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How did you get started in type design and learn the skills necessary for your career? My first-ever attempt in dabbling with type design is something that I now view as affectionately embarrassing: In 2015, I was passionate about graphic design and very much self taught. At the time, I was studying fine arts at Central Saint Martins, London, and this fine arts background is very much present within my practice. I wanted a custom typeface for my tattoo of the word Ultraviolence, my favorite record of all time by Lana Del Rey. I basically took the font Seagram—which I believe is a gothic typeface for a beer brand—on Dafont, erased the serifs in Photoshop and called it a day!

Emboldened by this experience—which I thought was extremely fun, I decided to create my first typeface, called Cleankut, in Photoshop, inspired by five fonts I really liked at the time. Obviously, this typeface now looks, let’s say, unprofessional and funny to me, but I was then incredibly proud of it.

In 2016, I entered the École de Communication Visuelle (“School of Visual Communications”) in Paris for a BA in graphic design, and my typography teacher had an extremely profound influence on me falling desperately in love with the act of drawing letters. In 2018, I chose to continue my pursuit of letterforms in the typography masters program at the same school under the direction of Jean–François Porchez, and I started studying again in 2023 when I was accepted in the TypeMedia masters program at the Royal Academy of Art in the Hague, which I consider to be pure typographic paradise. I have been learning an astonishing amount in terms of technical skills. Though I was originally self taught, going to TypeMedia is proving extremely beneficial to my understanding of the craft.

What software and tools have you been using for type design, and what do you like about them? Since 2018, my main application for type design is the Mac-based software Glyphs—Glyphs 2 at first and Glyphs 3 now. At TypeMedia, we are very much encouraged to explore—and perhaps design—our own tools, which is something that super interests me. Glyphs is a software I am very comfortable with, which is why I would like to discover the more in-depth font editor RoboFont: I love Glyphs because it is incredibly intuitive and snappy, and I can bend it to my will. RoboFont seems more daunting to me, which is good, because it forces me to learn and discover by myself how to achieve what I want.

Also, I am coding more and more with the Python-based graphics generator DrawBot, particularly to animate variable fonts as that process takes me dozens of hours on After Effects. I have been using the Adobe suite forever but am strongly considering switching to other software.

At an alarming rate, I am getting more into the physical aspect of the craft. I have never been an analog-process kind of person, but with TypeMedia, I am truly starting to see its beauty. I would very much like to continue practicing calligraphy and hand drawing.

Tell us about your gothic pixel-based font Baleze. What inspired its creation, and what challenged or surprised you about working on it? Baleze is a font that I first created a file for in July 2020 and that I only recently released on Future Fonts, which I am super proud of. More styles are definitely coming!

Baleze’s origin is a Fraktur Alphabet from Pennsylvania dated around 1825–1850. If I remember correctly, I found it on Pinterest during the pandemic lockdown. I am deeply fascinated by pixel fonts and their potential, and this project was such an amazing learning experience for me: I was able to combine the concept of contemporary Fraktur, pixel fonts, the use of custom filters on Glyphs, and the challenge of building upon an existing inspiration, to create a glyph set that would fit the original vibe. I am happy with the way the cleaning of glyphs was handled from the original Glyphs filter result. It was a long, tedious and difficult process, but I think that among all my typefaces, perhaps only Lithops can correspond as well to my vision of type.

Baleze is the quintessential Daytona Mess font for me. I was honestly surprised at how fun and liberating building the lower case was—which is super different than the capitals. I was also challenged by the readability and legibility of this typeface, which made my joy even greater when it caught the interest of Future Fonts!

One thing that strikes me when I look at your work is your penchant for experimental ornamental display fonts, like Lithops, Sichem and Tulype. How did you develop your approach to creating these? Experimental display fonts are what I naturally gravitate toward. I find them so much more fun to make and easy to be creative with than basically everything else because so many less rules apply. I believe that creativity is my biggest strength in this field, and though I am now back at university in order to improve my technical skills, I am first and foremost a conceptual person. Back in art school, I mostly created conceptual installations and wrote poetry that looked like songs. I think type design is the most obvious and natural evolution of what I was doing. Type design is the most synthesized, most ultimate, most meta and most concentrated version of communication that exists. It is the very meaning of leaving a trace of your passage on Earth.

