Fabio Haag is in London, for a two-month training period at Dalton Maag. Back in Brazil, Fabio will work as typedesigner and representative for DM, prospecting new clients in South America. On that account, we asked a few questions to Bruno Maag, DM’s managing director:
TPC › What makes Dalton Maag consider South America an emerging market? What are the other emerging markets to DM?
Bruno › As an economy, Brazil is amongst the fastest growing. This will eventually affect the design industry as Brazilian companies expand and become more brand aware. Also for any Brazilian company to compete in the US/European market they will have to ensure that their visual appearance is as high quality as that of the industrialized nations. This expansion also brings a higher awareness of copyright and trademark issues. That, in turn, encourages more people from the creative industries to be creative without the fear of being ripped off.
We are also investigating possibilities in Asia, particularly in India as well as the Arabic world. I believe that in future there will be a big demand for complex non-Latin scripts, again as economic expansion demands increased visual identity.
TPC › How do you people at Dalton Maag keep up with new font technologies?
Bruno › My tech colleagues are on various tech forums and we also have a dedicated software engineer who always keeps up to date with the latest specifications from Microsoft and Adobe. You may miss Apple here, but I feel that the Apple Mac has become a small concern and no-one is creating fonts anymore specifically for the Mac. Of course we are also constantly trying to innovate and potentially create new technology ourselves.
TPC › You told me once (correct me if I’m wrong) that Dalton Maag only works with corporate fonts. If so, what made you start working with retail fonts? And how much it represents in DM’s overall sales?
Bruno › Yes you are right. Dalton Maag certainly started out designing corporate fonts only. This is still our core business. However, we have realized that there is a market to modify existing fonts (of course only with permissions and correct licensing in place). Creating our font library allows us to exploit these designs not only with plain sales but to create modifications, too. As they are our Intellectual Property (IP) we have total freedom on permissions and licensing schemes.
The retail library now presents approx 10% of turnover. This may sound a lot of money but don’t be fooled. The cost of creating a font is high and usually only a small percentage of retail fonts actually successfully sell. You need to bank on these to support the expansion with other, less commercial fonts.
TPC › Here in Brazil we’re talking about starting a national typographic association. As an ex-chairman of Typographic Circle, can you talk about the UK organization and your experience with type associations in general? What difference do they make to your work?
Bruno › What I have found is that it is difficult to maintain an organization on a national level. We only managed to keep it going in London, and that was hard enough. The Typo Circle is a voluntary organization which means that you need to have a core of dedicated people who organize everything, from talks to social events.
The Typo Circle has managed in the last ten years to raise awareness of good typography, and make typography a more important issue. We now regularly count over 100 people at talks. However, we have always felt that it is important that the TC is a social club where members can network, or just have a good time and talk type. This is where the real value is.
My suggestion would be that you may have a national umbrella organization but that much is organized at a local level. Also, don’t forget that type/typography is largely a minority interest so you will need to run this on a membership basis.
Being the chairman of the TC impacted mainly in a PR (public relation) sense, in that I was able to expose myself and the company. I am not sure whether it has made a real financial impact.
TPC › What made you select a Brazilian type professional to join your team? Is there something you would like to say to students here who plan to work and possibly live by typedesign?
Bruno › If I want to establish Dalton Maag in Brasil as the type company where designers go, this is only possible by having a physical presence there. This is one of the reasons I invited Fabio Haag to join our team. He will help us promote and grow the business, as well as carry out design and production duties.
I am not sure what to say to students – type does not pay, maybe. Yes, I have made my business work, but it is tough. Type is a luxury item and even big corporates do not easily part with their money. It is not enough to be a good designer. You will also have to be a good sales person, and totally understand technology. It is no good to be able to design great type if you can’t make it work, or provide support to your clients.
TPC › Bruno, are you still full-time trapped into type business or did you manage to get back to type design?
Bruno › I am afraid to say that I am a full time manager now. Just occasionally I actually manage to get my hands dirty. I do make a point of being involved in the initial stages of every type project because I want to make sure that we only create the best ideas. I also ensure that I get to see most of the work that leaves the office, again, simply for quality control. It takes ten years to build a reputation, and only ten seconds to destroy it.