Time for a Boost
Since the establishment of the Fontfabric Font Foundry, founder and CEO Svet Simov has continuously explored different approaches in order to blend pure geometry and typography. In 2012 this passionate search led to the release of the Nexa font family, which quickly gained popularity and eventually established itself as our best-selling font.
Eight years have passed since then, and as good as the typeface might be, there are still areas that would benefit from some improvements. And so, the time has come to answer many of your demands and treat Nexa to a well-deserved upgrade!
Interview Part I
• What was the motivation behind Nexa?
S: I’ve always been fascinated with minimalism and geometry, and some of my first fonts like Colo and Cubic were very much connected to this passion, working in isometric planes and with basic shapes. Eventually, this desire pushed me towards creating a new and cleaner member of sans serif fonts, one that could match our contemporary spirit.
• Were there decisions taken during development that you look back at? Why were they taken?
The symbiosis between clean-cut geometric forms can be very appealing, and it was one of the main reasons I entered typography in the first place.
The goal with Nexa was to create a simple, but recognizable and modern design. The typeface was fundamentally based on a circle, which is reflected in its overall rhythm. For example, characters like the lowercase ‘g’ have their softness counterbalanced by the inclusion of diagonals, such as the ones on ‘k’ and ‘y’.
• When did you realize that Nexa is gathering momentum and beginning to achieve global recognition?
To be honest, even before the font went public I was already sharing behind-the-scene updates through Facebook and Dribbble. The feedback I received from those was not only valuable as critique, but gave me a strong indication that Nexa has the potential to be something major.
Its popularity came about naturally. People shared it with each other, the ball kept rolling, and the rest, as they say, is typography history. Looking back at it now, I would urge any upcoming designers to share their work regardless of the state it’s in — assessments and observations are more valuable than you probably imagine.
• What’s your favorite Nexa story?
One of the most memorable situations I experienced was in 2016, while I was waiting for a flight from Athens to Sofia. Looking out the airport window, I noticed a gigantic ‘Transavia’ signage on one of the airplanes taxiing across the apron. Words cannot describe that feeling — I had just seen Nexa on a plane!
Interview Part II
• At what point did it become obvious that Nexa is due for an update?
Releasing a ‘sequel’ to the initial Nexa bundle has always been on the cards since it’s one of our oldest and most successful products. I’ve received many requests for slight changes throughout the years, and it feels great to finally be able to address a significant part of them. A lot of optimization was done thanks to the cooperation of our amazing team — type director Plamen Motev and the type designers Niki Petroussenko, Mirela Belova, Stan Partalev and Ventsislav Djokov. Honestly though, work on Nexa will likely never stop — by now it has a life of its own, and we will continue developing it in the years to come.
• What were some of the crucial features you worked on?
If you’ve followed Fontfabric throughout the years, then you’re aware that promoting and exploring Cyrillic fonts has always been our focus. Not only did we add the language group to the Nexa family, but we are also extremely proud to feature Bulgarian Oval Cyrillic as an additional localization and stylistic set.
We already mentioned Nexa’s geometric heritage, but for the update, we wanted to add something that would help with longer pieces of writing. This is how Nexa Text was born — developed by Plamen and Niki. This extra font features 9 weights and accompanying italics, with a specific focus on lengthier passages.
What’s more, we included a completely new ExtraLight weight, which enhances the overall linear distribution. Those of you in search for an alternative look can look forward to the bonus display stylistic set, as well as the numerous OpenType features we’ve brought to the table — including tabular figures, superiors and inferiors, numerators and denominators, plus fractions.
Despite Nexa’s continued success, there were several issues that accumulated throughout the years and needed to be addressed. Given all the requests to extend the glyph case with Cyrillic, we figured this was an excellent opportunity to refine all letter shapes and throw in a few extras. The font’s widespread usage was also a reason to design the additional Nexa Text subfamily that would enhance reading and complete the set with regard to editorial layouts, books, magazines, and even web content.
Separately, the increasing use of OpenType during the last decade had resulted in better coding structures that allowed for more complex features — proper localizations, various types of numerals and figures, contextual alternates and more. The team also focused on improving the weight distribution, eventually defining a new ExtraLight weight across all subfamilies. To top it all off, we created a futurist stylistic set to provide some variety in displays.
