July 25, 2019 - No Comments!


You know that thing Facebook does with your old posts "remember when you posted this thing 10 yo" ? It usually appears once you log in for the first time of the day. Most of the times for me it's like gazing into a very awkward abyss, to be sincere.

So, last week my friend Carlo Occhiena shared, thanks to that trickery, the interview he did with me two years ago for Frizzi Frizzi, an online visual culture magazine that is pretty famous in Italy. Therefore I shared it too. And it had an amazing feedback, more than I expected. But since it was written in italian some chums asked me if there was an english version.

I tried, accurately, but after a couple paragraphs lazyness kicked in, I left it, then returned six months later. Conclusion: I GOOGLE TRANSLATE IT (so it's gonna be shitty af). But it's still better than "pending draft".

I follow Riccardo since a couple years. From 2012, to be precise, when I discovered (like many others, considering the 150K views it had) his famous curriculum vitae (searching graphic resume on Google is still in the top positions).

I became attached to his works since the beginning, both because his style - even suffering of a sort of visual split personality - is still very recognizable and personal, both because his style - although ranging in very different areas - is very recognizable and personal, thus generating a sense of continuity that encourages one to look at the different creations one after the other, both because he never fails to expose himself with a good dose of self-irony that is halfway between the British and the true Tuscan roughness.

Making of "Barber's Dump" typeface

It seemed nice to then contact him to do this article together. However, given Riccardo's versatility, I decided to focus in particular on his activity as a printer, strictly speaking as the creation of new fonts. Activities in which the good Sabatini excels and for which he has also earned a series of awards and mentions.

Fake ad with Barber’s Dump


Sendpoints — Hong Kong, 2018

Sandu Publishing — Guangzhou, 2017

(Kyeong Guy Hong, Yoojin Kang)
Art Center IDA / Playmobil — Seul, 2015

(Owen Lee, Kyeong Guy Hong)
Art Center IDA — Seul, 2014

Sendpoints — Hong Kong, 2012

Gestalten — Berlin, 2012

Viction:ary — Hong Kong, 2012

From “Typoholic”,  Viction:ary, Hong Kong, 2012

Hey Riccardo, I'm scrolling through all your fonts, but it's really hard to pick one to start with. Then I begin with the one to which I am most fond of, namely Mekkanika (perhaps because I still have not overcome the trauma of when my mother did not want to buy me the lions of Voltron?)
However, I seem to remember that this was the first font that received a large number of consents, and it is also a technically "discarded" font because it was later rejected by the client who had requested it, correct? How did you come to design it, how did you choose the underlying typographic structure and the mechanical parts that were to compose it?

Hi, let's start from the beginning. The font was not born as a complete alphabet, but as a single type of graphic treatment accompanying the article in a magazine. The brief was to create something "mechanical", and that was a sans. At that point I took as a base one of my favorite fonts, the Din Pro, and applied on it the same treatment I used in his predecessor, [Brushwood, see next question] pasting figurative elements on the shape of the letters.
I did a thorough research and began to accumulate old vintage drawings of mechanical components and technical drawings of various kinds. The rest was all
composition work. At the end of the games, the art did not approve of me but instead chose the previous font-treatment, which in turn was not approved by those who commissioned it. It is a lazy brown dog that bites its tail.

Mekkanika Typeface

With what media have you worked mainly? Photoshop, Illustrator, or did you even have an initial draft on paper? Wacom or mouse and keyboard? Grid or white sheet? Tell me.

The font was made almost exclusively in Photoshop, being however a series of raster illustrations in the form of a font. The scanner, to copy digitally from the Ikea catalog to my grandfather's engineering manuals.
Mouse and keyboard, since I am one of the few remaining specimens of the creative sapiens to prefer them absolutely to tablets of any kind (at home I have a Wacom Intuous to take dust from years that can testify it).
Closing, no sheet and no grid, being more a work of collage than a vector construction made as it should be. Obviously, for other things I had to be very precise, like the scaling of the pixels of the various elements. Each of them is an advanced element with two-color dithering patterns, to have the maximum contrast and keep the infamous blurring that you get when you have so many details in a small space.

Mekkanika Typeface — Composition Process

The font was then well received, you also ended up with your big robot in the Adobe gallery. Are you satisfied with the result?

Yes and no. It has had a very pop success, which is a fantastic thing, but it has also obscured other things I did later. Same thing that happened with the 150k views resume.
The drama is going to googling to check their online availability and see little of the new but so much of the old. Things that maybe growing you don't find aesthetically more in line with who you are now. It is revenge porn applied to design.

