Frank Adebiaye’s Summer Type projects make typography personal again
Frank Adebiaye is a chartered accountant turned typographer, aiming to redefine the perception and distribution of typefaces in the digital age. This 41-year old Parisian creative has managed to combine his love for typography with his business background in order to reimagine the way we create, sell, use and/or destroy typefaces. He is the founder of the Velvetyne Type Foundry, one of the major open-source type foundries in the world.
We got to know Adebiaye from the book “François Boltana & la naissance de la typographie numérique” that he co-created with Suzanne Cardinal. Boltana was a prolific type designer that paved the way for modern typography, combining the elegance of calligraphy with impeccable technical and technological skills. In this fascinating book the authors dive into Boltana’s life and creations.
Boltana is mostly known for his typeface Stilla, but he was also the first one who attempted to decode Champion's writing in 1989. Champion was an English calligrapher who contributed no fewer than 47 plates to Bickham’s Universal Penman. In his published paper "Ligatures & calligraphie assistée par ordinateur" (1995), Boltana proposed a couple of alphabets, based on Champion, with a minimal set of alternate glyphs but it did not really make it into a commercial font as he passed away in 1999.
Now, Frank Adebiaye is back with a new series of interesting projects. Every summer he takes a small break and focuses on his passion for typography, creating a series of projects under the umbrella he calls “Summer Type”.
Subjective Letters: A revolutionary type-marketplace
His first significant project, called “Subjective Letters”, was launched in 2021. “Subjective Letters” challenges the way we perceive fonts in the digital world, where we cannot “own” fonts or any other intangible object in the traditional sense. On the one hand, commercial fonts come with licenses that define what you can and cannot do, while on the other hand, libre fonts are free but come with limitations. Inspired by all new developments on technology, ownership, NFTs, Adebiaye created a new way that we can sell fonts online. He is selling the font file while transferring ownership to the buyer. Each font, priced at €20, comes with an exclusive glyph, and only 100 copies are available.
“I am still the owner of the typeface, and will probably keep exclusive the name of this typeface but from there anyone who would purchase the font would be owner of his/her/their specific copy, so could use it the way he/she/they see fit, but also rent, sell, destroy, make it anything else, based on one copy per purchase basis”, he explains.
LDS: Reading for the digital era
Always thinking on letters, typography and the digital environment, in 2022 Frank designed a layout that allows books to be read on smartphones. Via this project called LDS, he transformed Victor Hugo's "La Légende des Siècles" into text suitable to be read on your cell phones in order to make people read more and love literature in an easy and fun way. The entire text of this masterpiece, spanning a whopping 714 pages, is presented with typographic variations and surprises that enhance the reading experience.
Libre Fonts of Interest: Frank’s curated collection of typefaces
"Libre Fonts of Interest" is a collection of typefaces, a personal directory-observatory of free typography, a testament to Adebiaye’s meticulous eye for detail. It is ”a true tool for working day-to-day with Libre Fonts and a knowledge source also for competing commercial foundries”.
The second edition of "Libre Fonts of Interest" launched in 2023, is set to explore the expansion and emerging trend of free fonts and the potential of libre fonts to redefine typographic landscapes. Adebiaye makes it clear that this tool is created “for designers to have a handy tool for choosing libre fonts ; for type foundries owners to better know the competition, at least what could be substitutes (in a Porter matrix way) so they better angle their market approach”.
Find more about Frank Adebiaye’s work here.