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Martin Majoor

Type Designer (He hates Helvetica.)

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Martin Majoor Type Designer

Justin Duplain


Also, he hates Helvetica.


Martin Majoor is Martin Majoor is a Dutch type designer and graphic designer. He he has a passion for research and detail while maintaining definitive opinions on what a typeface should and shouldn’t be. These ideals are revealed in his supreme type designs.

An image showing the process to extract Scala Sans from Scala.


Also, he hates Helvetica.

“At least Akzidenz Grotesk was based indirectly on a seriffed model, which makes it and its comtemporaries ‘original’ typefaces.” - Martin Majoor

Education and Philosophy Majoor includes many of the international articles about himself and his designs on his website. It contains extensive documentation of his type design philosophy and how he came to develop each of his major font families. is the primary point of reference for this essay. Majoor graduated from the Academy of Arts in Arnhem. At that time he already had introductory experience to designing type for the burgeoning digital world, having translated a typeface design called Serré to digital format in 1984 using one of the first software systems for type design. His fundamental perspective on type design has not changed since he graduated and he has built a successful career by staying true to his values, which maintain strong ties to literary usage, humanist principles, and modern aesthetic.1

One of Majoor’s main goals is to create complete typeface families with both serif and sans serif versions capable of complimenting each other when used together on a page. The type must function to support book design, and so he believes that a good type designer must first be a good book typographer. As he states mixing awkward combinations of sans and serif typefaces may be permissible in advertising, but only “produce a sever headache” otherwise. This philosophy is depicted in the logo on his home page, which shows a “serif” hand shaking with a “sans serif” hand. His primary method of creating harmonious letterforms is to base the sans forms on the serif skeleton.

Also, he hates Helvetica.

Furthermore, Majoor bases type design considerations on the historic development of typefaces. His designs are informed by history and his careful study has produced fonts that stand up to the rigor of modern scrutiny. His Type Design Philosophy website page reads like a history of sans serif letterforms; and it is clear that this knowledge of history goes into his type designs. Additionally, Majoor clearly believes in creating extensive typeface sets that can express the full range of literary and design potential; both of his major type families contain carefully designed ligatures, italics, and small cap characters. One of the primary methods of doing this is to base the sans serif version off of the sans, which holds the primary design.1

Scala Sans Regular

Scala Sans Italic

Scala Regular

Scala Italic

Scala Ligatures

Scala Majoor’s most popular (and oldest) type family is Scala, which consists of both a serif and sans serif along with supporting bolds, lights, and condensed versions. The serif version of Scala is an old style, humanist typeface that has a large x-height, while the sans serif is basically the same form with serifs removed. Scala is the preferred type for Ellen Lupton’s books and a quick Google-books search for ‘Martin Majoor’ reveals literally hundreds of books set in this typeface. Many books listed have been published within the past few years, showing how well Majoor’s design, which dates back to the late 1980’s has held up thus far.2,3

Telefont In 1994, Majoor designed a new typeface for the Dutch phonebook— Telefont—that is still in use today. A sans serif font, it replaced the use of a condensed, lowercase Univers as the new workhorse. It was an improvement; the lowercase font could be hard to read at small print sizes, while the lack of capitals could be confusing. Telefont, on the other hand was designed from the ground up specifically for this project. It comes in two variations: Telefont List, for use in small print for the individual records; and Telefont Text, for use in the headings and other page design. Telefont is a craft type, specifically designed for a particular use by a single professional. It is exclusively used for the Dutch phonebook and cannot be purchased for other uses (or even other countries phonebooks).4

Also, he hates Helvetica.

“As a text typeface Helvetica is an awkward creature.” - Martin Majoor

Martin Majoor Hates Helvetica This is not some arbitrary opinion based on the simple reason of overuse, but a deep belief that it is an undeserving anomaly in the world of type design. In a 2007 article in Eye magazine, he lays out the basis for his hate: You see, Helvetica is itself a bad copy of a clumsy typeface that consisted of a hodge-podge of 19th Century fonts, called Akzidenz Grotesk. Aggressively marketed as an improvement in the 1950’s, the Helvetica design only neutralized

According to Majoor, any successful design resulting from the use of Helvetica can be attributed solely to the graphic designer (and not the typeface). any character that had been present in the original grotesk, leaving an expressionless sans serif. Using a quote from Paul Rand advising against the use of Helvetica for copy: ‘Helvetica looks like dogshit in text.’ Clearly, Mr. Majoor is not alone in his thinking.7

“Helvetica looks like dogshit in text.” - Paul Rand

“Helvetica was a bad idea.” - Martin Majoor

Others Majoor has since developed two major font families based on his careful considerations. Motivated by Scala’s shortcomings, FF Seria was created as a strong literary typeface.5 His most resent complete font design is FF Nexus, which reflects Majoors philosophy on how to develop contiguous serif, sans, and slab typefaces. Majoor is also working on a cooperative typeface project called Questa.6

Summary In summary, we see that Majoor is a type designer who has strong principles and utilizes “deliberate rationality” in each of his designs.5 His careful attention and considerations have gained him prestige in the areas of type design and typography. His discussions on type philosophy are educational, interesting, and entertaining. Not in the least, he is a well-versed typographic historian who can translate that knowledge to successful type design.

Also, he hates Helvetica.

“Why was the italic not based on a real italic? What a missed opportunity!� - Martin Majoor

Footnotes: 1. Martin Majoor, “My type design philosophy,”, 2010, 2. Font Shop, “The Story of FF Scala,”, accessed Jan. 19, 2012, 3. Ellen Lupton, “Writing with Scala,”, accessed Jan. 19, 2012, scala.pdf. 4. Jan Middendorp, “A usefull instrument,” martinmajoor. com (originally published in Items – Review of Design, Visual Communication & Archtecture. December 1994), accessed Jan. 19, 2012, 5. Andy Crewdson, “Seria’s motives,” (originaly published in Druk No. 13-14, 2002), accessed Jan. 19, 2012, http:// 6. Martin Majoor, “Martin Majoor, Type design,” martinmajoor. com, accessed Jan. 19, 2012, 7. Martin Majoor, “Inclined to be Dull,”, accessed Jan. 19, 2012, php?id=143&fid=613.

This book is set in Scala and Scala Sans, designed by Martin Majoor

“I hate Helvetica� - Martin Majoor

hates it

Designer Book: Martin Majoor  
Designer Book: Martin Majoor  

This book was created as a production class project. The book was designed by my. Most Illustrations are by me.