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The Process of Covik Sans Mono

The story begins with Future Fonts, the platform for distributing type in progress that Travis Kochel and Lizy Gershenzon launched in February of 2017.

I was brought on to do a bit of brand work, and to connect my type designer buddies that might be interested in the sort of community we were trying to build.

First, I set out to create the logotype. After lots of sketching various ideas, I redrew the seventies classic Motter Ombra, but optimized for a range of sizes.

Fufo-logo

Whatever type was gonna have to compliment this redrawing of Motter Ombra, it would have to be interesting.

When it came time to think about the accompanying type palette, I thought it made sense to use a monospace. The chaotic rhythm of a mono felt appropriate for the sort of motley crew of rogue type designers we were enlisting. Also, anything combined with the insanity of Motter Ombra had to stand up in terms of interest.

At the same time, it would be used for the entire UI, and any other brand asset we’d make in the future, so such a drastic move felt heavy handed. After some exploration, we mitigated the differences between the mono and proportionally spaced words with a quantized design of three widths. When we combined this idea with Covik Sans, a happy medium of interesting-but-not-too-interesting was reached.

Three-paragraphs

Left: A true monospace. Center: A “triospace”, faux mono, or “quantized” system. Any wide character is 3 units wide (M, W, @, etc.), normal characters are 2 units wide (n, u, b, etc.) , and narrow characters are 1 unit wide (I, l, i, etc.). Right: Classic proportionally spaced text.

Mono-versus-trio-1

Monospaced versus faux mono.

Mono-versus-trio-3

More monospace versus faux mono.

Most of type design asks the question of how to fit space around a given letterform. Monospaced fonts ask the opposite: how do you fit a letterform within the allotted space? The answer is a word I have gotten familiar with only after starting a family: compromise.

Quantized designs or systems of limited character widths are nothing new. But it’s relatively new to have the ability to quickly switch between sets of characters to subtlety or fundamentally change the look of text, without switching fonts all together.

With that in mind, Future Fonts user and my good buddy Frank Grießhammer suggested adding OpenType functionality for turning the faux mono into a true mono. The good news is, early in the process I had done these “true mono” experiments already, so it was simply a matter of digging through the wreckage of old files, salvaging what I could, and drawing the rest.

The resulting family has worked for Future Fonts, and a web index of type foundries. While I love to see these uses, I hope to one day see Covik Sans Mono at work in areas other than type-related websites.

I always think it’s lame when type designers tell people where to use a typeface, but this is the gist: Covik Sans Mono is not that weird. It’s pretty legible with pretty conventional proportions. Don’t be afraid to use it where a standard grotesque was, or where one would expect to see a geometric sans. Indulge in the adaptable delight of unfamiliarity.

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Covik Sans Mono
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