photo © Jason Wen

Paul Barnes is a seasoned typographer. He runs a modern day type foundry called Commercial Type with Christian Schwarz. Together they have produced a vast array of successful typefaces, each unique and tailored to do a certain job, and always to much acclaim. Paul is typographic consultant at Wallpaper magazine. He is also very much involved with the St Brides printing library, currently digitising all the historical materials there.

Paul and Christian first worked together when asked to improved the typography for The Guardian. They originally suggested an improvement on what was already there as opposed to a redesign. This entailed a study of Helvetica and implementing the original Neue Haas Grotesk of 1957, instead of the Neue Helvetica crafted by the Stempel foundry in 1980’s. When the paper decided to change from a broadsheet to the Berliner format, a new direction was needed, which resulted in the development of a new serif typeface. The outcome of this process was an Egyptian, which contained the elegance and sophistication of a serif, yet had the impact and versatility of a sans like Helvetica.

He talked a lot about history and what it can teach you. As Catherine Dixon stated, she reads & writes a lot about type, but rarely gets so excited as she did upon seeing his recent project Marian; a single stroke typeface steeped in history. He looked to the classics that were definitive of each style for inspiration. Each weight reflects a serifed book face of an era, such as the 1554 roman based on Granjon or the 1571 baroque inspired Galliard. Marian is typeface history reduced to basic skeletal forms.

For the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, Paul was commissioned to create a typeface that portrayed Africa. This project posed interesting constraints as both FIFA and UEFA have their own set of restrictions for type on football shirts including stroke width or font heights. Puma Darren is the outcome of this. It is a condensed typeface due to the length of some players names. It is inspired by hand written signs often seen in Africa, and although curtailed it still reflects the Puma brand to excellent effect.

A lot of his typefaces are the fruition of an idea generated from a logo design. Paul and Christian als o work often with other type designers and have just recently released Atlas with Atelier Carvalho-Bernau. 

By Graphic Birdwatching