Designer: Martin Aleith
Foundry: PFA Typefaces
Release Date: May 2021
Back Story: Berlin-based PFA Studios collective (former known as Pfadfinderei) recently formed its dedicated type branch, PFA Typefaces. Its designer, Martin Aleith, had been designing fonts for around 20 years in his role as a graphic designer. He’d long been creating unique type for music artwork projects, and wanted to start the PFA Typefaces platform to share these typefaces with other designers.
KyotoTW is one of the first typefaces to be officially showcased on the platform, which displays fonts through the playful, interactive “toys” tool. Aleith made the first drafts of KyotoTW typeface in 2019, initially building a preliminary alphabet quickly and using the font on flyers, posters and T-shirts. He then worked to revise and expand the character set throughout 2020. “I’ve always wanted to design a monospaced font,” he says. “Since I’ve come into contact with computer games a lot more than with typewriters in my life, I preferred to orient the KyotoTW towards the digital-retro look. It’s a reminiscence to all the typefaces that were born with the machines and died with them.”
While the designer says the typeface harks back to both retro compute games and typewriters, he’s keen to emphasise that he didn’t directly look at any historical fonts or video game lettering for inspiration. “I didn’t want to imitate anything typical,” says Aleith. “I wanted to develop all glyphs without visual influence.”
Why is it called Kyoto?
The “TW” in KyotoTW is an abbreviation of “typewriter,” since the typeface that tries to mimic the appearance of type-written letters, with an added nod to early console game fonts. The “Kyoto” of the name references that, since it’s taken from a video game company headquartered in Kyoto, Japan.
What are its distinguishing characteristics?
KyotoTW has distinct vertical stems of different widths, imitating certain features of type-written letters such as the accumulation of ink on paper. Thus far, KyotoTW is available in one weight, dubbed Text800, with a character spanning 1,135 glyphs. “The typeface simulates the blending between the historical link to typewriters and video game consoles,” according to PFA Typefaces.
Aleith says that one snag during the design process was creating “the greatest possible differentiation between the letter shapes,” which meant more time spent on kerning. “The challenge here was to design each character in the same space and in a way, that makes the characters quickly recognizable.”
KyotoTW was deliberately designed to prize legibility, and as such, it works well as a bold display typeface as well as in across the smallest text sizes.
What uses do you think it would be suited to?
KyotoTW is outlandish, stand-outish, and no shrinking violet—despite its undeniable legibility. “It has become a very pretentious typeface. Very loud… very spectacular,” says Aleith. As such, it would work well as a promotional tool, perhaps on event materials, campaigns, or posters. “I am always enthusiastic when corporate designs are featured exclusively by one typeface,” he adds, suggesting that the typeface would be pretty great emblazoned on the back of a jersey.
What typefaces do you like to pair it with?
Since KyotoTW is pretty distinct and unusual, the obvious suggestion would be to pair it with a more formal or inconspicuous typeface. However, Aleith suggests going all out and “putting KyotoTW next to another freak.” He adds that it would also work well with some of the other outlandish, striking fonts in the PFA stable, such as Haben or Quartier.