Ryoichi Tsunekawa

Ryoichi Tsunekawa’s Flat-it foundry is located in Nagoya, Japan. Ryoichi debuted his first MyFonts font family in June and now has 15 families on the website. Machia, a connecting script font with elegant swashes, had been atop our Starlets page for quite a while after its initial release, but now [October 2006] the complementary Machiarge tops the chart. Machiarge is a casual heavier brushdrawn script, meant to be Machia’s kid brother.

Besides scripty fonts, Ryoichi has also created Boycott, a noisy poster font that’s a little rough around the edges. Another new design, Tokyotrail, is inspired by the capital of Japan, one of the world’s largest cities with over 2,000 square kilometers to explore. The font is designed with straight lines running vertically, horizontally, and diagonally.

We interviewed Ryoichi about his background as well as his take on all things type.

Ryoichi, please tell us a little about your background and experience.
I was born in 1978 in Nagoya, Japan. Since my childhood, I have always had an interest in paintings, art and design, especially abstract forms such as geometric repeating patterns. At university, I majored in Architecture. After graduating with an MA, I worked in Tokyo as an architect and engineer.

How did you get started in typeface design?
When doing presentations on architectural designs at university, I always used to worry about what font to use in order to make the presentation more appealing. I did not like using the same font as other people, so I remember every day I used to stare at catalogues from foundries all over the world. Sometimes I would design my own fonts in the end. Thinking about it now, that is when I started to create my own typefaces.

You’ve released quite a variety of typeface designs, from scripty to grunge to futuristic. How do you decide on the kind of typeface design you want to develop?
Being a Japanese person in Japan, I don’t have many opportunities to come into contact with western alphabet characters. There are not that many different types of typefaces in magazines either. Since there are only few inspirational typefaces I come across in Japan, I am compelled to investigate further and research to try to create variations of typefaces. I have so far only released 20 or so typefaces, so I would not specify my style as yet. Typefaces I create depend on how I feel at that particular moment.

Can you tell us the process you go through in designing a font?
When I design a font, I spend some time making a whole series of rough sketches using pen and paper. During this drawing process, a vague idea of the font that I want to create gradually emerges. Then I draw a few glyphs of the font, say ‘R’, ‘d’ and ‘s’. After transferring the sketches to my computer, I begin the long process of re-working them up again and again. It usually takes me over three or four weeks of concentrated time to produce a finished font.

What typeface designs are you working on now? When can we expect to see them at MyFonts?
At the moment I am working on typefaces that are inspired from or evocative of historical typefaces from around the world. There would be a series of about 12 typeface families. I would start releasing them around the end of this year as “xxx modern” series.

What’s your favorite typeface, and why?
I don’t really have a favorite typeface in particular. I am attracted to original typefaces on flyers and hand-painted letters on billboards (for shops and restaurants). Both of them may not be high-quality in execution, but the passion and the thoughts of the creator/writer are manifest.

What font do you never, ever want to see used again?
That would be Helvetica. Of course, Helvetica is a great font, but it became too popular and disseminated too much. To use Helvetica is to be the same as someone else. Also font designers, including myself, need to think about creating a font that will surpass the success of Helvetica, just like some architects outshine Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe.

Do you work full-time as a font designer?
In addition to being a font designer, I am currently working as a graphic designer and architect.

Thanks, Ryoichi! We look forward to seeing your new typeface designs soon!

This article and interview first appeared Rising Stars October 2006, one of the MyFonts newsletters.