Introducing Viroqua: Kandal Revisited

Viroqua’s ancestor, Excalibur, hand inked.

I released Kandal in 1994. It’s one of my earliest typeface designs, going all the way back to an earlier design in 1978, which I submitted it to International Typeface Corporation (ITC) under the name “Excalibur”. It went through a couple of iterations before the one I submitted, variously influenced by the work of Hermann Zapf and Jim Parkinson. I honestly had very little idea what I was doing—a case of overestimating what I knew and underestimating how much was left to know. By a large margin. Excalibur was understandably rejected by ITC. It had lots of problems and I resolved to improve my knowledge and skills before trying to submit something to them again.

Fast-forward to 1990. I never did submit any more typefaces to ITC, but I did have lots of ideas and sketches and practice drawing letters. I also got a Mac in 1984 and Fontographer in 1987 and started trying to make PostScript fonts. One of my ideas was to revisit Excalibur, simplifying the design and addressing its many flaws. This became Kandal. I was also working on Proxima Sans, the predecessor to Proxima Nova, around the same time, and a few other ideas, some of which are still on the drawing board.

Kandal has never been one of my popular typefaces. It’s not surprising, given that it was such an early design, made when I had very little experience making fonts. I probably should have pulled it from my library, but I kept thinking I would come back to it and fix it, like I did with Proxima Sans.

Thirty years later, it’s finally happened. The new version is reworked from the ground up, so I decided to give it a completely different name, instead of something like Kandal Nova. “Kandal” was my paternal grandmother’s maiden name and the town in Norway her family was from. The new name, “Viroqua”, is the town in Southwestern Wisconsin where she was born and raised.

Viroqua is an improvement over Kandal in every way I could think of, while retaining its core design concept: A hybrid combining modern proportions, Jenson-like details, and a bit of slab serif DNA. Nearly every character has been reworked or refined. The original italic especially suffered from my lack of experience as a type designer. I basically started over. I’ve got three more decades of experience and I hope it shows.

Viroqua also has a wider range of weights, seven in all, going from Thin to Black.

Viroqua features many typographical niceties missing from Kandal, such as small caps, old style and lining figures (both proportional and tabular), superscript and subscript figures, fractions, and dingbats. Viroqua also supports most Latin-based Western and Eastern European languages, plus Vietnamese.

Viroqua is available now. More information here.