Swiss designer Brigitte Schuster hit it big when Linotype (a division of Monotype) chose her first typeface design, Canella for release. We asked Brigitte about this lovely serif—now called Cardamon—as well her limited edition book series and the other exciting projects she’s working on right now.
What was the inspiration behind Cardamon?
The roman weights are old-style designs from the basic shapes and proportions of 16th-century punch-cutters Hendrik van den Keere and Robert Granjon. The proportions of those typefaces are notable for their large x-height, which helps Cardamon ensure good readability in small sizes.
The italics were inspired by 16th-century writing masters Giovan Francesco Cresci and Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi, and by the italics of Robert Granjon. I aimed for an italic that was noticeably distinct from the roman, yet inspired by the same time period. What’s also characteristic for Cardamon are the sharp edges and corners. For this rather contemporary feel, Antiqua and Cursive by Vojtěch Preissig and Menhart by Oldřich Menhart inspired me.
Cardamon was originally called Canella. Why the name change and how did Linotype get involved?
I submitted my typeface to Monotype’s Type Selection Meeting and they were interested in releasing it. Monotype asked me to come up with a new name because they came across a sans serif design named Canella. Monotype felt the name and even shapes of that Canella were too close to mine. As for the name, I liked the idea of comparing my typeface to a spice that enhances flavor. The choice was a natural: Cardamon.
This may be a very American question, but why the spelling “cardamon” rather than “cardamom?” Is “cardamon” the more common spelling in Europe?
When choosing the name I looked at different spelling options. The English language allows for cardamom, cardamum, and cardamon. I had a preference for cardamon. Also, the common way of writing Cardamon with an “m” still makes me think of a “n” when spoken.
Are you planning more type designs?
Yes. With Cardamon, the challenge was working on a typeface made for continuous text copy (although its bolder weighs can be excellent choices for large display applications). For a typeface of this kind one cannot be too outgoing when designing shapes, since the primary goal is always readability. Now I’d like to work on display typefaces, which allow for more experimental shapes.
Although I haven’t yet seriously begun a new typeface design, I practice calligraphy, which keeps me actively involved with letter shapes. I’ve been doing calligraphic writing since 2008. I just recently did a workshop with Jost Hochuli (of the Walter Käch tradition) to practice Spanish cursive. So far I’ve been studying with a variety of teachers and approaches, such as Frank Blokland (Noordzij tradition), Mike Kecseg (pointed pen), Julian Waters, and Sheila Waters (Edward Johnston tradition).
How did you get involved in book design?
I’ve been working as a graphic designer for 15 years—mostly while being employed by graphic design studios, but also as a freelancer. I touched on several fields in the trade, such as editorial concepts (books, magazines, brochures, annual reports), concept development (corporate identity concepts, communication concepts), and information design. Now I’m focusing on making books and focusing on various elements of the book: illustration methods (etching, painting, drawing) and photography.
I’ve also become an experienced typesetter with a passion for detail typography and type. I’ve explored bookbinding methods and types of paper by working on personal artists’ books. And the masters program in the History of the Book at the Institute of English Studies at the University of London, which I’m still pursuing, has provided me with a historical background on the Western book.
Books are as much a professional passion for me as they are a personal one. I’m just fascinated by designing and making books. At the same time, I want readers to enjoy them in content and shape as much as I enjoy making them.
One of my recent books, Das Antiquariat Ribaux im Paracelsusgässlein in St. Gallen, has been published by VGS Verlagsgenossenschaft St. Gallen. In this book I portrayed the bookseller and antiquarian Louis Ribaux (1930–2015) in the midst of his realm, along with some of his essays. As I wrote in my introduction, “The store combines his lifetime and undiminished lasting passion for books and everything related to it.”
Tell us a little about your self-published limited edition book series.
I founded the label/imprint Brigitte Schuster Éditeur in 2013 to specialize in high quality books and independently publish personal projects of interest to me. I had been searching for an easy way to get involved in making books and nothing seemed easier than being my own client and designing for my own publishing house. Special care is given not only to the design, but also its materiality with the aim to valorize the book as an artifact. While some books are designed books, others are in the category of artist’s books/book arts, and still others might be hybrids.
Subjects will vary from design to artistic projects and from scientific to literary publications, such as sociology, poetry, fictional, and non-fictional texts and will be published in English in order to reach international audience, including anyone interested in visual culture, arts, design, sociology, literature, and in collecting books. My first title, printed in an edition of 500, is Book Designers from the Netherlands, in which I interviewed 13 prominent, contemporary Dutch book designers.
What’s next? What are you working on now?
I’m planning a new book project showcasing cat ladders in my city, Berne, which will be released in 2016 at the earliest. Also, I teach graphic design courses at Schule für Gestaltung Bern und Biel, a professional institution to train graphic designers, and I have a family—more precisely, a one-year-old son—that keeps me busy as well.