During the summer 2014 we were commissioned to create a custom typeface for Vesti, the political news broadcast of ‘Russia One’, one of the main Russian News TV channels. At that moment ‘Russia One’ already had its own corporate typeface. Designing a new custom typeface had an important role in the redesign of Vesti, who wanted to present itself as a separate brand with it's own identity. It has been a year since we first saw the launch of the typeface on the screen on the 1st of July 2015.
The initial brief was to make a sans serif in a range of 6 weights, with matching italics. After the first meeting with the client we agreed that 12 styles would probably be too much and too confusing for the future users. So we agreed on 4 weights: Light, Regular, Medium, Bold with an accompanying Regular Italic designed not for highlighting but as a separate style equal in weight and proportions to the Regular.
Our first proposal was a proper text looking humanist sans serif with wide spacing, different character widths. We’ve been trying to create something clean and pure that would be legible even on a very low resolution TV screens. Open counters were an important requirement for the intended application. Variation of contrast between think an thins had to be as low as possible to work well on TV. So there was not that much room for experimentation as it seemed to us. This proposal did not work out. The client wanted the typeface to stand out more, be more blocky, more strong and convincing to look not as a text typefaces but more as a typeface suitable for logos and small phrases.
Our second try was to get inspiration from the typefaces on posters from the soviet times. More geometric, more sharp and more aggressive. Still the client was not convinced, he wanted the typeface to have more personality, be more dynamic and even more ‘runic’, whatever that meant. One of the important tasks was to find a way to make the spacing more even in combinations like ‘жу’ (in ‘дежурная часть’ above), the characters that normally have a huge gap between. This combination was particularly important for the client because it appeared in one of the names of their programs.
We started over again by going back to sketching to explore how wild we can go with this project. Sketching helped and finally the client liked one of the directions. In order to solve the problem mentioned above we added more air inside the ‘ж’ and also chose the upright italic construction for the ‘у’ that helped to make our spacing more even.
The most important style for the client was the Medium and they needed it faster. Nevertheless since the beginning we were working on the extreme weights in order to see how the details and characteristics of the typeface will be transformed within different weights. Later after we digitised our sketches we started testing the Medium style in use in the names for the five main TV programs (these were the names that we often used for our first limited character proposals and sketches).
During the process a lot of the details had been changed and smoothened. Most of the corners transformed into less distinctive squarish ovals. But we still consider that this process was very much worth it. Starting with a wild display character allowed us to bring charisma into a corporate typeface.
At the end our initially display looking typeface moved straight forward in the direction of the text one. Even though a lot of details were toned down you can still see the places were the angles were previously placed (on the image below you can see an overlay—the background counter marked with cyan is the older version of the typeface). While the outer counters are almost smooth, the inner curves were kept more angular. These nuances gave flavour to the typeface and remind us a bit of the dynamic calligraphic roots that we've been exploring in the beginning.
We have to admit that even though it was a long and not the easiest project and it took a while to find what the client really wanted at the end we really enjoyed working on the typeface. We are hoping that we succeeded not only in producing an useful design tool, but also in achieving our personal goal of creating a remarkable and may be even playful sans serif typeface.