Jonathan Gibson, the man behind Studio Buchanan, has always had an interest in type. “When others were doodling patterns or pictures, I found myself drawing letters,” he recalled. Working as a digital designer for a decade, he was well aware of typography’s role in his field, but what finally called him to pursue type design was his own fascination with the way a single set of letters could deliver a vast array of emotion and personality, based on a few changes to its shape, form, and spacing.
“When I caught myself interrogating the shape of individual letters and how they made me feel, instead of reading the overall written message, I knew it was time to learn the craft,” Jon explained. “From there it’s been a very long process of self study, plenty of reading, and a whole lot of practice and failure!”
Jon has a firm belief that any typeface can be amazing when it’s used in the right (or wrong) context. “In fact, sometimes the wrong contexts are the most interesting! Thats the beauty of type design, you’re often creating something that others will use to create something else entirely,” he observed.
For himself, Jon is especially drawn to a font’s personality and its overall versatility. He’s partial to display typefaces with distinctive character and those with a touch of individuality, traits he enjoys seeing in his own designs. “I’m always trying to find a few glyphs, or stylistic variants, where I can add a little quirk,” he said. Being a designer, Jon also has a deep understanding when it comes to the needs of other designers, noting that versatility and customization are absolutely key, preferring type designs that offer multiple weights and widths, stylistic variants, and multiple numeral sets.
Studio Buchanan is Jon’s creative foundry, specializing in bespoke and commercial type design, branding, and illustration. His latest release is Halcyon, an incredibly versatile post-geometric sans serif that’s steeped in the influences of Futura, Gill Sans and ITC Avant Garde Gothic.
“It actually all started from a logo design project that never made the cut,” Jon explained. “The client wanted something like Futura, but more ‘friendly’, and as a result the type was largely geometric in its construction but with a few humanist qualities to it. I loved the feel of letters I had created so I decided to keep drawing more until it became a full typeface, even after the logo was binned.”
Jon noted that the finished design looks considerably different from his original sketches, but as most designers will agree, things often take on a life of their own along the way. Halcyon went on to develop a warm and affable personality, one that lends a subtle softness to its pensive stature. Its multifaceted character is sophisticated and composed, with a wisp of playful radiance that peeks through its letterforms like sunshine on a summer’s day.
Jon spent between three and four years working on Halcyon, a passion project he pursued alongside and in between a variety of other undertakings. “I started the design on paper, drawing some of the key letters (O, H, n, etc), but I moved to vectors much earlier than I have with other designs,” he shared. “I built out the original character set, largely derived from a set of key shapes, but it ended up feeling too formulaic so I went through many rounds of optical improvements.”
Jon told us that choosing a name is the hardest part of designing a typeface, recalling that he went through about 20 working titles before settling on Halcyon. “I wanted something that captured part of the design personality without being overly literal,” he explained. “The word ‘halcyon’ denotes a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful; that describes the familiar and positive feeling found in the design, and the way I felt when I started designing it.”
He also feels that it’s wise to choose a name that visually hints at the construction of the typeface. With Halcyon’s single carriage ‘a’ and the humanist strokes in the letters ‘l’ and ‘y,’ the name itself offers a solid indication of the type design’s essence.
Halcyon is a workhorse family consisting of eight weights that include Hairline, Thin, Light, Regular, Medium, SemiBold, Bold, and Black with corresponding italics for each. With 988 glyphs per weight, it offers a host of additional features that include capitals to small caps, case sensitive forms, discretionary ligatures, standard ligatures, numerators, denominators, ordinals, slashed zero, oldstyle figures, tabular figures, small caps, subscript, superscript, and stylistic alternates for incredible flexibility.
Multilingual support extends to Basic Latin, Western European, Euro, Baltic, Turkish, Central European, Romanian, Vietnamese, Pan African Latin, Dutch, Pinyin, Venda, and Igbo Onwu for exceptional international accessibility.
Given how extensive Halcyon actually is, Jon found it difficult to know exactly when to call his work ‘finished,’ a problem that many of us have faced at one time or another. “I made the mistake of not setting myself a really concrete brief from the outset so there was no definitive end point,” he remarked. “In the end, I had to just set myself a deadline, otherwise I probably would of been tweaking it for years!”
He’s especially pleased with the italics and the way they developed their own personality while remaining connected to the uprights. “It was an opportunity to introduce some calligraphic influence and I really love how they turned out,” he said. “I have a special soft spot for the lowercase italic ‘z’ and the upright alternate ‘Q’.”
Jon currently offers four products through YouWorkForThem. Visit Studio Buchanan’s portfolio to see the rest of his work and bookmark it so you won’t miss future releases. He’s already begun work on expanding the Halcyon family with a new condensed variant and he’s exploring the possibility of adding a Cyrillic set in the future. Beyond that, he’s working on a couple of smaller display faces with a little whimsy.
While Studio Buchanan’s website is currently being updated, you can follow Jon on Instagram @studio.buchanan where he posts all manner of type-based images (including type found in the wild), and you can also find him on Twitter @iamjongibson for more type-related things. What can we say, the man loves what he does and we can’t wait to see more from him in the future!