Tour de Force Interview
Fontmatters presents Slobodan and Dusan Jelesijevic from Tour de Force
Moving forward with the next interview. This time our location is Serbia and our conversation is with Tour de Force team. Their impressive work was the reason to contact them but in the meantime while talking we discovered many different stories and thoughts about their fonts, interests and life. Meet Slobodan and Dusan Jelesijevic – father and son totally dedicated to typography. Enjoy reading!
Your foundry is one of the few where a father and a son are working together. Two different generations, meaning old and new typography methods. Is there some kind of competition between the two of you or everything is a successful unity?
It took some time until we set basic plan and harmonize working process. Probably if we decided to make cheese instead of fonts, there would be same starting infrequency again. We think basic typography method is pretty similar for both of us, we rely on same typographic basis, but the final handwriting of a typeface is probably reflection of two different generations of designers. But its good combination, not limited to current typographic trends, bringing things from both generations. Having 2 or more pairs of eyes is very desirable; sometimes it’s hard to notice irregularities or to move on from current phase into another. So we don’t compete between ourselves because that would be working against our interest, working against ourselves. Each one have own ideas and when one got something new to share, the other one only gives comments how to improve it or suggest direction where could it go like how many weights would contain, will there be Italics, would it become something else with curtain change etc.
Please, tell us something about the idea of creating a font foundry. Where did it come from? And why Tour De Force?
It all started by publishing Slobodan’s two font families for Monotype – ITC Pino and ITC Nova Lineta and soon after mine Dusan Script for independent Ascender Corp. then (now in ownership of Monotype). Those were probably important confidence boost that brought us into breaking point of starting our own label and going independent. We started with a couple of decorative releases, then we moved on sans families and now we combine mostly all categories in our catalog. Some our unspoken aim was to try to make typefaces that wouldn’t belong only to one category, to try to play with everything that we feel it could be interesting, no matter if it’s currently popular trend or something totally judged as noncommercial. The perfect example is our family Hedon which didn’t have much commercial success, but it was selected by Fonts.com in their Best of 2014 list. This year in May we’ll count 6th year we’re doing this.
We picked name Tour de Force because we’d like to go on that level with out work. Someone calls us Tour de Fonts cause of our domain (tourdefonts.com), but at the end it’s just a name, important is what stands behind it.
You live in a country where the Cyrillic is the official alphabet but the Latin alphabet is very popular, too. In your huge typeface catalog you have just a few fonts supporting the Cyrillic alphabet. What is the reason and do you have any future plans for covering more alphabets including Cyrillic?
There are many current fonts from our catalog that include Cyrillic in character set, but not published or released. We design them almost for each typeface, but we’re not releasing it. There are many opinions here about this issue, where is our Cyrillic now, it involve politics, economy, different cultural point of views, many organizations are getting loud and acting aggressive from both sides and for now it’s all pretty messy, without national strategy on this question. Plus countries where Cyrillic is in use are not so familiar with efforts someone invest in making Cyrillic, so for now we are on standby, until some things change there.
Do you think that nowadays for a typeface to be a commercial success it must necessarily be a web font?
I’m not sure, I’m not predicting well commercial success nor do we both think of it when we create typefaces. There are a lot of relative things that could affect on commercial success, from banal things like font name, what foundry or designer did it, price, sale package, moment of releasing… But what is sure is that with development of CSS3 and HTML5 web typography jumped on next level, if you have patient and idea, you can make very impressive things with web fonts. But it’s big advantage for sure.
Is there a font in which you put your heart and soul as they say and still it didn’t receive the recognition you thought it deserved?
Yes. But after a couple of times, you learn you can’t control all things outside of your office and get disappointed each time you’re not satisfied with the results. That happens; it’s the risk nobody told you before starting this, like with every other product out there. Someone invest his time, energy, knowledge, resources to develop an product and when it’s done and gone on market, you can only hope you did everything needed. But that’s the point at the end; it wouldn’t be interesting without it. So it keeps you thinking, rethinking over and over again, what was wrong, what next, you try some new methods. And sometimes satisfaction of making something could be more valuable than commercial success.
Where do you dream to see one of your typefaces used and which one is this?
