Welcome to Twofer Type Tuesday, where you can feast your eyes upon a pair of experimental typefaces created by Vincent Fileccia. Virginia is a Caslon-inspired serif face with some funky alternates, and Norma is a sans-serif formed from black construction paper, then digitized. Both reflect the designer’s refined, mature, and most sophisticated typographic sensibility. Enjoy!
Back story: Virginia began life as a typographic identity on the covers of Virginia Woolf novels. At the outset, Fileccia fell in love with an early 20th-century version of Caslon Italic No. 540 by the J.M.Bundscho Inc. type foundry. “The decorative letterforms seemed alien from the modernist sans-serifs that dominate most of our visual culture,” he says. “Interestingly enough, both William Caslon and Virginia Woolf were from the UK and spent most of their lives in London. The J.M.Bundscho type specimen was from 1935 and Virginia Woolf wrote from 1900–1941. The romantic, organic shapes of the letters matched perfectly with Virginia’s flowery language.”
Norma started out with four strips of paper. Each strip determined the stroke weight of each line found in classical roman majuscule letterforms: the horizontal stroke (thinnest), vertical stroke (medium thickness), diagonal stroke (thick), and oblique stroke (thickest). Working in collaboration with Wendy Medrano and Catherine Herrera, Fileccia created an entire alphabet of 8-inch tall capital letters out of the paper strips.
Why are they called Virginia and Norma? Virginia is named after the author herself; Fileccia wanted the typeface to have a single name, as a minor homage to Matthew Carter’s serif, Georgia. As for Norma, Fileccia says, “Something about the style of the letters just feels so…normal. I couldn’t help but think of Norma Jean, Marilyn Monroe’s birth name. Norma is no star, but she’s classic, understated, and modest, with a good bone structure.”
What are their distinguishing characteristics? For Virginia, Fileccia started out by drawing capital letters with the same ball terminals found in Caslon. However, something felt too expected and too neat, so he cut off the serifs in some places on the roman characters and replaced the ends of the decorative extremities. He ended up with new serifs that resemble twisted arms and legs, giving the type the same edge found in Woolf ’s writing.
Norma is a sans-serif with a moderate amount of contrast—not so much that it resembles Art Deco fonts, and not so little that it recalls other sans-serifs. “I later revisited the typeface to digitize it and created lowercase letters to match, which definitely gives a little more character than the typefaces that only ever existed on a computer screen,” Fileccia says.
What should I use them for? Virginia is meant to be used as display type for book covers and at large sizes for titles. It could easily be adopted for posters, magazines (digital and print), logos, and on website landing pages. Attention to detail moment: Fileccia wanted to add real-world dimensionality to the type, so he laser cut the titles out of wood, painted them white, and then photographed them on backgrounds that corresponded with the narratives in each of the novels: rose petals for Mrs. Dalloway, sand for The Waves, and watercolor paint for To the Lighthouse. Poor Norma was never meant to be used. “Norma is really just an exercise more than anything.”
What other typefaces do you like to pair them with? Virginia looks good with many geometric, humanist sans-serifs. Fileccia likes it with Avenir, Gotham, or Proxima Nova. But Norma? Totally a loner. “I personally don’t think Norma should be paired with any other typeface,” says Fileccia. Perhaps he should have named this one Greta, as in Garbo?