Breaking Rules

We love type and we love a rebel so French designer Benoît Bodhuin ticks several boxes. With a new font recently added to his characterful collection, we hear from Benoît about his creative process and attitude to the rules... 

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Messing about with legibility, designing type from a strong conceptual stance and applying them to some rather fresh graphic design – Benoît Bodhuin is a designer who exhibits an appealing mix of rigour and risk. Through his type foundry bb-bureau Bodhuin has released a collection of idyosyncratic display fonts, the latest being bb-book Contrasted. To mark this new release, we quizzed him on his approach to type design and his appreciation of its more awkward forms. 

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bb-book Contrasted, typeface by Benoît Bodhuin

You seem to have a lot of fun with type design – how do your type inventions come about? Are they born in the context of a particular design commission and then developed?
I remove myself from the pressure of the design commission to allow myself to work on my projects freely. That gives me satisfaction. Some typefaces are made for fun and others are commissions, such as for Kiblind magazine, but the starting point of each one is desire and an idea – such as exploring contrast or punching. That gives rise to the forms, which lead to the creation of the alphabet. The strict application of this idea gives some difficulties in drawing. Each one is an opportunity to be creative, to find an original form: a new translation of the idea into drawing. And then, as each type designer experiences, making the type homogeneous, without losing either the idea or the drawing.

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BB-book A, typeface by Benoît Bodhuin

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BB-book A regular and bb-book contrasted in use Record sleeve, Butterfleisch, Shower Libido, for MAUS radio designed by Benoît Bodhuin

Tell us about your latest typeface bb-book contrasted – what inspired its aesthetic character?
The bb-book contrasted is a very contrasted alternative of the bb-book A bold. The starting idea is to mix the curve and straight in an unusual way. This idea very quickly leads the drawing to an awkward distribution of contrasts; so, the rule-breaking nature of the typeface.

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bb-book Contrasted, typeface by Benoît Bodhuin

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How do you work up an idea for a new typeface, from initial idea to finished font?
Ideas come to me by working and looking around. Each type that I design makes me want to create another, through untapped solutions and new discoveries. There is a continuity from one typeface to the other (as seen in Mineral to Side A).

What, for you, is the most important job of a display typeface? Readability is important but it's not essential. It's the translation of an idea into drawing that is essential. So it looks to graphic designer work: remain faithful to the idea and transcend the drawing to transmit its expression. Finally, a display typeface plays with the emotions and the intellect of the viewer and injects some desire in the strict framework of typography.

Breaking the rules is essential to move forward. Challenge the legacy without hating it.

You show fonts in use on your website – what’s the best example you’ve found of another designer's use of your font/s?
I like to share my fonts in use because I like to discover them. What I prefer, apart from great use, it's to be surprised. It’s when I don’t recognise my font – despite its strong expression, it’s disappeared in favour of a quality design. I love graphic design and I love that it surprises me – my font might be used in a way that I wouldn't have imagined or in an application of which I hadn’t dreamt.

Why is it interesting to break the rules in type design?
Breaking the rules is essential to move forward. Challenge the legacy without hating it. It’s far from being the only way to create it but it helps. It’s also a way to appreciate the rules, to explore them and to enlighten them. And also like a lot of creative people, I have an issue with the rigidity of rules.

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bb-book A in use, Good Room poster, designed by Braulio Amado

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bb-book contrasted in use, Ficciones Typografika (72”x36”) designed by Benoît Bodhuin

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bb-book A light in use, Record sleeve, Basic Abscissa, Randomized Trial, MAUS radio designed by Benoît Bodhuin