Five years of Commercial Type. Balancing the needs for expression and functionalism.

By Angela Niemi

Paul Barnes traveled across the pond from London to discuss his five years of Commercial Type experience with a room full of Minnesota’s finest typography fans. He brought laughter, a lot of information, typographic samples, and insights on balancing expression, self-expression, and functionalism.

Paul describes typefaces in two categories.

  1. There are typefaces that do whatever you want them to do. Typefaces like Commercial Type’s Guardian Egyptian and Guardian Sans were built specifically for The Guardian newspaper. They’re designed to be ultra functional and readable while differentiating from other newspapers on the shelf. “You want to make typefaces that are vanilla but have some flavor to them…a bit more vanilla with some chocolate chip to it.”
  2. There are typefaces that do most of the work. Commercial Type’s Dala Floda and Marian are expressive, fashionable, and can carry the weight of an entire design. Inspiration for these faces can come in interesting places: Barnes admits to looking at gravestones for historic typefaces.

Paul leaves us with some very valuable and memorable advice:

“Make enough money to live on, but never become a slave to it.”
“Have enough fun to enjoy it, but not so much that you don’t make money.”

Contact Leadership

Jhoselin Dominguez
Associate Director, Communications