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Meet the masterminds behind Typendium, typography's app du jour


hen England based William Robinson and Robyn Nevison started Typendium as a project of absolute passion back in 2013 none would have expected that this typography devotee’s dream of iOS app would ever become a hit. Obviously we, the typophile generation, are an ever expanding breed and we are more than happy to carry the origins of your favorite fonts in mobility mode. Exploring popular typefaces and their past, Typendium features short essays and illustrations such as why Gill Sans has been an always controversial type design or how Baskerville once annoyed the printers of England. Amazing stuff in the tip of your finger so we decided to have a small talk with the people behind this application that sounds a gift from typographic heaven. They have their own origins too.

How did you get interested in typography and the project specifically?

William: Gary Hustwit’s great typography documentary Helvetica was what first got me interested in the world of type. Around that time I had also decided that I wanted to learn how to program and become an app developer. It seemed logical to me to combine these two new interests and make an app about typography. This ended up not being the easiest task, having to learn both aspects of a project “on the job” as it were, but I got there in the end, no small part to Robyn’s designs raising the bar on what we wanted to achieve.

It's important that designers know how to use type to improve the digital experiences

What is your favourite typeface?

W: I’m a big fan of Futura. Despite its age I still think that it looks fresh and futuristic. If it was good enough for Stanley Kubrick then it’s good enough for me.

Robyn - I am particularly fond of Berthold Walbaum Book Medium and Italic. Years ago I came across a book called Markings by Dag Hammarskjöld, and I fell in love with its cover. I managed to single out the typeface as being Berthold Walbaum Book. I think that the typeface itself is subtly poignant, possibly this is connected to my feelings about Hammarskjolds writing.

What is your least favourite typeface?

R: Poor Richard has always creeped me out a little, mostly because of the name. I actually just looked into it and has a deeper history than I was expecting. It’s based on the typeface used in an almanac published by Benjamin Franklin in the 1700s, it brought a lot of fame and money Franklin’s way.

W: I really don’t like Chiller. I realise it’s a novelty font for a very specific purpose, but it’s like seeing Papyrus on a design. You just know that whoever decided to use it in a professional context thought, “Oh this will be good enough” rather than trying to dig deeper.

Who do you think is the most influential typographer of all time and why?

Hermann Zapf, creator of designs such as Palatino and Zapfino. He is one of the leading figures in the transition to digital type, using his amazing calligraphic skills to create designs like Zapfino that were simply impossible in the old days of type designs being carved onto metal slugs. He was so ahead of his time he had to go from Germany to the USA just to get his ideas off the ground.

What is the role of the letterform in the digitised world?

We're doing more and more things digitally and I think that type is potentially more important than ever. We can do so much now, whether it is chatting with our friends or sorting out a pension. It's important that designers know how to use type to improve these experiences. Thankfully digital tools mean that there are constantly new letterforms being released so it is easy to find something suitable.

Currently we’re working on bringing Typendium to the iPad and it’s pretty obvious that we need to add Helvetica.

What are your next plans?

Well we’ve just released an update for Typendium that will make sure it looks great on Apple’s new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Currently we’re working on bringing Typendium to the iPad and from there we will begin adding more type stories. We’ve had a lot of suggestions about what we should add next, but it’s pretty obvious that we need to add Helvetica.

How often do you use your mobile?

W: I think we both use our phones quite a lot, though I would say I’m the worst. I’m always downloading new apps and seeing what they’re about and if they’ve done anything particularly clever. Plus I love playing a well designed game while I’m on the bus or generally killing time.

R: I use my phone every day, most often as a watch, I find things on my wrist quite distracting. It’s also super useful for quickly sketching out or photographing something I might see while out and about, and I use the note taking app Vesper quite a lot as many ideas or phrases come to me on my walk home from work.

What were you listening to when you launched Typendium?

Unfortunately launching Typendium was just one stage of the work so we didn’t have the luxury of kicking back and listening to our favourite music. Instead we were hard at work juggling our first update and also emailing as many people as we could letting them know that Typendium has entered the world. We did go out with friends though and have a nice meal as a way to celebrate, even though we were exhausted.

More info @Typendium


                                                  Robyn Nevison

                                                  William Robinson