Although Canada was one of the first to join the FontShop International with a Toronto based office in 1989, it wasn’t much known for its typographical identity. With the exponential growth in the use of desktop computers and the Internet, borders can be crossed more easily, and the desire for local design cultures is stimulated.
HF/Tribe proudly presents an independent type foundry, which now occupies a well deserved place in The Republic of Type. Max Kisman interviewed Montreal-based designer Denis Dulude, the founder and spokesman of 2Rebels.
As far as Denis Dulude is concerned, Montreal doesn’t have much of a type tradition, and a well-known UK designer (he won’t reveal his name yet) once told him that there was nothing happening in type design in his city.
Denis: I don’t know if I can change that, but I’m working on it! And it’s getting there. Many designers are working hard to make it happen.
M: What, as far as your name suggests, are you rebelling against?
D: We’re not rebelling against anything, but for something. In 1995, the year 2Rebels was born, only a happy few in Montreal knew about contemporary fonts like Emigre, FontFont, T-26, GarageFonts, etc. So it was our way to try to give an awareness to continue the typographical revolution that was happening then. So maybe I’m a rebel with a cause.
M: I have the idea that there is a strong European tie, especially with France. If so, is there a connection with the French typography and type tradition?
D: I don’t think we have any type tradition. But there are good designers making good typography. Besides Europe, there are influences from the USA. Because of our location we can get the best of both worlds. Not especially from France. It’s similar to wine. The French produce some of the great wines because of their tradition. On the other hand California doesn’t have that tradition, but Californian wine is damn good.
M: The fonts of 2Rebels seem to fit very well in contempory styles of type design. Do you think originality is dictated by trends and fashions?
D: I don’t like to follow trends when we choose a font. I think I have a good sense for the taste of our market. Now I have more experience, I am more selective too. Let’s say that I like more “clean” fonts. Maybe that’s why we don’t have that many new fonts. It’s also important to know what was in the designer‘s mind when a font was made. When you know Clotilde Olyff experiments, it gives you a different perspective on her designs. Like it or not, you chave to respect the work. Similar with the fonts of Ryan Hughes. When you know the background of the designer, you appreciate the work in that respect too.
M: What is the importance of experimentation in type design, when the result always will be an alphabet?
D: Experimentation is part of the process. How can we evoluate if we don’t take risk, if we’re not experimenting. It also helps me to understand why a design was done that particular way. I think originality should come from the soul. And if it is innovative at the same time… great! You must have passion for your work in order to be able to work with your soul. I would definitely say that the passion is the drive. In any field of work for that matter.
M: There is a voice that says to give graphic design a more human expression. Where does this leave the role of the computer?
D: The computer is and will always be just another tool. A bloody good one, but just a tool. To surf the Net, listen to music, edit the movies of your children and communicate with others. In one word: play!
M: Where do design and business meet, and what is you bestselling font?
D: I think design and business don’t like each other very much. I don’t know why. When I’m doing business I can’t design and vice versa. But the bestselling typeface is KO Dirty, and it sells the most in The Netherlands, Belgium and Canada. Text typefaces like Malcom, Gagarin, Tex and 2RebelsDeux are going to sell very well as well.
M: Does type design need a context, what is the reason to design a font?
D: Speaking for myself, I design a face when I have an idea in mind that has to go out. Most of the times it happens when I need a typeface for a specific purpose and I can’t find an existing font. KO Dirty was created for the first KO creation website of my design studio. Most of my fonts are designed within the broader activity of my work. But after all I only like and use one font on the 19 I’ve done: the KO Dirty.
M: I notice the sense of “motion” in your own fonts: blur, smear, shifting, doubling and shaking. Does that suggest a relationship with “dynamic” media, like video, animation, motion graphics?
D: You’re obsevation is good. It surely comes from the fact that I enjoy motion graphics. Maybe also because I was a ballet dancer for 15 years before I became a graphic designer.
M: What made you the switch from dance to graphic design?
D: Well, I’m self-taught. I don’t know if I was a good teacher, but the process was and still is fun. To make a long story short, I made the switch because the passion for design became bigger than for dance. I was 30 at that time and getting old for a dancer. My wife and I were dancing for a dance company on the west coast of Florida. One day I saw an ad in the newspaper for a night course at the Ringling School of Art and Design. I still don’t know why, but I called and gave my credit card number and voilˆ, I fell in love with design. I’ve read a lot of books, magazines, worked long nights, been helped by lot‘s of nice people and took workshops. Everyday I’m still learning something.
M: Do you use any expieriences from your dancing practice in your design philosophy?
D: Well, for sure I think I wouldn’t be able to do this by myself if I didn’t have the discipline. And that came from dance. The rest is different. When you’re a dancer, you are told what motion to make and when to make it. Of course you have to make your own interpretation, but basicaly it’s somebody else’s – the choreographer’s – decision. Interpretation wasn’t enough for me anymore. Maybe that’s a reason why I like graphic design so much. It gives you the chance to create something.
M: How do see your self as a designer in current or past developments in design styles or attitudes?
D: I’m definitely a contemporary-style designer. Not that I don’t like classic style, at the contrary, but it doesn’t come naturally with me. It was similar to when I was a dancer; I always refused to dance the “Prince Charming” role. I think I was cute enough, but it just wasn’t me. That said, I don’t always do screwed up design – some of my work is kind of clean.
M: Oh, one more question…
D: You sound like Colombo!