Canadian digital type foundry celebrates 20 years with a suite of decorative font designs

On the occasion of Shinntype’s 20th anniversary and the 10th anniversary of its influential Modern Suite, we are pleased to present Nick Shinn RGD’s latest typeface design: Phiz—a diverse collection of 27 decorative inventions, all based on one of the Modern Suite fonts, Figgins Sans Extra Bold.


Phiz comprises four sub-families: Classic (9 fonts), Rounded (7 fonts), Rough (4 fonts) and Particles (7 fonts).

While the Classic styles hark back to the 19th century and the Rounded and Rough styles are thoroughly modern, Phiz Particles emanate from the future. They occupy a unique niche—related to but neither imitating the genres of distressed printing (e.g. the “rusty” or “rubber stamp” look) nor casual, hand-drawn designs. These irregular styles are conceived and programmed as complex algorithmically-generated graphic procedures, in which repetitive classes of elements have been artfully applied to the Figgins capitals and manually nuanced. As such they also differ substantially from textured letter shapes that have been cut out from larger pattern fields, for their myriad constituent particles are disposed in relation to the specific shape of each of the characters which they define. These generative variations of Phiz were programmed by David Mouritsen CGD, RGD using algorithms he wrote for the project, that can produce a limitless range of variations of any font.


The caps-with-small-caps format was chosen for two reasons. Firstly, decorative typeface usage (headlines, titling and display) has traditionally eschewed minuscule letter forms (“lower case”), and secondly, rather like optical scaling, making the same resolution of texture available in two different “sizes” (upper and lower case) is useful in the hierarchy of document layout—not principally for setting mixed case text as caps-with small-caps, although this is of course an option. All numerals and major symbols (punctuation and currency) are provided in both cap and small cap height. All fonts have the same metrics and kerning, so that layering is straightforward; not every combination is viable—but many of them are specifically tailored to one another.


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About Shinntype
Shinntype was one of the pioneer digital type foundries, established by Nick and Karey Shinn on the cusp of e-commerce in 1998 to publish his font designs, and has since released dozens of original typeface families. Shinntype fonts are available from, FontHaus, FontShop, Font Diner, Fontspring, MyFonts, Phil’s Fonts and YouWorkForThem.

Commissioned work is also undertaken: custom typefaces have been produced for publications such as The Birmingham News (Alabama), The Daily Express (London), and The Globe and Mail (Toronto). Custom fonts, with exclusive rights, have been created for corporations such as PepsiCo, Proctor and Gamble, Loblaws, Mountain Equipment Co-op, and Martha Stewart Living.

About the designer
Canadian type designer Nick Shinn RGD was born in London, England in 1952 and has a Dip.AD in Fine Art (1974) from Leeds Polytechnic. He moved to Toronto in 1976. During the 1980s he was an advertising agency creative director, before launching the environmental marketing company Earthmark (1988-90). At the leading edge of the “desktop publishing” revolution that transformed the graphic arts industry prior to the internet, he went digital in 1989 with Shinn Design, specializing in marketing design. From 1980 he occasionally designed typefaces, entering into it full time in 1998 with Shinntype. His first digital font, Fontesque (1993), was hugely popular internationally, and his type designs Beaufort, Bodoni Egyptian, Brown, and Handsome have sold steadily since their release almost 20 years ago. The Globe and Mail is set entirely in his Pratt Nova and Sense, commissioned by that publication in 2011.