Tacit Approval

Tacite Light is an elegant, characterful new typeface recently released by Amsterdam-based designer Pauline Le Pape. In today's Showcase she shares the story of Tacite's development, and explains how she turned a personal side project into a fully-fledged font...

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Tacite Light specimen.

How did the project come about, and what did you want to achieve with Tacite—was there a particular feeling you wanted to evoke, or a use you had in mind for the typeface?
Tacite Light is the end result of a long process; it took me about two and a half years of work to finally decide it was time to let it live outside of my software. I worked on it here and there, in very different contexts, and for this reason what I wanted to achieve slightly evolved over time. I began to design Tacite when I was a type design student in Paris; started to put things into perspective as an intern in Amsterdam; actively worked on it again as a graphic design student at KABK in The Hague; and then returned to it again as a type design student back in Paris when I graduated last year. I finally released Tacite Light this year, as a graphic and type designer based in Amsterdam.

It was both a matter of time and location, I would say. Since the beginning of the process I wanted to express a sort of duality, a contrast in the dynamic that the typeface would express: sharp but round, light but strong.

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An early version of the typeface in development.

What was your starting point for the design of Tacite and where did you look for inspiration?
Two and a half years ago when I was studying Type Design at École Estienne in Paris, our calligraphy teacher Michel Derre introduced an assignment called ‘Caractère de caractère’. Basically, we had to carefully choose a portrait of someone that we liked, basing our choice on the atmosphere that the portrait provides. The first step was to put into words what kind of feeling this portrait evoked. From this analysis, we then had to design a font that related to the character we picked.

I chose the portrait of a very young Johan Cruijff, early in his career, dressed in Ajax Amsterdam kit and holding a bronze cup. I didn’t know much about him back then, but his face seemed quite familiar to me. I recently discovered some books and publications about him in my grandparents’ house—I probably stored it somewhere in my mind for all those years! Cruijff is one of the most famous Dutch football players of his time. The funny coincidence is that I didn’t know back then that I would eventually be based in Amsterdam. What I liked so much about the photo in question was the attitude of Johan: both strong, proud but slightly insecure. I thought it would be a good basis to start to work on a typeface, energetically speaking.

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The portrait of Johan Cruijff that sparked the project.

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Type specimen for Tacite Light.

Describe your design process to us—how did the typeface start to take shape?
The first part of the process was determined by the assignment itself, so the different steps to follow were quite precise: the first step was to sketch, by doing calligraphy. The idea at this stage was to design some letters, and then quite quickly some words, in order to find an interesting texture to develop. I lost most of my sketches during my several moves between Paris, The Hague and Amsterdam, but thankfully my work for the second step—hand drawing letters and digital sketches—wasn’t lost, so I could keep referring back to it throughout the whole process. The light aspect of the typeface was determined by this first step of calligraphy, and especially by the tools I chose to work with: I mostly used the thinnest calligraphy pen I had, and an english calligraphy nib.

After this short period of research, I started an internship at Atelier Roosje Klap which lasted for almost six months. After that, I had the opportunity (thanks to Roosje, co-head of the department together with Niels Schrader) to do an exchange at KABK, the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, in the Graphic Design department. During this time—about a year—I kept on working here and there on Tacite, but because of the situation, the project developed further away from its original purpose and became something more and more personal. Surprisingly, even though I didn’t really think anymore about the original assignment, I was still obsessed with the idea of duality that the Cruijff portrait inspired. Retrospectively, I think the early version of Tacite was way too aggressive, and only reflected a minor part of my intention. With the time, I wanted to make it a bit more easy to use, and also more nuanced.

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Further early work on Tacite.

Were there any particular technical challenges to overcome during the design process?
At the very beginning of the process, I came across difficulties in the digitization of my calligraphy. I never really managed to come up with a satisfying texture. It was actually the last time I used calligraphy in a design process, but I can’t say it was a negative experience, as in the end it became a big part of the typeface’s identity. For instance, I don’t think the typeface would have been as light and sharp without this calligraphy step. The lightness of Tacite could be seen as a weakness, but over time, as the typeface became more of a hidden side project for me, I thought I shouldn’t compromise too much, and rather celebrate and emphasise the original fineness of the design.

Meanwhile, I had to completely reconsider some letters, because they were simply not adaptable for a text typeface. I had to find a good balance between the sharpness I wanted to explore and the legibility of the end result, and between my original intention and the functionality of a finished typeface. All that aside, I also found it hard to find the time to work on it efficiently! Tacite was a side project for 90% of the time, mostly designed in the evening, between deadlines. Working on it in this way had its inconveniences, but also some advantages, as you can have a fresh perspective on a project if you’re sometimes forced to forget it for a while.

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A type specimen for the finished Tacite Light.

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A type specimen for the finished Tacite Light.

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Publication design for A Minor State of Flux.

Tell us about the design for the identity and publication for A Minor State of Flux — why was Tacite chosen for this project and how did you develop these designs?
Together with Roosje Klap, we designed a publication and the signage of the exhibition A Minor State of Flux for Arti et Amicitiae, a Dutch artists’ society located in Amsterdam. The exhibition features the work of thirteen artists who explore the notion of transition through their practice. This notion of flux is based on a mathematical formula by Giovanni Cinà. We worked with a plus sign as the basis of the identity, which can work both on static and animated designs in a very simple way. We decided to associate this sign with Tacite Light because of the good contrast and effective visual combination of a concrete mathematical sign and a spiky typeface. It was also a good opportunity to see it use in real life, for the first time

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Exhibition graphics for A Minor State of Flux, featuring Tacite Light.

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Publication design for A Minor State of Flux.

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Publication design for A Minor State of Flux.

What are your future plans for the Tacite typeface—are there any further projects coming up in which it's used, and are you planning to develop more weights?
I recently used Tacite Light in a publication called La Table, which I designed together with some of my friends and former classmates from École Estienne. The team is made of Victor Fonseca, Lucas Le Bihan, Jimmy Le Guennec, and Axel Pelletanche Thévenart. The project is almost fully released, we are working now on the very last details! But above all, I’m looking forward to seeing Tacite Light used by other designers. It’s very exciting to see what designers can create using your typeface.

For the future of Tacite, I thought it would be wise to make the familly grow, for practical reasons. As I’m mainly doing graphic design during the day, Tacite also gives me the discipline to keep on working on typefaces. I’m currently developing the italic and text versions of Tacite. It’s a brand new phase of the process for me, and has more to do with the functionality of the typeface. Another step and a completely different approach, which I really like.

Pauline Le Pape is a graphic and type designer based in Amsterdam. She graduated in June 2016 from École Estienne in Paris with a MA in type design. Tacite Light is available for purchase on request directly from Pauline—visit paulinelepape.fr

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The Tacite text weight typeface in development.