired by the Beat times, all packaged up in a 7 inch vinyl size sleeves, including the font on a disk of a few 100 octets. As the technological progress allowed open-type to stock more characters, the Cézanne font was expanded to 1200 characters. Cézanne is very popular among product designer and was selected among the 100 best typefaces of all time in the big font ranking
200 characters aren’t enough for a written font. If you want the font to look handwritten, you have to get some intelligence and randomness in there. In other words: you have to work! With their new designer P22 worked on replicating the smoothness of ink on paper, of drops of ink. Detail work leading to a new collection of 1200 characters for a worldwide font which has sold more than 50 000 copies. Keep an eye on “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” when it comes out, or next time you open up a bottle of wine, and stay surprised like Carima, because “you can’t pick where they put it”.
Text: Louis Currie