Close Previous image Next image

A Stamp in Time, Form 2/2012

On the 10th of May, 2012 the Swedish postal service released a series of new stamps with Swedish typefaces. Form magazine, being immensely interested in typefaces, was naturally excited to hear of this, so Boris Vasic popped out to meet with the designer behind the stamps, Gustav Mårtensson.
Here is the article from from Form 2/2012.

Stamps. We actually still use them, and not just to send Christmas and birthday cards. And for a large number of dedicated collectors, they are much more than just something you lick and send away. Stamps have long made it possible for people to communicate between the remote corners of the world. At Posten’s stamp office (Posten Frimärken) in Kista,just outside of Stockholm, the walls are decorated with stamps dating from 1850 all the way up to the present day. Five typefaces created by Swedish designers will soon join the other stamps on the wall: Berling by Karl-Erik Forsberg, Traffic by Tom Hultgren, Bosis by Bo Berndal, Indigo by Johan Ström and Satura by Peter Bruhn and Göran Söderström.

According to Gustav Mårtensson, the designer of the Typeface (Typsnitt) stamp series, the idea came from enthusiastic members of the public. “We get a lot of suggestions from the public that we collect in an idea bank. And there were several who wanted us to do something with typefaces,” he says.

The entire process takes around a year and involves conceptual discussions with the team about future themes. It was decided, thanks to the ideas from the public, that fonts should be used in some way or another. “We have a lot of freedom to choose what we want to do. And when we met again to present what we had chosen, we discovered we had similar ideas.”

Mårtensson shows me his presentation of the typefaces that he also made to the Design Council, which is the next step in the process. The Design Council is made up of the head of Posten Frimärken, the head of the development department and two external designers. The presentation’s title reads “Five Swedish designers who have made an impression”.

“These aren’t the most important fonts in history, but they are all meaningful in various ways. Either they have been widely used or are some representation of the time. Unfortunately, all of the fonts have been done by men. We just went based on the font’s appearance without thinking about the designer’s gender”, Mårtensson says.

The chosen fonts cover a good deal of modern Swedish typeface history. From the respectable Berling Antikva from 1951 and the 70s-inspired Traffic (1973) to the latest edition Satura (2010), which was this magazine’s first guest typeface in issue 1/2011. “The other fonts were easy to justify to the design council. It’s always more difficult with the newer ones and this is where Form helped out. The fact that Satura was Form’s guest typeface confirmed for us that our view of Satura was an interesting example of today’s vibrant type design climate,” he explains.

Mårtensson, who is a member of Stockholm’s Typographic Guild (Stockholms Typografiska Gille), explains that new fonts are coming out all the time. Corporate fonts are the most common now, for companies that want to create their own identity. It’s hard to estimate how many new fonts are made every year. But new fonts have different levels of penetration. It’s particularly difficult for fonts that are intended as body copy, such as the text you are reading right now.  “It has been hard to compete with classic body fonts because they’ve become so established. But we are seeing new typefaces made in the last 15 years gaining ground all the time.”