FF Franziska: A little bit of everything, please

On the last day of TYPO, no other than the man himself, upcoming type designer Jakob Runge, who contributed the typeface for this year’s TYPO conference, gets to talk about the design decisions, the creation, and process of his popular typeface FF Franziska.

A fresh attempt on body text typefaces: FF Franziska. © Alexander Roth

The idea for FF Franziska started off as a master thesis at the Muthesius Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Kiel under the supervision of Albert Jan-Pool. There was actually no real concept in the beginning, Runge recalls. He just knew that he wanted to make a typeface, that could be used in a wide context, ranging from short texts to setting entire books. But why make another typeface, if there are already thousands of good ones out there? Especially for this specific use. Was there anything, that has never been done before?
There was not. Everything showed a certain similarity to the already existing. But still, Runge decided to go on and see if he could create something slightly different, something fresh.

Jakob Runge

Jakob Runge

Type Designer (Munich)

Jakob Runge is specialised in developing typefaces and custom letterings for corporate and editorial design. After studying communication design at University of Applied Sciences in Würzburg (BA) and Muthesius Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Kiel (MA), he is now working in Munich as an independent type and brand designer and typographic consultant. For Jakob type design has become a real passion believing that letters and typography are an essential basis of successful communication.

The terminal on the “a” is soft but also angled. This theme of oppositeness can be found throughout the entire typeface. © Jakob Runge

His approach was just as clever as simple: studying the characteristics of renaissance and neoclassical type, as well as the ones of egyptiennes, he combined the best of all three worlds to create a true hybrid. Asymmetrical on the one hand, static on the other. Angular but also soft. Full of character but not distracting for the eye. Accentuated ink traps versus a handwritten construction of the serifs – you get it. This concept of “sowohl-als-auch” (“as-well-as”), as Runge calls it, is the constant theme for FF Franziska.

Inspired by 17th century scripts Jakob Runge went on to complement his typeface with an italic. He had seen in books during his studies, that some typesetters at that time had used a different typefaces instead of italics for highlighting text passages. Animated by this tradition he decided to add a true, upright italic to go along with his typeface. Again following his theme, the italic was supposed to share some of the characteristics of the regular equivalent, but also feel different and autonomous. During the process Runge carefully experimented with swash letters and less noticeable letter forms to get the personality just right.

Being half Slab and half Serif the typeface already enjoys great popularity in many different media. For example Zeit Magazin Online, one of Germany’s biggest online magazines, uses the typeface for their running text. Because of its great appeal soon even the family brand Zeit Online will be switch to FF Franziska, he reveals.

But not only digital media makes use of Runge’s workhorse. There are already newspapers that are entirely set with his type, just by using different weights for hierarchy and structure. “A good sign that my type obviously works”, Runge proudly says. Another reason might be its rather generous x-height and low descender line – a save formula for making contemporary body text type.

The icons are carefully crafted and mirror the character of the strokes. © Bettina Ausserhofer (Monotype)

The dot on the i (cheesy pun intended!) are all the extra features that FF Franziska brings along. Besides carefully crafted icons that pick up the design vocabulary of the stroke there are tons of opentype features like alternate letterforms, language features, fractions and ligatures to only name a few. Great hinting and 200.000 kerning pairs throughout the ten faces also make it so convenient to use in everyday tasks. Using the Luc(as) distribution, Runge goes on, he interpolated between the hand-crafted masters Thin, Regular and Black to get best results throughout his typeface.



Try FF Franziska on FontShop.com