Behind the Font: Quirk, a Whimsical Display Font by The Routine Creative
Talk to enough type designers and you’ll quickly realize something: there’s a story behind every letterform. In this Behind the Font series, we’re on a mission to reveal the creative process behind some of the most popular font families on Creative Market. This time around, we talked to Alex Cottles — the talented designer behind Quirk.
1. What inspired you to design Quirk? Where does your creative process usually start?
First of all, thank you for having me! It’s always an honor to be interviewed in any capacity, so I really appreciate it. What inspired me to design Quirk was what inspires me to design any typeface, which stems from being a brand designer in itself. It’s the process of manipulating type to create a logo mark — that’s usually when an idea sparks.
Letterform ideas usually come up in that process. Sometimes I design them specifically for a logo mark and it doesn’t get selected, or it isn’t the right fit. Then I decide to build the letterforms out into a full typeface.
Quirk wasn’t crafted for a specific logo mark. I was manipulating type for specific letterforms, including Q and K, where I had the little slippery ligature mark coming off. I was also seeing a trend of different stackable letterforms, swooshes, ligatures, and all of that good stuff. At the time, I didn’t see many fonts built that way, so that’s what inspired me to create it.
2. Why did you name it Quirk?
The name I come up with last, typically. I want to get the idea for the font first and test it out with different names to see how it looks. You want to showcase it in its best light. With Quirk, I had started playing with the Q and the K first.
Another story behind the name is that my husband and I find it funny when someone self-describes as quirky because, to me, someone who is truly quirky isn’t necessarily aware of that. It’s just such a part of them. But looking at this font, we felt the opposite. It was born to be quirky.
Apart from that, we lived in Richmond, Virginia, here in the U.S., and there was a hotel called Quirk here, not Quirky, but just Quirk. And that homonym also inspired me.
3. How has your style evolved since you first started your craft?
The longer I do it, the more I do start to recognize my design style. In the beginning, I had a clear approach: I wanted to design modern and minimal. I was in such a learning phase, and I still am. Just constantly evolving.
When I started, I was trying to do whatever worked. Throwing stuff at the wall to see what stuck. Whereas now, I design something to be very minimal and modern, but I also want it to have some element of quirk or androgyny.
I’m constantly trying to balance feminine and masculine, professional and approachable. As more businesses go online, that type of balance is key. However, as a logo and brand designer, my style blends to whatever is called for on the project. In general, it still remains minimal and modern.
Some designers do have a super feminine style, and that’s great. Some designers have a super masculine style, and that’s great, too. I enjoy both, so that’s why I design my business to fit somewhere in the middle there. I’m a firm believer of this spectrum; my designs usually fall somewhere in the middle, and I enjoy it because it’s somewhere I can live.
4. Some say that finding the perfect font feels like falling in love. Please describe a brand that would be a great match for Quirk.
I think what makes this font cool is that, just like my design style, it can run the gamut on where you see it. I’ve seen it used for everything from corporate gift boxes to a laundromat. A lot of designers will actually use it within their logo, which is always a big honor to see.
Font design is a huge creative outlet for me. To know that someone’s getting genuine enjoyment out of playing with the font or using it for business in some form is a really cool feeling for sure.
5. How would you define your typographic design style?
For font design, I love vintagey, masculine styles. That’s what I’ve been dabbling with lately and what I’m most drawn to. I don’t feel like there are enough of those typefaces out there, in my opinion.
I do dive into specific time periods or decades that inspire a particular font. Art display fonts are typically what I’m designing; they’re creative, fun, and expressive. My goal is not necessarily to dive into the intricacies. It’s a cool thing that each font has its own story and personality.
6. What advice do you have for aspiring typographers looking to build a brand? Any specific resources or tools?
I think it really depends where you are in your journey. In the beginning, you’re just like a sponge. You’re trying to absorb everything and comparing yourself to others. You just say: “I want to be able to design like that. I want a style that looks like that.” I think that’s a good thing because you’re naturally attracted to it. You’re gravitating towards it, and it gives you something to work towards and evolve into.
I think there’s a time where you can eventually start to be over-inspired and copy people, which can get you in trouble and has gotten me in trouble in the past, if I’m honest. But I also think you come to a point where you learn that you aren’t that person. You aren’t that designer, and you can find different elements to bring into the mix that will really make it your own.
Comparison has pros and cons. You have to follow your intuition to understand if it’s helping you and motivating you. If you’re looking around, and it’s holding you back and stopping you in your tracks, then maybe you need to revisit your relationship with social media.
I have some designers that I mentor on the side, and I’m always challenging them to actually sit with that. If they’re looking at someone on social media, and something about them is making them jealous or wanting to unfollow, don’t unfollow them. Stay in that moment and try to fight through it. Why am I envious of what they have or what they’re doing?
At the end of the day, all of our journeys are so, so different. There isn’t really a point of comparison. Even if my design studio and my journey looked pretty similar to someone else’s, the time it took us to get from one point to another is going to be totally different. What we bring to the table and our personalities are going to be totally different. Don’t let it get to you so much. If it’s stopping you from moving forward and being creative, then take a break from that. Whoever you’re looking at.
If there is someone I’m comparing myself to and find myself feeling envious, I usually try to channel that into motivation. The competitive nature in me is just like: why can’t I do that? I’m gonna do that now. It really can motivate you if you let it. Channeling it into that kind of energy is much more productive in the end.
As far as font design is concerned, Fontself is typically what I’m using. I know you can purchase it for both Illustrator and Photoshop, which is really nice. I don’t use Glyphs for font design, but that’s a really popular one, as well. There’s a little bit more of a learning curve on that, but I know there’s a lot more capability there, too.
Beyond that, the full Adobe Suite is generally all I’m using. All the time. Especially Adobe Illustrator since I’m a little bit of a brand designer. And then, of course, I have to shout out to, you know, Creative Market and both Dribbble, as well. Creative Market is super useful for me as a designer. If there are specific graphic elements I don’t have in my wheelhouse, as far as like, my capabilities, or if I just don’t have the time, and someone else has already done it for me, you know, why not snag that from Creative Market.
Dribbble, of course, is a great place for inspiration. Just all over the place, as far as digital design is concerned. I also use Honeybook for client management, contracts, invoices, that sort of thing. I want to shout out this app that I downloaded on my Mac, called Shift. It’s pretty cool: it allows me to have all my email, Gmail, my Slack channels, my client management system. You can integrate pretty much any app you want, and it’s just all in one place. It’s been super helpful, especially for me because I’m like: OK, these are my office hours. I’m gonna open this big app with everything and what I’ve done for the day and close it when I’m done.
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