Steampunk Art — Art Center IDA, Seul, 2015

Another character that I really like is Brushwood, which, like saying, is the "environmental twin" of Mekkanika. Was the creation process analogous? Did you start from a pre-existing font and did you start plastering it with floral ornaments? Or did you already have the final result in mind and have you looked for ways to get it?

As I had already written before telling about his mechanical younger brother, it was with Brushwood that I began to experiment with that creative process of composition. The basis was that of the Clarendon, the rest tapestry of freebie vectors from stock sites, all elements that taken individually were cheap but rearranged in a baroque manner made sense.

Brushwood — Composition Process

This project has been dormant for quite some time, sooner than later thanks to the positive feedback you were having on Deviantart and Facebook, you decided to carry it out.

How do you prioritize the different projects you are carrying out? Is it important for you to feel positive feedback from your followers? In case a significant project for you received few likes, could it be set aside?

The money should be the priority. But it doesn't always work that way. My portfolio reveals little about my business side. And I've always tried, certainly against the tide, to carve out a personal profile almost more on the artistic side than on the design side, making my portfolio too radical for certain types of clients.
The feedback for me is fundamental, I live from feedback, I have not yet learned to manage the anxiety and understand all the mechanisms but that is the secret to self-improvement. A happy duffer does not go anywhere.

Brushwood Typeface

Brushwood was also presented in several Behance galleries, did this extra visibility bring you real benefits? Have you chosen other platforms to share your work? And anyway how much do you think it is necessary for your business to be present on sharing platforms and social networks?

Benefits yes, I was also fresh from graduation and ready to get myself out of Italy and go and have me in some internships but they all happened in a two-year period of family mourning that did not allow me to ride the wave as I would have liked.
Furthermore, compared to five years ago, the web has grown exponentially as have the dynamics within the sector platforms. It is no longer a question of having the online portfolio but also of synchronizing it with social media, adapting the content formats and understanding the different approaches.
I love creating storytelling in which I will dwell too much on Behance, designed to enjoy them on large horizontal screens, but the winning format is the vertical one on an Instagram device, where in small format you have to impress in a second, like on Tinder.

Hexahedra Typeface

Your fonts are definitely unconventional. Have you ever thought, or are you thinking, to design a more traditional character, perhaps for mass use? And why?

Because they are difficult. And maybe because I'm not very well versed.
Actually I started a couple (that is those that are used for titles or graphics rather than for writing text bodies), but they're still shitty drafts, compared to the enormous work behind a great classic font like the aforementioned Din.
There's still a lot to learn and to do.

Embossy Typeface

It often happens that free typographic characters then become viral and are seen as being used a little from all sides, I think for example of Lavanderia and Mission Script (both of the same foundry, Lost Type).
Certainly commercial use would require the purchase of the license and I hope it is so, but in your opinion, is the diffusion of free or nearly free fonts and the piracy of the licenses damaging the market of font creators? Or do you think it will lead to a paradigm shift, a bit like the p2p did with the music market?

I stopped talking about them online for years, due to a conflict of interest. Mine cost 10 euros each, but only because I'm a gnat. It also depends on the customer.
The agency where I work makes big campaigns and manages clients on a national scale, sgarris of that type are not allowed, everything must be out in the open. The more you go down among the common mortals, the more you get banned. It works like this, everyone has a Bebas in the closet.

Embossy Typeface

Anyway, are you making money with typography? In other words, do you see it as a market where it is worth investing in terms of creativity and which could become your predominant activity? Or will you continue to pursue a more transversal, even multidisciplinary approach?

Maximum done in a month is under 1000 and over 100 euros.
It is more profitable to receive the commission of a typographic illustration, being paid more individually than the single copy of a font. To talk about serious economic performance, you need to be in a foundry, be it as a representative or an employee, or have one, and focus exclusively on that.
I also love to deal with other situations from the design point of view.

Spike Typeface

Many of your characters are born for a client who then refuses the work.
Do you manage this risk in any way? Do you think it is inherent in particular to particular realities (eg Italian clients, medium-small rather than specific sectors?)

I no longer have the chance to make an ad hoc font for commission except for a couple of extra cases, I upload them to the site and add a PayPal button. Some time ago I almost managed to get into a foundry but it was over that I preferred to make a loose dog.
The complexity of certain letters I make does not make them adaptable to the wide range of glyphs required by certain commercial standards that the foundries must keep. This is also why I want to get closer and closer to creating typefaces more focused on reading than on decoration as an end in itself.

