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The Sooy style

Jack Yan talks to designer Brian Sooy, whose typefaces are now available directly from the Sooy Type Foundry, using some innovative means to sell fonts

T Y P E F A C E  D E S I G N E R S employ different methods and have different inspirations in bringing their creations onto the market. While the majority of designers prefer creating spontaneous, semi-legible display fonts, Brian Sooy of the Sooy Type Foundry has concentrated on the premium market, with refined, well-crafted work. STF is one of the few third-party developers of Adobe Multiple Master fonts, and exquisitely kerned and spaced typefaces. Sooy has been behind A*I Veritas, his best known type family released through Alphabets, Inc., of Evanston, Illinois.
   Sooy's interest was first sparked by 'an old Speedball book, a box of Speedball nibs, and a bottle of ink.' Formally trained, he can visualize entire typeface designs before committing them to a font-creating package. 'My handlettering experience goes back over 20 years, more often than not I am starting on-screen and molding the character set as I develop the typeface.'
<IMG SRC="veritasrom.gif" WIDTH=240 HEIGHT=100 BORDER=0>

Above: Brian Sooy's Veritas Roman: elegant and distinctive - not to mention highly legible. Below: Completing the family, Veritas Italic <IMG SRC="veritalmovie.gif" WIDTH=225 HEIGHT=100 BORDER=0>

   This is not the only way Sooy approaches his work. 'Veritas began as a full set of pencil drawings, and after its first go-round, was modified on-screen to become what it is today. Because it is a text family, it required careful drawing and planning of both the Roman and Italic to ensure consistency.' The entire family took six years to complete, receiving excellent reviews upon its release in 1995. He plans a refined and hinted version of the typeface for screen and print use.
   Other typefaces begin as hand-lettering, and still others take their cue from a basic idea, such as Sooy's Greenbrier, developed to answer the question, 'What would a font look like that connects at the sides?'
   Sometimes a perceived need drives development. 'For instance, I was really bothered that people at my church had a difficult time reading their Bibles. After analyzing the problem, I determined that the narrow column widths in a Bible, combined with a traditionally "wide" typeface such as Palatino or Berkeley or Century Oldstyle were a bad combination. So in 1989, I began to design Veritas as a "reduced-width" typeface (as opposed to condensed) to solve this problem.'
   After getting the initial designs into the font-editing package, Sooy goes through an exhaustive spacing and kerning process, making sure that the typefaces will appear right on the page or screen. This ensures that even amateur font users can get expert-looking results. 'The reaction I get from people is that they're surprised how well these fonts work for their needs.'

I N I T I A L L Y, Brian Sooy's typeface designs first saw the light of day through licensing to other foundries, such as Alphabets, Inc. This has helped him achieve broad exposure, but the return on investment is not great. However, he accepts that having a licensee take care of marketing and transaction processing is worthwhile.
   Today, he prefers to sell directly from his new typefoundry, STF. Although his typefaces are still licensed, the agreements are non-exclusive, allowing Sooy to have the best of both worlds. 'I have not abandoned licensing to other foundries - in fact I would welcome the opportunity.'
   The STF-issued typefaces have an 'STF' prefix, which acts as a mark of authenticity. Like all professional type designers, he is concerned about font piracy, and hopes that this form of branding allows differentiation from the offerings that pirates release. With the individual design of STF typefaces, Sooy's aim that the prefix will stand for quality should be easily realized.

S T F ' S   M A R K E T I N G capitalizes on its founder's knowledge in the graphic design business. Sooy believes strongly in creating an experience for visitors to the www.bsooy.com web site. Visitors can interact with the typefaces through Flash and Macromedia Shockwave files. As typefaces seldom produce sufficient income for one to become a "full-time type designer", Sooy works in the design and communications industries in his own operation, Brian Sooy & Co.
   The benefits of working in the design business are twofold. First, Sooy and his team are able to understand what designers need from fonts and their real-world application. Second, the work allows him to keep check of design trends.
<IMG SRC="coventry2.gif" WIDTH=350 HEIGHT=100 BORDER=0>

Above: The new Coventry typeface from the Sooy Type Foundry, available as both Adobe Multiple Master and separate fonts

   In terms of trends, Sooy feels that 'handlettered looks are growing popular, which is right on time for the 12-15 year calligraphic, handlettered-look cycle in advertising and design.
   'Deconstructivist type will continue to be popular (at least in the US).'
   If there is a down side to working in the design business, it is that Sooy is often too swamped to develop his type designs. For most independent foundries, type is created in spare time, as no designer can guarantee the success of a design enough to forego other paying work.

D E S P I T E the lack of time, Sooy is constantly coming up with new ideas for future release. This year, he released a new Multiple Master typeface, Coventry MM. For those who would rather deal with individual font files, STF has also made Coventry available in a three-weight family.
   Cadenza, a sans serif, will be released in the future, both in multiple weights and as a Multiple Master family. 'I saw a lot of beautiful sans in Europe, and that is my inspiration for Cadenza.
   'I'm also working on an elegant condensed face called Parker, which addresses some voids in the market which I see. I've used developmental characters on a Dizzy Gillespie CD cover for Telarc International, and am developing a full character set for an interested licensor.'
   There are several other semi-completed fonts, which will make their début once Sooy gets more time to spend on them. Without doubt, devotees of good typography and type design look forward to their release.

External links

Brian Sooy & Co.

Internet Type Foundry Index

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