Studio Projects
Newsletter Archive
Modula Round & Ribbed
By Zuzana Licko

This text was first published in 1995 on the reverse side of the promotional poster for Modula Round & Ribbed.

Emigre's Modula Family, introduced in 1986, was among the first typeface designs in the Emigre Fonts foundry. After eleven years of observing it in use, Emigre is releasing several design extensions to this Family. Some of the new design variations are in response to usage, others were made possible by the more sophisticated font design tools that are available today.

When we first started manufacturing Emigre Fonts, the font format was still a very closed environment. Once we manufactured the installable and downloadable files, the user was limited to setting type with the typeface as we had designed it. Years later, it became possible for designers to import the character outlines into drawing programs which enabled them to then alter individual letters in order to create customized letter and word combinations. Within a short time I began seeing mutated versions of Modula letterforms used in various applications, such as logotypes. Many of these had the diagonal serifs removed or some of the stark diagonal forms smoothed out. Unfortunately sometimes the alterations were not very well drawn. In answer to this I recently decided to redraw Modula, incorporating some of these ideas within a coherent font design.

After considering the elements to be incorporated, It became apparent that "rounding" was the theme. The first step was the removal of the diagonal serif elements. As a less stark alternative to the angular diagonals that related to the now abandoned diagonal serifs, I decided to use a flowing curved diagonal in the letter such as 'k x s & z.' Then, to carry the rounding theme further, I rounded the end strokes. Removing the diagonal serifs also served to round out the outside letter shape of characters such as 'a d g m n p q r & u.' (The diagonal serifs in my original Modula design served to make word shapes more recognizable, by making them somewhat consistent with traditional letterforms.)

In contrast to this, the round versions seemed obviously more suited to headline applications and therefore, I decided to produce them in a narrower, more elegant proportion. Because this narrower proportion creates an essentially "taller" letterform, it was possible to add small caps versions, since now the capital letterforms could be fit into the space of the x height. The small caps, in turn, provide a wider variety of formal choices when composing headlines or logotypes.

In addition to the 4 Sans and 6 Serif versions in the Round series, there are also two decorative versions, Outlined and Ribbed, that resulted from my experiments in extending this Family.

The "Ribbed" version is a kind of spoof. I'm sure everyone has seen (perhaps even admired) typefaces that are made by superimposing a graphic, such as the American Flag, or a woodgrain pattern over an existing typeface. Modula Ribbed is somewhat like that, except that the pattern (the ribbing) actually relates directly to the "modular" form of the underlying typeface, which would not have been as adaptable to many other typefaces. The ribbed effect itself was made possible by the advanced drawing tools in the current Fontographer. (The early version which was used to draw the 1986 Modula could not have handled so many tight curves. Perhaps even more importantly, the downloadable font, weighing in at 68K even in the new compressed format, would have been too cumbersome to use on the 128K Mac, 512E"Fat"Mac, or the then top of the line MacPlus. (Remember those days?)

The Outlined version is about counterspace, the shapes inside of letters, as well as about the connecting shapes between letters. I started by creating outlines around the Round Sans version. Then I worked on opening up the outline shapes, thereby opening up the boundary between positive and negative space. Then I worked on making the connections compatible between each of the letter combinations. This meant making the positive spaces either connect into a larger positive spaces, or making them enclose a negative space that related to the weight of the positive spaces.


Modula Round & Ribbed Main Page