Dalton Maag: What Lies Beneath – A Typographic Talk

Cardiff Met were lucky enough to welcome Dalton Maag to give a talk and I am pleased I was able to attend. Students, lecturers, designers and people within the creative community attended the talk – and it didn’t disappoint.

Bruno Maag – the founder and chairman of the foundry and Tom Foley – the Creative Director of the foundry gave the talk. The talk covered two case studies of past clients, the science behind reading and type in general.

Bruno Maag is originally from Switzerland where he began his career in typography with a typesetting internship. From there his career grew until he founded Dalton Maag (as he said there weren’t any jobs going so I made one for myself). Tom Foley went to Limerick University, Ireland to study Graphic Design and then went on to complete his masters in Central Saint Martins, London. He worked as a graphic designer for a few years before gaining employment at Dalton Maag, where he is now the Creative Director. The company mainly focuses on four services:

  • Custom Fonts
  • Logo Refinement
  • Library Fonts
  • Font Modification

Although I took a lot from the talk itself, including the history of the evolution of typography, what I really took was the passion and love the two have for type and what they do. Bruno, especially, displayed such passion when giving his talk. He is clearly a very knowledgable individual who understands the history of typography. I think this demonstrates that having a true understanding of your practice can really help to influence the choices you make an can really inform your choices.

When discussing their case studies, one was for the company Lush and the other Intel. With Lush, they did not have to design the typeface as the Creative Director of Lush had already designed their typeface. However, as their services became digital they needed to optimise the typeface for online use. This took a lot more work than what I originally thought it would have. Trial and error was key until they could find a style that conveyed their unique features, but also keep the file size down to ensure that bandwidth would not be effected – thus preventing pages from loading too slowly.

In regards to Intel they were asked to design a custom typeface. This meant they went through their design process: Research -> Ideation -> Design Concept -> Refinement -> Execution. Bruno stated the importance of getting your process right as that will ensure errors are not made and will essentially save a lot of time. Once they have decided on a typeface, they must ensure it works in different weights and must then consider other script languages such as Chinese etc. as Intel are a global company and therefore need the font to work in various languages on different script systems. I never imagined the complexity of creating a typeface because consideration to the style, file size, script systems, other languages and other various elements are all essential and one mistake could cost a lot of money. The Intel project took about four years to complete in total – showing the true nature that type designing entails.

Some pointers that were given to us by both Bruno and Tom were to always consider your audience and to complete thorough research. Another was to never minus track as that distorts the type and makes the page look crowded – affecting reading and comprehension. The final point was to always read the End User Licensing Agreement as that can cause legality issues when using someones typeface. Having a slight business mind is key when entering the industry because business is an essential part to the Graphic Design industry – like most.

On the whole, I found the talk to extremely inspiring and it gave me an insight into what designing typefaces is like but also the level of commitment needed. There is a lot love needed for jobs like these, but it’s clear to see when there is, the work is created to a high standard and is all worthwhile.



Author: marislathamgraphics

I am a student at Cardiff Metropolitan University studying BA Hons Graphic Communication.

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