Designer Spotlight

Women in Design: Sibylle Hagmann

March 12, 2015 by
FontShop Team
FontShop Team

Originally from Switzerland, Sibylle Hagmann explored her passion for type design and typography while completing her MFA at CalArts. After releasing her popular Cholla typeface suite through legendary digital foundry Emigre, the awarded type designer and teacher set up her own foundry Kontour.

Cholla in use, book and editorial design by Sagmeister, New York.
Cholla in use, book and editorial design by Sagmeister, New York.

Welcome to our interview and Fontlist series as part of the FontShop Celebrates: Women in Design week. During this series we interviewed a few of our favourite female designers. We then asked them to compile their own Fontlists of their top type picks, giving reasons as to why those particular faces tickled their fancy.

Today we talk with Sibylle Hagmann of the one-woman foundry Kontour.

Axia in use, CD cover design by Martin Tiefenthaler, Vienna.
Axia in use, CD cover design by Martin Tiefenthaler, Vienna.

Axia™ is a robust sans serif of concise letter forms. Each, the roman and italic weights harmonize perfectly in line width. Text set in Light or Black results in the same fit. Two stencil display weights with a unique aesthetic and perfect for captivating type sizes add further distinctive options to the typographic palette.
Axia™ is a robust sans serif of concise letter forms. Each, the roman and italic weights harmonize perfectly in line width. Text set in Light or Black results in the same fit. Two stencil display weights with a unique aesthetic and perfect for captivating type sizes add further distinctive options to the typographic palette.

You set up Kontour back in 2000. What was/is the most challenging part about running your own foundry?

Sibylle Hagmann | “Finding the time to design and develop the typefaces I have ideas for.”

Who would you love to design a custom typeface for?

Sibylle Hagmann | “I would love to design a custom typeface for a design museum or collection. Lately I’ve also been looking at the type employed in the The New Yorker, a weekly magazine with a mix of reporting, commentary on politics, pop culture along with fiction, humour, and more. The publication itself was initially launched in 1925 which is why the characteristic display type used in the magazine and online connotes the ’20s. While this headline type is charming and refined as is, some letter shapes itch to be revised subtly. Perhaps a job for the mag’s upcoming 100th anniversary?”

Odile™ is a text typeface with bracketed head and bracket-free bottom lower case serifs, a quality that counters rigidness most traditional slab serif typefaces possess. This contemporary design draws inspiration from an experimental typeface named Charter originally designed by the American book and type designer William Addision Dwiggins.
Odile™ is a text typeface with bracketed head and bracket-free bottom lower case serifs, a quality that counters rigidness most traditional slab serif typefaces possess. This contemporary design draws inspiration from an experimental typeface named Charter originally designed by the American book and type designer William Addision Dwiggins.

You have taught in the field for a number of years. How have the methods and content changed, if at all?

Sibylle Hagmann | “Visual expression has been on the rise everywhere in the last couple of years, and methods of instruction and content are in constant flux. Student projects are continuously being adjusted to changing tools, techniques, and increasing levels of complexity. What remains constant though are the study of the basics of form, the intricacies of craft, and critical/design thinking.”

Since starting your career what has been greatest achievement to date?

Sibylle Hagmann | “In my mind the decision to have shifted the focus of my studio practice exclusively on type design.”

Elido™ (Odile in reverse) is the sans counterpart to the Odile type. Together they form a sans/serif superfamily with a wide range of variations for editorial use. Elido follows Odile's proportions and matches the weight and typographic color of its serif twin.
Elido™ (Odile in reverse) is the sans counterpart to the Odile type. Together they form a sans/serif superfamily with a wide range of variations for editorial use. Elido follows Odile's proportions and matches the weight and typographic color of its serif twin.

Last year, you gave a fantastic talk at TYPO San Francisco about GDR design. What was it that initially inspired you to investigate this period of design?

Sibylle Hagmann | “The initial focus of this study has been on how type design developed in the GDR after World War II juxtaposed to the advancements of typography in West Germany. My curiosity circled around how a cultural and economic vacuum influenced the GDR type industry. The geographic area that became Eastern Germany included cities, like, for example, Leipzig or Dresden, locations with extraordinary traditions in fine typography. This study also allowed me to become more familiar with these traditions. I find that “ingesting” research has almost always the effect of the material resurfacing and poring back out in a mentally processed manner. Before pursuing a similar study, I’m hoping to advance this one further sometime in the future.”

Check out Sibylle’s typefaces and discover her Favorite Fonts.

Undergraduate student work from the University of Houston, School of Art, Graphic Design program.
Undergraduate student work from the University of Houston, School of Art, Graphic Design program.

Type design workshop with the graphic design graduate students of the OTIS College of Art and Design in Los Angeles in 2011.
Type design workshop with the graphic design graduate students of the OTIS College of Art and Design in Los Angeles in 2011.