Tombstone for Sybrand Bleeker, featuring custom fonts by Janno Hahn. Say what you want about Janno Hahn, but he is both consistent and reliable. Every now and then, completely unannounced, this young type designer sends me pictures or sometimes even actual artefacts. Sometimes it’s his own work, sometimes one of his joint projects with René Knip, whom he collaborates with since early 2006. Whatever he works on, it’s always well-considered, balanced and simply gorgeous. In the past I reported about Scrbbl, their Scrabble with found type; the letter sculptures for the Saint Boniface route in Dokkum, Fryslân (The Netherlands); and their alphabet string promotional piece. This time I received photos documenting the custom fonts he designed for a tombstone. Of course I immediately asked for clarification.
J A N N O H A H N “I was asked by a friend of mine if I knew any good typefaces for a tombstone for her recently deceased father-in-law. After giving it some thought, I proposed to design a custom font instead of using a standard off-the-shelf typeface. For me personally it was an ideal opportunity to mull over the concept of a font that would be appropriate for a tombstone. I decided I wanted to design a contemporary monumental yet elegant typeface for this specific project.”
Testing lettercutting in the granite and brass.
J A N N O H A H N “I eventually dug up a face from an old sketch that never ceased to fascinate me. Already in the very first versions there was this subtle twist that lent the typeface its specific character without making it lose its elegance. The eventual version was worked over in order to make it tighter so its appearance would be more contemporary. I also boldened the letter forms to make carving them easier. Yet the rather classical proportions remained, which imbues the round letters with a friendly generosity.
J A N N O H A H N “Many stone cutters are convinced you can’t really carve a sans serif into stone. They often think that because the serif would be the perfect entry point to start cutting the character shape. Yet a good stone cutter can perfectly carve a sans serif, which simply lends a tombstone a nice contemporary atmosphere.”
J A N N O H A H N “To have a rosebush in a hole in the tombstone was an idea of the children. I proposed to wrap a ring around the hole instead of having individual letters. This turns this ring into an interesting object in its own right. The tombstone now consists of a combination of different elements and materials, making the whole project more attractive.”
J A N N O H A H N “The ring is made in 3 mm thick brass. The letters are a stencil version of the typeface on the tombstone, with rounded stroke edges as a result of the watercutting. The text in the black granite tombstone (dimensions 12 x 90 x 190 cm) was carved by Arthur Gläsner, a stone cutter who lives and works in Ouderkerk a/d Amstel. Although Gläsner not only works in stone but also in glass and metal, he has a preference for granite. Much of his work can be seen on the Zorgvlied cemetery in Amsterdam.”
J A N N O H A H N “On the tombstone real estate was kept available for the wife of the deceased who will eventually join him in the grave. They will be bound forever by the ∞ (infinity) symbol.”
J A N N O H A H N “I don’t know yet what will further happen with this type design. It all depends on the reactions. If it doesn’t catch on with the audience at large I can still use it myself on another one of my own project. After all the typefaces I design are not these versatile and comprehensive OpenType fonts covering all European languages and fit for international licensing. The most important for me is the actual design of the characters.”