Tina & Ben, Napoleon Typefaces, 2019.

Name: Tina & Ben

Designers: Erik Sachse

Foundry: Napoleon Typefaces

Release Date: April 2019

Back story: Napoleon Typefaces is based in Weimar, Germany—but it doesn’t have a physical studio. “Most of the time, I work from the library,” says Erik Sachse, the platform’s 23-year-old student founder, who has a very intriguing personal website featuring nothing other than what we presume is a 3D model of himself. “I sometimes wish for my very own studio,” he bemoans.

Napoleon Typefaces has become a space where Sachse releases his experiments with font, and the work that he puts there are very much works-in-progress representing his journey in type design. Sachse is part of that generation that shares as they design, making use of the internet as a way to trial work and swap feedback with other makers. Tina & Ben is one such WIP: a typeface that began a year ago as a study of grotesque lettering.

Tina & Ben, Napoleon Typefaces, 2019.

“I wasn’t satisfied with my grotesque at first, so I tried to make some parts thick and others thin,” Sachse says. “Initially I just wanted to create a sans font that felt minimal, but with more roundness. But after some time I just got bored of it, because it looked like every other sans font. So I just carved out the edges, made them deeper, some stems thinner, and then thought of more ways to reshape the stems.”

Why’s it called Tina & Ben? Tina is the alpaca from the movie Napoleon Dynamite that the titular cahracter in the film sometimes feeds. And Ben? “Well, Ben could be her boyfriend,” says Sachse. “Who knows?” It seems that a few Napoleon typefaces relate to the cult film in some way—there’s also Jons Hair for example—which we’re guessing is a nod to the curly locks of Napoleon actor Jon Heder.

What are its distinguishing characteristics? All of Tina & Ben’s brackets and slashes are thin; making it a somewhat precarious-looking font. It’s crushed by the weight of its own existence, awkward and off-kilter—a little like the characters associated with its namesake. The lowercase m and n appear as though they have been carved right out of their stems; while the @ looks like it’s being swallowed by a snake. In Sachse’s words, the lowercase forms look like they “could explode at any minute.”

Tina & Ben, Napoleon Typefaces, 2019.

“I won’t ever be able to just sketch out a cool font on paper and diglitize it,” says the designer. “It has to emerge itself from experimenting on a computer. You can see this in Tina & Ben: I exaggerated the process a little bit with the uppercase W.” It’s a font that looks like it’s been cut and sliced into digitally, like a very well planned glitch.

What should I use it for? It doesn’t really matter—as long as you make it big. So in that sense, it probably works best on posters as a display font. “It doesn’t necessary have to even be in the foreground,” says Sachse. “It could also be used at low opacity in the background.”

What should I pair it with? Something fragile or elaborate, to bring out the tension of its thin and thick strokes. ‘I would recommend to pair it with something slanted, a classic serif,” says Sachse. “In one of my Instagram posts I used it with a very curly calligraphic font on top of it, and that worked really well.”

Tina & Ben, Napoleon Typefaces, 2019.