Antonio Pace: 25 years between corporate type and art

How do you approach the project for a corporate typeface?

I start from a basic consideration: renouncing to the characterization of every verbal expression is equivalent to renouncing to a universe subliminal messages, packaged directly on the ontological plan of a brand. It must be said that making typefaces for the generic typesetting and making typefaces for identity systems is not at all the same thing. Every typographic character lives a specialized existence, verticalized on a precise and circumscribed field of use.

There are forms suitable for the composition of texts in small bodies, the renaissance for example as a Jenson or Garamond, others for the display function like the Frutiger and so on. A corporate type, on the other hand, must respond to a totally transversal range of action, a life that is totally horizontal, because functionality does not lie in optical specialization as much as in visual.

Aim is the citation of a brand.

Designing characters for brand identity represents a technical contradiction, therefore. aggravated by the fact that, for economic reasons, one can not even think of a family with many weights and one must enclose the message in a few forms. Sometimes we start from a “fragment”, sometimes from a logo or a trademark sign. we try to distill the essence that leads to recognition, just like when you approach a brand project.

The most important thing: whoever adopts a corporate type assumes leadership behaviors because it coats its own style instead of use pre-existing offers.

We do not become independent only on the level of languages, but also on the economic one because of exclusivity. The proprietary font avoids costs related to usage licenses, for a company something of no small importance.

The brief

Be endowed with a proprietary character, at least in Italy, is considered something exotic. There is no explicit request from clients, it is always a further proposal that starts from the project itself. There is no brief, therefore. it is implicit: to enclose the basic features of a mark in every sign-glyph character. Then it depends on the moment in which the corporate type project starts, how much freedom there is in formal research: more defined elements already exist, the narrower is the corridor in which we operate.

If there is already a brand or even a logo, it is obvious that we stick to the pre-existing features, otherwise we start from white paper;  here the variables are multiple because no designer is stable before taking up a project. Everyone has a wealth of forms and tests on which he works constantly.


The font for the municipality of Milan: the “Milano città”, must convey values ​​such as Italianess, fashion, design etc. also in metaterritorial terms. Unthinkable not based on what the world recognizes as Italian in typography, therefore bodoni.

Eniline, eni’s corporate typeface, is a project started from a white sheet, as the six-legged dog, the identifying element, is not typographically interpretable

The family of institutional fonts for Milan football club was born from the intention to give society something extremely flexible, that can satisfy both the stylistic ambitions in the markings of the new headquarters, and the visibility on the [former] jerseys of the players. It was also thought to make available to the fans the product for the purposes of making stadium banners.  However, here too, no client brief.

Time to delivery

Depending on the usability in “corporate” contexts, powered almost exclusively by the software of the micorsoft office package, most of my projects in this field lead to small families of four weights: regular, bold, italic, bold italic. We split the burden between project and production with a partner of excellence in germany, the rml typografik, “one man band” located on the banks of the reno near Mayence where they make, among other things, the best riesling in the world, and it takes on average 4 to 5 months of work. It is about managing very complex processes, especially if you think of programming opportunities in an open-type environment. A font is also a programmable software. This allows us to automate a very high typographic quality, freeing the end user from the burden of manual intervention or from the unlikely construction of the necessary microtipographic knowledge.

The design steps

project, engineering, production.

The project represents linguistic research and the application of fundamental features on a representative set of signs. Often we stop at alphabets and numbers because the detailed corrections are made in the following steps. This happens because it is only the set of compositions that reveals the usefulness or otherwise of the design interventions carried out upstream. Here as elsewhere or, better, everywhere: the shape is much more than all the individual components.

Out of curiosity: we operate not with a Latin alphabet, but with two that have little or nothing in common. Capital letters, in fact, derive from the Roman capitalis, ornamental and static, the miniscule, however, from the humanistic minuscule, suitable for fluid writing and guarantee of legibility. Harmonizing the two systems is not easy and represents an obstacle important to overcome. Let’s also say that the numbers are Arabic and we have the third inconvenience to be integrated. In the past [not even so remote] the figures were not part of the kits, but were considered and treated as “dingbats”.

From the drawing we go to the engineering that starts from the spacing of the characters. Here we set the weight of the space empty. indeed the balance between empty and full, white and black, is the true essence of every typographic piece of work, not only of the character project. Only after we decided the approach values, we move on to kerning and programming of the replacement features allowed by the open type format.

All this complexity lead to your experimental side.

Let’s talk about  the“toward inner space” experiment

Graphic-type representations are the result of a complex project:

in fact, these are citations of texts transcribed from conferences held live by Terence Mckenna [1946 * -2000 +] in the period 1987-1999, philosopher, also anthropologist, mathematician and ethnobotanist, but above all a philosopher of the so-called American counterculture.

The title is due to the contents: Mckenna talks about psychedelic experiences at the base of a new archaism to imagine the next evolutionary step of our species. Archaic means the recovery of feeling at the expense of historical knowledge with which we are self-maneuvering on the brink of possible catastrophes on one side, but above all in a state of mental desolation, due to the veneration of the mechanized world, social success and power. Basically, a frontal attack on culture: “culture is not your friend”, just a quote and title of one of the lectures. Therefore, it is necessary to return to feel our internal space, also because it is precisely the continuum externalization of ideas, first through magic and alchemy, then industry, to flood the world with harmful objects to the ecology of our minds, but also to that of the planet we live on [which does not show anything other than both are sides of the same coin]. not only better, but absolutely necessary, turn inward and start from our animal side, from the soul and from what then it will unite us, developing ever more versatile telepathic skills.

Telepathy is not meant to “understand what the other thinks”, but “see what the other sees” !! this is why I interpreted the texts in an explicitly visual way, citing parts of the speech and trying to make the most free and less conventional forms possible: typographic illustrations that put in evidence the centrality of the language in our evolution.

The lectures were transcribed by Leonardo Burci [author, lives in rome], which gave birth to the idea of ​​packaging the texts in a book to be published. Typographic experiments initially represent the divisions of the various chapters of the book [conferences or lectures as we have them] .

calls in the book]. They then emancipated themselves from this function to become pure experimentation.


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