I tend not to view type design as performative or as a means to an end: it is a sort of art project, except, for me, drawing letters is so much more interesting than actual figurative or abstract drawings. I would like to be able to also have the versatility to draw commercial sans serifs, which I’m learning to, but experimental display fonts are the very essence of my interest in type design and the way I continue to improve the craft.

Type design is the most synthesized, most ultimate, most meta and most concentrated version of communication that exists. It is the very meaning of leaving a trace of your passage on Earth.”

How does your interest in music and video games inspire your design process? I have no idea if this is an actual thing, but I consider myself to be a sort of type synesthete. I associate letterforms to music and sounds very strongly. I would say type design is my own way of creating music without having any actual talent for music—alas! For me, these two crafts are very much linked in so many ways. Video games have a similar effect to music on me, but more in the sense of conveying meaning through a story that you are the main character of, something that you can modify to your will: a sandbox with set rules that you have to know in order to bend them. Also, I just really, really love pop culture!

Where do you go to find inspiration and references? I’m an archival freak: I really like to save files and organize them on my computer for future reference. Over the years, I have built a solid collection of references I appreciate that I refine, add to and curate very regularly. For the sake of keeping it short and to the point: my favorite places to find inspiration are definitely Are.na and Instagram!

What would be your dream assignment? This is a question I think about a lot. Ultimately, I believe that it would be to design a typeface or type system for a musical artist of which I’m a fan. For example, I have been a Lana Del Rey superfan for ten years now, and drawing something for her would perhaps be my endgame. But very recently, I have set myself to draw typefaces as fan art and practice for some artists I love, such as Orville Peck and Charlotte de Witte. This is something I want to explore much more and perhaps even make a living from. Working for a music festival or label, jazz, pop, or techno in particular would also be a dream. Fashion branding also interests me, but music is definitely something I am obsessed with. And why not a pixel typeface for a video game? But I believe that working in a foundry would be super interesting first, and I have to admit that Ohno and Sharp are some of my favorites!

Where do you think the field of typography is going? Type is at an extremely rich and fascinating stage. Basically, so many things already exist that it is becoming increasingly difficult to be creative, which is my most favorite aspect of the craft. I believe no one can really tell where typography is going, as technology and means of communication are evolving exponentially fast, but that is exactly what makes it so fascinating and thrilling. I’ll be honest—I’m personally not interested in the question of AI and I am not afraid of it, as I believe typography to be a craft where the human eye simply cannot be replaced. Perhaps in the future, typography will become something entirely else than what it is now, but I find this enormously enriching to fuel our letterforms today. I constantly question myself about the future of typography, so I do not have a definite answer—but I believe the answer might be in the journey toward the future.

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? I would have loved to be told not to be afraid about what people might think is “right” or “proper” for this craft. There will always be people questioning the relevance and legitimacy of your work, and it is not unusual for me to receive commentary about the lack of readability of my typefaces, for instance. But I have a very conceptual approach to type, and for me, it is a never-ending quest to find out how to make the craft progress and to question the meaning of typography.

Also, never stop exploring and experimenting! Type design is the most wonderful thing in the universe to me because of so many aspects, and diversity is a huge part of that. Diversity is paramount in life and in type. ca

Anne-Dauphine Borione, alias Daytona Mess, is a type designer from Paris. After a BA in fine arts from Central Saint Martins, London, and a masters in typography and graphic design from the École de Communication Visuelle in Paris, she is currently studying at the Royal Academy of Arts in the Hague, Netherlands, for the TypeMedia masters program. Her practice focuses strongly on experimental display typefaces and questioning the future of letterforms with a conceptual flavor. Borione’s open source font Lithops was awarded the TDC69 seal of excellence. She distributes her typefaces on various foundries, such as Future Fonts and Blaze Type, and she is planning to create her own foundry in the future.


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