Ramiro Espinoza occupies a special place in the type design world. Originally from Argentina, he has lived and worked in the Netherlands for almost fifteen years. This gives him more than just the singular perspective of a South American expat observing Dutch design culture. Espinoza has also actively investigated typical instances of lettering and typography in the Netherlands. Two of the three typefaces in this release, the breathtakingly ornate Krul and the neo-industrial sans Kade, directly interpret letterforms in the Dutch urban environment, while friendly Winco originates from a more conceptual approach.
Krul resulted from a fascinating discovery trip Espinoza describes in his excellent book, The Curly Letter of Amsterdam. Walking the city streets, Espinoza noticed that the windows of many traditional “brown” bars were adorned with an intricate, refined script sporting vertiginous curly swashes—hence the name Krul, Dutch for “curl.” He went on a quest to find out who painted them and who developed this virtuoso alphabet. After extensive research, Espinoza finally managed to piece the puzzle together, discovering the style’s originator and meeting his successor. As the vintage calligraphic letters on the windows often get replaced by cheaper vinyl lettering when bars are renovated or change owners, the signature Amsterdam style appeared to Espinoza to be in danger of disappearing. This prospect drove him to preserve the extraordinary lettering style like a genuine typographic archaeologist. He went on to develop a digital font that incorporated the lettering’s breathtaking gestural acrobatics and enchanting quirks. Espinoza also collaborates with the Amsterdam Signpainters in an effort to restore the curly letters in Amsterdam’s cityscape and beyond.
Because every example of the curly letters in Amsterdam is unique, each with a site-specific solution, Espinoza could not turn Krul into a literal digitization. Rather, it’s an idealized interpretation gathering the most beautiful versions of the letters pulled from various sources. Many characters come with numerous variants. The character set features an extended set of standard ligatures, plus discretionary ligatures that create surprising connections between letter pairs. The capitals are available in an additional style with increased ornamentation. And standalone ornaments beautifully complement the letters. These niceties allow the user to finesse the setting until it is just right to create the illusion of a spectacular calligraphic piece. Because of its high contrast and elegant shapes, Krul is ideal for editorial use, advertising, and ephemera like announcements and invitations. Its flamboyance sets Krul apart from more conventional copperplate script faces.
Winco stems from another tradition: the beautiful hand-lettered book covers from yesteryear. Before type became scalable, large type had to be hand-rendered by skilled graphic artists. Dutch designers like Helmut Salden and Boudewijn Ietswaart drew titles and supporting text for book covers, masterfully constructing and arranging the letters until they filled the canvas with grace and impact. Espinoza took this approach as a starting point for the design of his expressive Winco. He found further inspiration in the energetic, flavorful German and Czech printing types that were influential in the early twentieth century. The marriage of those two sources produced a design that sparkles on the page, with letterforms that achieve the remarkable feat of appearing to be both painted by hand and cut in metal—the best of both worlds. Thanks to its lightly contrasted strokes with flared, angled endings, and economical shapes with well-defined corners and curves, the versatile Winco adds character to body copy and display type in a multitude of applications.
If Winco comes across as warm and human, the steadfast sans serif Kade was forged in industry. Its origins lie in photographs taken by type designer David Quay over the past decade in the harbors of Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Poetically, “Kade” happens to be the Dutch word for the name of the typeface’s creator, “quay.” The design emerged after years of observing industrial letters that were cut in metal and attached to the facades of hangars and the sides of ships. Kade samples these strong, uncompromising letterforms. Technical limitations and engineering logic informed the shapes’ idiosyncrasies, with unexpected straight-to-curve transitions and tense curves creating a striking appearance. The italics are equally unorthodox: they were constructed by tilting the roman characters eight degrees instead of slanting them, the usual starting point. Kade is a highly personable sans serif family with a technical flair that will bring a strong, contemporary personality to identity and branding projects, and feels equally at ease in editorial and display use.
Like all Retype fonts, Krul, Winco, and Kade are available for print, web, applications, and ePub licensing. Webfonts may be tested free for thirty days. To stay current on all things Retype, subscribe to Type Network News, our occasional email newsletter featuring font releases, foundry happenings, type and design events, and more.