Tate Modern

Service Typeface development Partners Newlyn in collaboration with Wolff Olins Date 1999–Present

Developing an ongoing relationship—not just custom type

In 1999, international brand consultancy Wolff Olins asked Miles Newlyn to help rebrand Britain’s Tate Gallery. The commission included the creation of a custom typeface that could perform well in a wide range of settings—from the branding of one of the world’s most prominent art institutions down to the price of a cup of coffee listed in its the cafeteria. Newlyn determined that the new typeface needed to be unique yet sufficiently neutral so as not to detract from the visually-arresting art adorning the Tate’s walls. Taking on the challenge of creating a modern design that would make fit next to a sixteenth-century masterpiece, he envisioned a contemporary typeface that was informed by history.

To achieve this delicate balance, Newlyn crafted a unique typographic identity by combining an unusual mix of properties. The capitals were based on the classical proportions of Roman inscriptions, while the construction of the lowercase referenced the geometry of twentieth-century modernism. Open letterforms and rounded terminals completed its distinct look.

Image courtesy of the designer, Nina Jua Klein

Following an agile workflow, Newlyn delivered the fonts in stages during the design and production process. Tate’s design team was thus able to test the regular weight in key applications before the typeface was developed further. Once its readability in medium-length copy and its confidence in all-caps headlines had been confirmed, Newlyn completed the family with additional weights. This approach prevented costly revisions down the line.

The fact that the distinctive identity of the Tate typeface resided at its very core rather than in superficial details allowed for special designs for specific shows. The typeface developed in sync with the institution. Continuous improvement is far more valuable for a brand than following trends. Thanks to its structural exclusivity, Newlyn could not only refresh the design several years later without sacrificing any of the equity the custom face had built up, but also adapt it to evolving formal and technical requirements.

Creating a custom typeface is not just a project—it’s the beginning of an ongoing relationship between you and the type designer. This guarantees that your custom typeface will remain timeless yet always up-to-date. Contact us for more information or a personalized quote.

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