5 minutes with… Kris & Jess Sowersby of Klim

3 years ago by

It has been a massive couple of months for Klim Type Foundry who unveiled an incredible new website, to coincide with the release of an extensive new type family Söhne, all hot-on-the-heels of a $25,000 Arts Foundation Laureate win.

Klim’s new site was designed by Wellington-based web design and development company Springload, with much applause from the design community worldwide. It has been described as a “masterclass in considered interaction design, usefulness, and inspiration”. The redesign extends the popular features of the existing site and introduces new features that give designers more options to test and research fonts prior to purchase. An ambitious marriage of speed, functionality and elegance. Under the hood there is a statically-generated Web App front-end and a GraphQL API back-end. Springload structured the site around responsive and variable layouts based on classic Swiss design principles embedded in CSS grids. Tip: Control+Option+Shift+G will unveil the underpinning grid in a nod to those Swiss design principles.

“Our objectives were really quite simple,” says Kris. “We wanted visitors and customers to play with our type, test it and read about it. We wanted the experience to be effortless, informative and interesting, and for buyers to encounter a straight-forward and direct purchasing and licensing process. Aesthetically, we wanted the redesign of the site to complement Söhne, which is our new brand font.”

Söhne is Klim Type Foundry’s 26th font release and the 12th typeface collection release, comprised of four families: Söhne, Söhne Schmal (Condensed), Söhne Breit (Wide) and Söhne Mono. Kris describes Söhne as the “memory of Akzidenz Grotesk framed through the reality of Helvetica” and launched with films by New York-based kinetic typographers DIA “I’ve always admired their work so I’m delighted to collaborate with them,” says Kris. “Their films express the idea of Söhne—the idea of memory versus reality; the fallibility of memory. They were initially developed within a framework of ‘grotesque accidents’, but evolved to capture a sense of materiality and memory.”

DA caught up with Kris & Jess Sowersby to learn more about Klim’s recent milestones and the foundry’s future aspirations.

What does the Arts Foundation Laureate Award mean to you personally — and for Klim?

Kris: I was having breakfast when the call came through from the Arts Foundation. It felt amazing — it was shocking and amazing because it’s not a world that I consider myself a part of. To be recognised amongst the other 2019 Laureates is an absolute honour. It validates Klim’s ethos and goals to elevate typography into the mainstream arts conversation. We are honoured that typography and typeface design is recognised as an art form and a relevant part of contemporary visual culture.

Your new website is “designed to put the contemporary designer at the heart of the type browsing, buying and knowledge-acquiring experience”. The DA team loves the ‘bézier view’ which allows detailed inspection of each glyphs shape grammar and educates users in the fundamentals of type construction! What are your favourite features of the new site?

Kris: Automated random font specimens. Previously, making font specimens was a tiresome part of my workflow. Now they’re automated within set parameters, and randomise upon page refresh. The chances of a user seeing the exact same specimen twice is extremely low. This simultaneously alleviates my go-live burden and elevates the standard for type foundry specimens.

Jess: I like how it seamlessly incorporates our offline activities into our digital presence. For example: Untitled campaign materials as part of the specimen pages, National 2 landscape photography and colouring the Heldane Collection to align with the Sincerity/Irony book. The new site aligns the Klim brand to our growth and international collaborations.

You collaborate with Noe Blanco in Barcelona and recently worked with DIA based in New York. Does being geographically remote present any challenges or opportunities?

We’ve worked with geographic diversity for so long it’s natural. The only challenges are finding agreeable times to have meetings, especially if there are more than two timezones.

With the elevated priority of knowledge share on the site does this mean we can expect more research from Klim?

Yes. We plan to publish other authors as well, like Dan Reynold’s deeply research Akzidenz-Grotesk history. Our main focus was a richer, editorial framework for the blog. The Söhne design information is a good example of what we’re aiming for.

The Klim ethos is “A thing well made” and you have spoken of how user-oriented the development of your new site was… How do you get readers to test your fonts in development to ensure quality prior to release?

We very rarely let our in-development fonts out for testing. Mainly because designers assume that the font is almost ready to go, and spec it for live job. Fonts tend to take a rather long time to complete, even though they seem like they’re almost finished. We only give beta fonts to designers we’ve met personally and trust. The QA process happens naturally during development and systematically during Noe’s engineering phase.

What percentage of your time is devoted to designing for a retail market vs custom fonts for clients?

We don’t have exact percentages, but it varies upon the commission. Generally, we spend the majority of our time on retail fonts.

Looking towards the near future, what does Klim hope to achieve in 2020?

We’ll release a few more retail fonts with solid, distinctive campaign creative. The first part of the year will be dedicated to our studio build in collaboration with Patchwork Architecture.


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