Now go out and buy FF Utility

FF Utility is now available. A FontFont face from Lukas Schneider.

FF Utility is a new typeface family from Lukas Schneider, released through FontShop International’s FontFont label. I’m not sure when the typeface was exactly brought to market, but it seems like it was sometime at the beginning of the year. It is difficult for me to write about this design, as I’ve anticipated its release for over four years now. Here goes…


Image taken from the background of Lukas Schneider's snider-inc.de website.
FF Utility imagery from Lukas Schneider’s website, snider-inc.de

Here’s a story: Back in the spring/summer of 2003, I was a graphic designer doing corporate work in Washington, DC. I had already graduated from RISD and spent a semester as an exchange student at the FH Wiesbaden in Germany. I wasn’t satisfied with my work, and wanted to go back to school to study typography more in depth. I had applied to a number of design schools in both Germany and Switzerland, and received a number of acceptance letters. All I had to do was pass my language exams, pick a new school, and I’d be good to go.

Although I was taking German lessons at the DC Goethe Institute, I would have to travel in order to take the test. The next available testing slot was open in Chicago, and I flew there for a few days in June. Waiting in the lobby of the Chicago Goethe Institute for the spoken portion of my exam to begin, I thumbed through a number of magazines from Germany. I came to an issue of the design periodical form. Inside was an article about a recently-completed graduation project by Lukas Schneider at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach am Main. The work was his Gazoline typeface, the forerunner version of FF Utility. Since the HfG Offenbach was one of the schools I could choose to study at, seeing this project made my decision for me. I was going to study there—where you could learn to make typefaces.

I didn’t do my homework well enough; you can’t really spend all of your time at Offenbach making type, but I didn’t find that out until I had already been a student there for several semesters. Before I left Offenbach for Linotype and Reading, I had even met and gotten to know Lukas, who was a member of the TypeOff collective back when we still thought of ourselves as some sort of group. He’s still an Offenbach Typostammtisch regular.

Speaking of that issue of form, you can read the article that inspired me in their online archive. Sometime in 2004, I bought a copy of this back issue. I’d include an image here, but the copy is in storage right now in Weinheim; I don’t have it with me in Berlin.

 
Mixing some of Lukas Schnieder's FF Utility's weights.

FF Utility is a creative, contemporary sans serif. It reads clear, and sets a mean line of text. You can use it for almost anything. The family includes five weights—light through black. There isn’t an italic, but I think that Lukas has a point implying that such a design doesn’t really need them (more from Lukas about this in a German PAGE magazine interview). The better typographic solution, in my opinion at least, would be to use weight for emphasis: bold with light, or black and regular, for instance.

Under the name Gazoline, the design that would become FF Utility won awards from the ADC and was featured in Output magazine. Let’s hope that next year, it receives an award from the TDC and mention in a Typographica review.

There has already been some nice web coverage of FF Utility, including on Lukas’ own site, iLoveTypography, Spatium-Magzin, and Yves Peters’ Unzipped column at the FontShop BeNeLux site. No word from Jürgen yet on the FontBlog, but I’m guessing that he must be cooking up something extra special.

Now go out and license this one! Visit FontShop now.

8 Comments

  1. I’m surprised that there hasn’t been more of a fuss over FF Utility. I think it deserved a launch party or something.

    I’m with you on what you say about the omission of an italic. I feel that sometimes an italic is included simply because it’s expected–and for that reason I’m disappointed with most. Personally I’d like to see even more weights added.

    I second your admonition: buy it.

  2. Dan Reynolds 5 April 2008 at 22:02

    Lukas mentions in the PAGE article that other variants might be more important to do in the future than italics (like monospace).

    I think that what is important for a type designer to create is a useful system. Not all systems need be identical. And creating un-usual (or even seldomly-used) fonts to fill out a family is really a waste of time and money. Just imagine: every designer only has enough time in his life to do so many fonts. And for everyone, this imaginary number is going to be different. I guess that I’m saying that every weight should count. If it doesn’t, time should be used for something else that does.

    Since I haven’t heard any German noise about Utility (other than the PAGE article and a mention in the last printed FontShop Berlin magazine), I’m hoping that there might be some little magic to happen at TYPO Berlin, which is as close to you get to a yearly typographic bash in Germany.

    I’m sure we’ll all find out one way or another…

  3. Glad you like FF Utility, Dan. And I hope you like the new name too, as it was partly my suggestion.

    Here is the FontShop newsletter announcing FF Utility in February. I’d also recommend linking to the OpenType version which (besides being cross-platform) has all the stylistic alternates, figure sets, and other goodies in one font per weight.

  4. Dan Reynolds 6 April 2008 at 10:44

    Thanks for the OT reminder; I’ve updated the link.

  5. Heeeey Dan, hope you are well!! Extremly nice report!
    Thank you very much for your support!
    I am a bit jealous seeing you on pictures with Mr. Unger over there 😉 Respect!

    A launch party is even a great idea – never thought about that.
    I will contact some (international) Magazines to get a feature.
    ….
    Hope to see you soon at the Typo-Stammtisch in good old Offenbach!
    I am looking forward for your Devanagari/Latin Typeface!
    It will be a highlight for sure!

  6. Dan Reynolds 6 April 2008 at 21:23

    Thanks! It will be great to be back in Offenbach when this is all over.

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  8. […] habe ich nichts in der Pfanne, Dan. Um so mehr freue ich mich über Deine Reportage, denn Du und Lukas, ihr habt einen längeren Zeitraum gemeinsam in Offenbach verbracht. Noch […]

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