FF Tisa Goes Sans

It’s been five years since FF Tisa’s release. To follow-up, Mitja Miklavčič offers his newest addition: FF Tisa Sans. With similar proportions to its serif companion, FF Tisa Sans is well-suited for signage and information design projects; it’s a great choice for complex editorial or branding projects, too. We caught up with Mitja to learn more out about his professional journey and the story behind FF Tisa Sans.
This interview is a collaboration between Lucy Phillips, Dan Reynolds and myself, Ivo Gabrowitsch.

On Type Design

What prompted you to design your first typeface?

Mitja Miklavčič | “My involvement in type design started from a graphic design point of view. When working for design studios, it was often the case that during the design process we simply couldn’t find a typeface that would suit a particular project. So I started designing my own fonts. I suppose it’s a similar story as to how many other FontFonts came to life.”

You have a Masters degree in Typeface Design from the University of Reading. How much of an influence do you think this had on your development?

Mitja Miklavčič | “It definitely had a big influence on my skills, but also on other things related to typeface design. Besides the practical parts, a great deal of attention is put toward design theory and writing about various aspects related to typography. All of that research, and the resources from the department, consequentially affected the design of the typeface.”

In your opinion, what is it that makes a typeface excellent?

Mitja Miklavčič | “I think an excellent typeface has to fulfil many requirements. First, it must have a ‘personality’. On top of that, the typeface should be executed well, which means having balanced curves, even spacing and kerning, etc. When it comes to designing a text typeface, even more boxes need to be ticked, such as advanced technological requirements and linguistic issues. If your typeface lacks these, it will not be very usable.”

Do you ever get ‘type designer’s block’? How do you get past it?

Mitja Miklavčič | “No, not really. I actually have the opposite problem: the lack of time to execute all of my ideas. I have quite a lot of concepts at very early stage, either as sketches on paper or as vector objects. The biggest problem about the type design process is that it takes a great deal of time to put those initial ideas into some kind of form that actually makes sense.”

Having gained a lot of experience, is there anything you would change about the way that you designed your first typeface?

Mitja Miklavčič | “Definitely. Every single time I start designing a new typeface, I learn something new. This is one of the best things about typography.”

When writing the Slovene, three letters also have caron diacritics, a little like German and its umlauts. But fonts today can include several hundred diacritical characters. Do you think that you have a specific approach to their design, because of your language?

Mitja Miklavčič | “I wouldn’t exactly say I have a specific approach designing that part of the glyph set but generally speaking I think designers whose native languages use many diacritics are more aware of this particular issue. That is why I’m not surprised that my colleagues from countries such as the Czech Republic or Poland are particularly active in raising the awareness about this important topic.”

If you were to give someone starting out in typography one piece of advice what would it be?

Mitja Miklavčič | “Have lots of patience!”

Well, we know exactly what you mean. How have you found working with FontFont?

Mitja Miklavčič | “What I particularly like about FontFont is that the people working there have so much knowledge about the different stages of the design process, as well as the activities that have to be done after the type is ready for use. But most importantly, they are really nice people to work with!”

On FF Tisa Sans

What prompted you to expand FF Tisa?

Mitja Miklavčič | “The first version of FF Tisa started as a student project. It was later fine-tuned and expanded for the FontFont library. During the serif design process I noticed that the forms without serifs – especially for some figures – have quite a distinctive character. First, I started working on the bold sans. I showed it to some type design colleagues, and they all liked it straight away. Five years later, I finally found the necessary time and started some serious work on it.”


Image created by Anton Sovetov.

Why do you think FF Tisa has become such a popular web font?

Mitja Miklavčič | “FF Tisa was never created specifically for web use; after all, it was released at a time when webfonts were still limited to the system fonts. It was actually designed for demanding printing conditions such as gravure printing. To some extent, those kind of rough printing conditions are similar to what happens on screen. With its solid character and the great hinting job that the technicians at FontFont did, FF Tisa works really well on today’s screens. Despite being designed for such rough and demanding conditions FF Tisa is still a soft and friendly typeface.”


Image created by Anton Sovetov.

