In 1960, a Czechoslovakian design competition was held to determine the best new Czech typeface for book composition. The winner was designed by Josef Tyfa, a respected advertising and exhibit designer who had embarked on a career change to concentrate on the typographic arts.
Tyfa’s winning design was made into fonts for the Linotype typecaster, and was also available as hand-set type by the Czech type foundry Grafotechna. Although the design found immediate and continued popularity in Czechoslovakia, it saw little use elsewhere.
Eighteen years later, another Czech type designer, Jan Solpera, sent ITC a letter suggesting that it should consider releasing Tyfa as an ITC typeface, thus giving the rest of the world a chance to use the design.
Unfortunately, at the time Solpera’s letter was sent, the “Iron Curtain” was still firmly drawn. Cold War politics made communication between the U.S. and people in Communist countries difficult at best, and often impossible. It wasn’t until another twelve years had passed, in 1990, that ITC was able to correspond with Tyfa.
Tyfa was willing to license his design to ITC, but all he had to offer were the thirty-year-old original drawings on yellowing paper. At the time, ITC was not producing digital fonts. The design continued to languish.
In 1995 another Czech type designer, Frantisek Storm, approached Tyfa and proposed digitizing the typeface under the elder designer’s direction. Tyfa agreed. To build Tyfa’s design into a family of digital fonts, Storm started with scanned images of the original drawings for metal type.
Maintaining the personality and basic characteristics of the metal original was a primary objective for the two designers. However, as the new digital typeface family was developed, a number of subtle changes were made. Curves were softened, serifs were modified, and other analog “noise” was removed without detracting from the distinctive character of the design.
Structurally, ITC Tyfa is a neoclassical design, with a vertical axis, pronounced contrast between thick and thin strokes, and thin serifs with no bracketing joining them to the stems.
The curves and the variations of thick and thin show exuberance far beyond most neoclassical types. While it’s possible to see echoes of other Czech type designers, such as Oldrich Menhart, in Tyfa's work, ITC Tyfa is not a “national” type design. It’s a typeface with a truly international appeal and a distinctive character all its own.
With the newly released ITC Tyfa Pro, graphic communicators can now work with this versatile design while taking advantage of OpenType’s capabilities, including the automatic insertion of old style figures, ligatures and small caps. The new ITC Tyfa Pro fonts offer an extended character set supporting most Central European and many Eastern European languages, in addition to English.