Béla Frank found inspiration in a 19th-century book of type specimens.
Since 2013, the Hungarian designer had been working tirelessly on a handsome typeface he called Kraken Slab. At his independent foundry, Frank Fonts in Budapest, it was his aim to create a fresh incarnation of the slab serif genre, a thick, blockish type.
“Then I saw a specimen book online by Vincent Figgins of Peckham, London,” recalled Frank.
During the 1800s, Figgins was an influential type designer in England who created the type families Egiziano and Monotype Ionic. The latter became a model for many 20th-century newspaper typefaces.
“I got hooked,” Frank said. “I tried to lift certain glyphs and update them according to my liking—or style—and I loved them. But they didn’t mix very well with the rest of Kraken.” And so began a painstaking year of trying to blend the spirit of Figgins’ ancient letters into his new font.
“I tried to capture the boldness, the energy of that typeface and channel it into Kraken Slab. And so I did not create a revival, but a design that has one foot in the past and one in the present.”
Frank worked on Kraken Slab, on and off, for more than five years. “A serious font family should not be rushed,” he said. “Creating a typeface from scratch is a long and complex process.”
Kraken Slab was finished in 2018, and honored at the 22nd Annual TDC Typeface Design Competition with the Certificate of Typographic Excellence. Judges described the font as a “mild-mannered monster of a typeface with a sturdy skeleton, characteristic features, and a powerful personality...like a portrait of an old friend drawn from memory, it captures and truthfully redefines the character of a well-known style.”
Editor's note: A free download of FR Kraken Slab offered here has since expired.