We’d like to see our font used by a government, chosen by a country to represent them. That would be like having basketball club and one player that’s with club since teenager, get a call to play for national team. Or in other context – imagine for example that i.e. Horrorama appears on official documents by Serbian government, that would be very symbolic in this moment. Or Hedon to be applied in a country that’s economically and politically stable, where you can live like hedonist.
What factors affect your decisions about what kind of projects to work on? Do you like to design custom-made fonts for different clients?
We usually don’t have some specific idea what kind of typeface should we make next. Mostly of time, it’s spontaneous idea, not related to current trends by following the style of typefaces that are currently on best sellers lists. We usually start a couple of typeface at same time. That’s the reason why sometimes we release a couple of font families in just a couple of days distance. It’s a method we find to be perfect, that keeps up concentrated and doesn’t let us get tired easy by doing and looking only at one typeface.
On the other hand, time is surеly very important. If you don’t have enough time or the client doesn’t wants to wait that much to get his typeface done, than it’s very problematic and hard decision to make – to jump in with the awareness of every fact or to act like its all fine, we’ll make it just for sake of good offer. When you need to invest months in single project, it’s very important that you are satisfied about quality of your work, not only client. It’s your representative work, something that will represent the client as well, it would display where you spent months of work and for us it’s more important to satisfy our opinion first then will client like it. If client likes it, he likes the overall idea of a typeface; he doesn’t see tiny things that stick your eyes that are the most important to you. So it’s often hard to explain how complex it may be and why does it takes so long to be completed.
Tell us a little bit more about Mozzart corporate font family, which you developed in co-operation with Lazar Dimitrijević from Posterizer KG.
Dusan: Lazar is my colleague from the University days, we were in same class and we did together a few student projects before Mozzart family. He contacted me to work with him together on corporate font family for the biggest betting house on Balkan, introduced their requests and terms and we decided to do it. It was interesting project, to work with another type designer, to see how he thinks and to see things from other perspective. So we created sans family that contains extended Latin character set with Cyrillic that now appears on their corporate materials, websites, betting tickets, apps etc. It’s the first project know to us that one Serbian company have its own corporate typeface and we’re really happy that we were part of it.
Is there a continuity in the Serbian typography? It looks like except you, Lazar Dimitrijević (Posterizer KG), Zoran and Nikola Kostić (Kostic type foundry), there are no other so prominent type designers.
Basically, those are the only type designers that seriously work on types and publish them constantly. Kostic type foundry is also father and son partnership (we don’t have so far mother and daughter foundry, that would be a calligraphy team I guess). There are of course other designers, but they mostly do types as student projects and that’s where it ends. There are more calligraphers then type designers in Serbia.
What is your opinion – will Latin alphabet gradually replace the Cyrillic in the future in the countries where the latter is used?
Eventually it will happend. The tendency is present. If you look into the past, into the evolution of writing, one script replaces another. Sometimes it was done as result of conquering other’s land. So we guess today Internet and globalization is conquering all non-Latin countries, effecting on their culture, adding new words to dictionaries, creating new pictograms for communication. Think it’s hard to stay on one side only, both sides are right if you think of it. Here in Serbia if you use Cyrillic, there are people who will call you nationalist. If you don’t use it, they will call you western traitor. It’s national thing, it’s also one national mark beside national anthem, flag… cultural identities of small countries became something similar to small companies that fight for their piece of market. Big ones pushes you to play by their rules and accept their equipment if you want to survive, so there’s tendency that one day something that we considered very common becomes exotic and rare cause it stands out of plans of those who set up the game in their courtyard.
Apart from the famous Serbian grill, the naviachi and Emir Kusturica is there something popular that we don’t know about your country?
Best basketball players. Tesla and Pupin were Serbs. We celebrate 2 New Years. 17 Roman emperors were born in Serbia. Word vampire comes from Serbian mythology. Wife of Albert Einstein was Serb. WWI started in Serbia. We use Latin and Cyrillic and both are official.
Do you believe that every font matters?
Yes. Every font is practice for next better one. And every font can be used in one moment.
Photos: Danko Krstović and Simo Marić
Tour de Force Interview