Fontomas CD Does the Good Deed

Written by Yves Peters on March 4, 2005

Fontomas CDThree years in the making, the eagerly anticipated collection chronicling the first two years of Fontomas is finally available. Containing over 75 typefaces which were originally available as free fonts, the library spans a wide range of eclectic styles. All profits from the $40 CD will be donated to a children’s project by the international humanitarian organisation World Vision.

Fontomas, Dirk Uhlenbrock’s “masked wonder” alter ego, is named after the gentleman thief Fantomas, the popular anti-hero of French cinema and literature. During its first year the website followed the format of a magazine or TV serial, as each week saw the release of another new free font. Those fonts — typographic experiments designed by either Dirk himself or contributors — had the life-span of exactly a week: they “disappeared” after 7 days. The second year saw the addition of ten more typefaces.

Why offer his work at no cost? Dirk’s explanation is pretty straightforward: he likes to see his fonts in use. He finds it interesting to discover what other people do with them and which places they go to. Giving stuff away is an effective way to get in contact with the world behind the confinement of one’s office. Also, creating fonts is a lot of fun for him. Dirk designs them mainly in his spare time, as a way to relax. Most of the free ones are “experiments” and were made without a specific reason nor in a specific order. He just started with an idea and explored where the alphabet could go.

A font a week is a lot, even if they were not all created by Dirk himself. There were some critical moments of course. Accient, for instance, was made in a hurry, something like three hours. Most of the time he tried to be one week ahead of the release date with the faces. The submissions were a great help, as they allowed Dirk to work on his own creations and design the website.

Giving away fonts for free can be viewed from both a positive and a negative angle. You can look at it with a punk attitude and hope that people will be inspired to design their own fonts. On the other hand, one may argue that the perceived value of digital typefaces is diminished in the process and this makes it harder for commercial foundries to sell their fonts.

Dirk thinks there is a distinct line between the amateurish way of playing with type and the work of a pro. The fonts that were given away for free were incomplete and untested, they lacked on perfection on many levels. They were made with and for fun, but maybe someone else could use them for a project. He doesn’t think that their existence really threatens the commercial font business. On the other hand, he’s been asked to expand and rework three of the original Fontomas fonts: Swisz was selected by Swiss magazine Massiv; Goal will be exclusive with an Italian magazine until August 2005; and Kazoo, featured in a TV campaign by the German music channel Viva TV. They are available at his own foundry now because he put extra hours of work into them. It became less “fun”, more serious, so now you’ve got to pay to license these versions.

Yves Peters is a graphic designer / rock drummer / father of three who tries to be critical about typography without coming across as a snob. Previously a columnist for and editor-in-chief of The FontFeed, he currently divides his time between teaching at the Communication, Media and Design department of Artevelde University of Applied Sciences, and publishing at Adobe Create and writing for a variety of type foundries, weaving pop culture and design trends into foundational typographic stories. His ability to identify most typefaces on sight is utterly useless in daily life.


  1. It’s about time. I have been a fan of fontomas for years now. Their web pages were amazing to look at and the fonts were fun to use. I was sad when they gave up the website. Such a long time ago….
    Please support their endeavors and I hope they renew the website.

  2. Alan says:

    About time, indeed. Dave Lombardo rules!!

  3. Hrant says:

    Great balance, Yves.


  4. Troubleman says:

    I have a little add-on for anyone who’s interested:

    What does the future have in store for Fantomas? Dirk doesn’t really know how to go on with the project. It mostly has to do with lack of time, having to run a small business on his own and balancing that with regular family life. He doesn’t want to definitively give up on it yet, because it was a lot of fun and a great opportunity to get in contact with people from all over the world. The whole evolution was very exciting, starting with Eyesaw, changing it to Fontomas and ending up with TypeType.

    As for the next step, there’s a project he’s been dreaming of for 2 years now. FontPark will be an open air event around typography which will take place in a big park in his home town. Dirk has invited some people who are willing to come over to hold some speeches and show their work. Itďż˝s not really a conference, more a meeting point where designers, students and normal life can connect.

    So, let’s say the masked wonder is still alive and well … but only in the weekends and on holidays.

  5. the final release date:
    i’ll receive the cds on march 18 and they will be shipped the following week.

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