Background: Klim Type Foundry was founded by Kris Sowersby in 2005 and is based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Aotearoa/Wellington, New Zealand. Our foundational ethos is “a thing well made”. Our typefaces combine historical knowledge with rigorous contemporary craft. We believe the alphabet is a concept made concrete through written and designed letterforms—the alphabet is not defined by a single typeface but expressed through all of them.
“Our objectives were really quite simple,” says Kris Sowersby. “We wanted visitors and customers to play with our type, test it and read about it. We wanted the experience to be effortless, informative and interesting, and for buyers to encounter a straightforward purchasing and licensing process. Aesthetically, we wanted the redesign of the site to complement Söhne, which is our new brand font.”
Dan Newman says the site’s enhancements were informed by interviews with returning, new and potential customers; usability testing between the old and new site; and prototyping of initial concepts in design software and code to validate and further test the chosen direction.
“Our research confirmed the data we’ve built up over six years: visitors come to Klim to browse and buy, but they also come for font design information, behind-the-scenes articles on typeface craft, interviews, essays and critiques. The writing—by Kris and other authors—is popular, and length of articles appears to be no barrier to popularity. This indicates that in the Klim website universe, words—and how they are presented—matter almost as much as letters.”
Cross promotion: An integral part of the new site is Söhne, a collection of new typefaces described by Sowersby as “the memory of Akzidenz-Grotesk framed through the reality of Helvetica.” As Klim Type Foundry’s 26th font release and the twelfth typeface collection release, Söhne replaces the monospace typewriter-style typeface, Pitch, as the foundry’s brand font.
To mark the release of Söhne, Klim Type Foundry teamed up with New York City– and Geneva-based branding, kinetic identity and typographic research agency DIA. “DIA are at the vanguard of kinetic typography,” says Sowersby. “I’ve always admired [its] work so I’m delighted to collaborate with them.
“[Its] films express the idea of Söhne: fallibility of memory versus reality. [Söhne’s letterforms] were initially developed within a framework of ‘grotesque accidents,’ but evolved to capture a sense of materiality and memory.”
Design core: The ambitious reimagined site marries speed, functionality and elegance. Under the hood, there is a statically-generated Web App front end and a GraphQL API back end. Springload structured the site around responsive and variable layouts based on classic Swiss design principles embedded in CSS grids. Type specimen generation is randomized on a set of defined rules for how type should be displayed.
Overall, the improved type specimens enable visitors to experiment on-screen more easily and in new and better ways. The typefaces are recategorized into collections to better define the relationships between different font family styles. This site better showcases the breadth of Klim’s work in type design but also the foundry’s gallery exhibitions and typeface identity work: the collaborations, publications, goods, colors, photography, animations and videos that have been employed to take its type to wider audiences.
Favorite details: Newman says some of the most useful information related to browsing and purchasing habits was that designers like to review and test out full character sets—including glyph alternates—before making a decision to purchase. Visitors to Klim’s new website will hopefully appreciate the site’s glyph inspector and “bézier view,” which allows a detailed review of full character sets and alternate glyphs. The type specimens, all unique to Klim and readable in their own right, are also automated to randomize with every page refresh. Many of the collections have color-display options, while the website’s just-released brand typeface, Söhne, has a color-switching function that harkens back to the source materials for the typeface’s design, namely the work of Josef Müller-Brockmann, Wim Crouwel, Romek Marber and Karl Gerstner.
Special navigation features: The website’s writing sections, which had previously been deeply buried, have been unearthed and extended. The website aggregates and displays the word count for each section currently on the site: for example, there are 21,752 words about letters in the interview section, 20,903 words in the essay section and 26,511 words in the font information section. The “In use” section, which shows the breadth and diversity of Klim typefaces “in the wild,” has an improved filter to allow design work to be reviewed by typeface and by category, and retail font specimen pages also now serve up related in-use examples.