FF Tisa Sans is by no means a subordinate of FF Tisa, arguably it’s independent from it. Did you consciously emancipate the Sans?

Mitja Miklavčič | “Yes, I’d say FF Tisa Sans is more of a cousin than a sister to the serif companion. Both typefaces share the same proportions. The x-height, ascenders, descenders, etc. are roughly the same colour in all seven weights. They have similar aesthetic features, such as stroke endings or conical italics. Therefore, both typefaces can be used together for various complex editorial tasks. On the other hand, some pronounced features are slightly less dominant, for instance ink traps. In my opinion, FF Tisa Sans has wider potential. For example, just before sending files to FontFont I did a couple of wayfinding projects and used FF Tisa Sans for some tests and it worked surprisingly well. I’ve added some extra glyphs – including a range of specially-designed arrows – just for that particular purpose. FF Tisa Sans plays well with other typefaces, too. So users could combine it with other serifs, or also just use it on its own.”


Image created by Anton Sovetov.

Your MA thesis dealt with Clarendon typefaces, and FF Tisa is one of FontFont’s most popular slab serifs. What is it about these kind of letterforms that strikes a chord with graphic designers?

Mitja Miklavčič | “It is hard to give a rational answer to this question. Ever since I’ve been involved in graphic design the letterforms with pronounced serifs usually worked very well in all sorts of design jobs. And to some extend this is still true for the contemporary screen-related projects: slab serifs or typefaces with strong serifs work very well on screen.”


Image created by Anton Sovetov.

On working in different countries

You’ve spent a lot of time in London. What did you like most about the city?

Mitja Miklavčič | “London is a fantastic place to live … at least for a while. It’s probably the most truly multicultural place in Europe, and with that comes plenty of opportunities to meet different people with all sorts of different ideas. That sort of diversity is also very obvious in every single creative discipline, and it therefore makes the whole environment very inspiring.”

In contrast, what is the design scene like in Slovenia?

Mitja Miklavčič | “The design scene in Slovenia is pretty interesting and quite diverse. Bearing in mind that we’re a country with only two million people, I’d say the quality of work is on a very decent level. Younger generations of graphic and product designers are especially talented. However, the biggest problem for graphic design in Slovenia is that the clients do not necessarily appreciate graphic design, and therefore don’t understand the role of design in the whole process. One might argue that this one of the reasons why our economy has not been doing so well lately.”

When you’re not designing type what do you enjoy doing?

Mitja Miklavčič | “One of the best things about living in Slovenia is its location: the Mediterranean Sea and the Alps are both very close. So, it’s hardly surprising that I spend most of my time outside! Aside from that, I really love travelling.”

FF Tisa Sans

The original FF Tisa is one of the new-millennium favorites in the FontFont library. Upon its release, the typeface found its niche with print designers, and it received a Certificate of Excellence in Type Design from the TDC in 2007. FF Tisa Web was a quick hit with web designers, too.


FF Tisa and FF Tisa Sans share the same basic structure, proportions, vertical dimensions and colour.


Necessary system elements have been fine-tuned to one another, including the proportions of the letterforms and their distinctive bulging stroke endings.

Despite its cross-media appeal, Mitja originally drew FF Tisa to meet the technological and aesthetic requirements of contemporary magazine design and printing. His primary goal was to develop a softer, more dynamic take on the nineteenth-century slab serif wood type genre. A large x-height and pronounced serifs help make FF Tisa extremely legible in text sizes. A few unique details – including slightly exaggerated ink traps and a fairly upright italic – are particularly visible in display sizes.


FF Tisa Sans features slightly reduced ink traps.

FF Tisa Sans features slightly reduced ink traps. System elements have been fine-tuned to one another, including the color density of blocks of text, the proportions of the letterforms, their distinctive stroke endings and even the eye-catching Italics. Of course, the character set contains the same extensive range of characters and typographic features as the original FF Tisa.


FF Tisa Sans’s italics have FF Tisa’s same weight, structure, and refined “bell-bottom”construction, but without its top-half serifs.


Subtle variations in slant lend the eye-catching italics their friendly and dynamic appearance.

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