This might sound like enough material to base an entirely new font on, but for us it was important to maintain the link with Nexa, and ‘ease in’ the multitudes of people who use it daily. Plus, there’s a whole lot of features that we couldn’t even get to, so it’s probably not the last time we revisit the Nexa font family…
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An optimal outcome is easier when you can rely on a bigger team to execute detailed planning and persistently meet your goals.
However, some challenges remain on the path to success, and with Nexa those were both minor and major.
- How do you modify a typeface so it’s in better shape while maintaining closeness to its previous version?
- What could we do to enhance Nexa, yet retain its overall appearance?
Would we rather recalculate the weight distribution entirely, or keep it the same? In the case of the latter our tests showed that adding one weight does solve the puzzle, but you get the idea — just because it’s an upgrade rather than a release doesn’t make it any easier.
More is More
So what ingredients were we missing?
First off, the team decided to expand the pre-existing glyph set with both Extended Latin and Extended Cyrillic. One of our ongoing challenges is to ‘fill the gaps’ in non-Latin typefaces, and in particular when it comes to Cyrillic. With this latest update, the glyph set covers not only the major Cyrillic languages like Russian and Ukrainian, but also Bulgarian and Serbian, among others.
It goes without saying that these additions have been accommodated for regional and native speakers — for example, we added localizations for Azeri, Kazakh, Turkish, Tatar and Crimean Tatar. In the case of Bulgarian, we localized the default Cyrillic (also known as Square Cyrillic style), and added the Oval variation that is preferred within our homeland.
Style in Focus
The Stylistic Set 02 takes it up a notch by offering idiosyncratic alternates of various letters. with whimsical squared strokes that are perfect for display purposes in both Latin and Cyrillic. The refinements to Latin letters have also been applied to the numbers, including tabular figures and such. The new expansion also features extra ligatures, various combinations of fractions, punctuation signs (like the interrobang), currency signs, additional mathematical symbols, and more.
Another considerable challenge was designing a text category that would ease the process of reading, while simultaneously keeping the Nexa character in place. The most important deciding factor we worked with was the enhanced legibility of all letters for the sake of flawless comprehension an less typography mistakes, such as good or bad kerning. To achieve this, the letter shapes need to comply with the general conventions on amplified marks and features. Some forms, like the double-storey ‘a’ or the recognizable double-circled counters on ‘g’, had to be suppressed or even replaced with more conventional ones – in these cases, a monocular ‘a’ and a hybrid form of ‘g’.
We reduced the width of several letters to make them more suitable for text (most notably on ‘j’), while numerals and other symbols were structurally redrawn. To avoid excessive concentration of blackness, we implemented a series of features — adding ink traps on the junctures, redistributing the curve tension outwards, thinning out the interior strokes, and further opening up the letters’ apertures after cutting the terminals.
The new Nexa Text features more generous spacing and enlarged internal white spaces in order to prevent the possible crowding of letters in smaller sizes. Of course, the sub-family would not be complete without true italic allographs of all letters for maximum reading comfort.
The final tally for the updated version of Nexa comes down to 20 new fonts (for a total of 36), grouped into two subfamilies with upright and matching italics, all of them available in 9 weights.
Once all the in-house tinkering was complete and we had agreed on a final version, all that was left was to follow one of our Fontfabric traditions and wrap our latest creation in a stylish box for the world to admire. Even though it (usually) comes last, a font’s visual presentation remains as important to us as any part of the design process, and our Nexa font update at Behance.com to attest to that.
Nexa’s reliance on basic geometry led us to the subject of macro- and micro-universes, and curious phenomena like particle behavior and gravitational forces. In response, we went for a strong and impactful tone, complete with a futuristic and cosmopolitan appearance. The bold layouts with semi-scattered big type and site-specific polygons imply a connection with the wonders of quantum physics. As one of our signature products, Nexa’s color value also embeds the same shade of blue found in the type foundry’s visual identity.
While the upgraded version of Nexa may not provide the answers to life and the universe as we know it, this remains one of the most feature-packed and professional sans serif packages on the web, with polished style and a bold spirit to match. What do you need next?
Take a look into the newly updated family here.
Type Direction: Svet Simov, Plamen Motev
Type Designers: Svet Simov, Plamen Motev, Mirela Belova, Stan Partalev, Nikolay Petroussenko, Ventsislav Dzhokov
Art Direction: Nikolay Petroussenko, Plamen Motev
Presentation: Nikolay Petroussenko, Matey Devedzhiev