Spike Typeface — Letter Reel

By turning to the cornerstones of typography, do you have any mentors?
What fonts would you never miss in your wallet? From the point of view of teaching, is it a subject that you have read and studied in an assiduous or focused way?

Role model in typographic and inevitable fonts do not always stand on the same parallel, at least for me.
One of the first to have known and studied later was Jonathan Barnbrook, who has a unique but very niche typographic approach. Then the sacred monsters, from Paul Renner, to whom we always give thanks for the Futura, Adrian Frutiger for the Univers and the Avenir, Herb Lubalin for the Advantgarde, Miedinger for the Helvetica, and I can go on doing the list of the expense of the most important names in the history of typography, but this is not the point.
If you really like typography, making rankings or lists is wrong, with everything there is to discover. For example, years ago I would not have defined myself as a script lover, but as I went deeper into the subject I learned to love the work of total monsters like Sud Paul's Ale Paul, and also to get passionate about calligraphic art, from Luca Barcellona to the guy's video who writes the billboards by hand in Brazil, to the oriental calligraphy revised in a modern key, and the same for all the rest. Just be fooling around and there is too much inspiration.
I would never call myself a good student, given the last part of the question, I dislike the manuals, but I have always been curious.

36 days of type

I still have to laugh if I think of your photo masked by Raiden (the known, I hope, a character from Mortal Kombat). What is your relationship with video games, movies and nerd culture in general? Do you find sources of inspiration for your work? Do you even think of any particular fonts you came across recently?

I'm a proud nerd with muscles, but I've stopped. After moving away from the tunnel of the 8 hours a day in front of Play as a teenager I decided that for my own good I would never have fallen.
I follow the various developments of the market and I am full of cinematics and concept art on the various reference sites, but it is a rigorous look not to touch. Here, I'd like to work, like crazy.
With films, on the other hand, I hear a lot, I watch a lot, and I appreciate their subtleties even in the graphic field, from the use of the very elegant ITC Benguiat in the logo of the TV series Stranger Things, to the meticulous use of typography in David's films Fincher, to the Doom logo that after almost thirty years still breaks his ass (forgive the youth).

36 days of type

Another one of your projects that I really liked, which again revolves around a typeface, is what you did for Kushi Clthng, especially because you also documented the dirty work, that is the different attempts at printing, the choice of fabrics together with the client, analysis on the finished product, ready to wear.
What difference did it make for you to follow the entire production chain instead of merely stopping to deliver a .psd file?

First he opened my eyes, and then he made me lose an awkward amount of time. It was a lesson on how things are done, and how they should be done.
The project did not have a client, as you wrote in the application, but it was a project born between two partners, and one was me. It was certainly interesting to tackle the various production phases, but it was also a move to the other side of the barricade, where once the .psd and .ai files were received, an economic expense was added to the time it took to make it. more conspicuous.
To this later two other layers must be added, that of promotion and sale. It is a much more strategic world than I thought, which left me scalded, although still curious to try again.
Even if further on, for now, better commissions. T-shirts with unicorns included.

Kushi Clthng

I see that now you are dedicating yourself heavily to this pattern story, with a fair use of gifs and animations. Are you thinking of a union even with your work on fonts, or do you think they will be roads that will not cross?

I wouldn't say heavily, the project is called A pattern (almost) a day precisely because I can't keep a daily production at an industrial pace.
This is a distinct world that moves away from the world of fonts, I am currently not willing to try possible contaminations, but never say never.

A pattern (almost) a day II

In addition to the aforementioned (almost) daily exercises to keep me in shape with the patterns, a packaging for a product that is harmful to health, other things still in progress (read: bargaining), self promotion like hell, and cheap ass work I will never show to the masses.

Are there other creatives that you keep an eye on or that you follow with particular interest, always remaining in this area of ​​creating more or less experimental characters?

The Typographic Posters website, an authentic mine of inspiration, Kyle Wilkinson, an experimental approach but with analogic means. The vector masters Sawdust, the typefoundry Youworkforthem, Michael Paul Young, and so on. You can find your new favorite artist on Instagram one day and the day next another.

Hey I would say we may have finished what do you say? Thank you very much Riccardo!

I would say yes. Many thanks to you!

Published by: Riccardo Sabatini in interview, blog

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