“When I find an idea for a new typeface, I draw a few letters on paper and put them away in a drawer and leave them there – sometimes for a year,” French type designer, Jean-Renaud Cuaz, explains. “When I look at the letters again, I’m less passionate about the idea and I can see if the strokes were indeed good ideas, and could be improved, or will end up in the garbage bin.” If the initial sketches survive the aging process, Cuaz begins work in earnest. It is, perhaps, an unusual approach to typeface design, but one that works quite well for Cuaz.
Cuaz has always had a knack for letters. Even as an elementary school child in the south of France, Cuaz recalls that his teachers asked him to copy short poems in his handwriting and then posted the youthful calligraphy on bulletin boards. While his college education netted him a B.A. in Science rather than in the Arts, this was quickly followed by four years of study at Supérieure d’Arts Graphiques in Paris, one of France’s most prestigious design schools.
In 1985, the Atelier National de Création Typographique was founded within the walls of Imprimerie Nationale in Paris, dedicated to teaching students the art and craft of typeface design. Cuaz was one of the first artists to attend the newly opened institution. Here he studied under such eminent French type designers as Ladislas Mandel and José Mendoza, whom Cuaz credits for much of his current skill.
Cuaz’s typeface designs range from classic old style interpretations, like Galena and Augustal, to elegant Didones like. In between are calligraphic designs, including the ITC Cerigo family, and contemporary experimental designs, such as ITC Ellipse. His first typeface was published in 1985. Since then, Cuaz has created more than 25 typefaces – any of which would make a handy addition to a designer’s palette of fonts.
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