Spring 2019

Bram de Does: the king of (functional) swing

Mark Thomson
Bram de Does
Type special

An insistence that technology should match design spurred typographer Bram de Does to create two of the twentieth century’s most beautiful types

To have designed two great text typefaces is not unusual among the celebrated names of type design, but to have designed only two types is. Dutch designer Bram de Does (1934-2015) was that unusual person; his Trinité and Lexicon are widely regarded as among the most beautiful types of the twentieth century, perhaps of any era.

Each of the three heights of Trinité was also drawn in two widths, offering the typographer a further level of flexibility.  www.teff.nl
Top: Bram de Does at home in Orvelte, the Netherlands, 2006. The hand-lettered text reads: ‘To decorate or not to decorate, that is the question.’ Photograph: Mathieu Lommen.


De Does did not set out to be a type designer; he was a typographer first of all. As a book designer he worked under the star of Jan van Krimpen, and his books sit comfortably among the highest expressions of classical thinking in typography. He was in his forties when he designed Trinité; Lexicon came in his late fifties. Both were the response to an absence, the need for a type that was not there, whether for aesthetic or technical reasons. They were shaped as much by this void as by existing historical models, aligning classical form with new technologies in ways that released fresh waves of expression in typography.

Lexicon in use in Frans A. Janssen’s Technique & design in the history of printing, 2004, 250 × 175mm, designed by De Does. Although Lexicon was initially commissioned for dictionary typography, De Does also designed a version with longer ascenders and descenders which turned out to be extremely comfortable as a longer-reading text type.

11. EYE_9815801

Mark Thomson, designer, London

Read the full version in Eye no. 98 vol. 25, 2019


Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues. You can see what Eye 98 looks like at Eye Before You Buy on Vimeo.

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