Dave Nalle Talks Valdemar & AGE OF MISRULE!
"The overall result is excellent, and it’s just the kind of book Valdemar was designed for. I also quite like the cover art by John Picacio, which is surprisingly conceptually reminiscent of the cover Howard David Johnson did for my Ysgarth RPG. Special kudos also go to Lou Anders of Pyr for putting such a good design team together."
I've never heard of Howard David Johnson or seen the Ysgarth RPG, but thought that was strange and amazing. Dave's full text even offers an impromptu review of the book to boot! After seeing this, I emailed him and asked if we could do a mini-interview. He graciously accepted.
What inspired the creation of the Valdemar font?
Dave: I was actually on vacation with my family in England when I started working on it in 2000. There was a hand-lettered title on the cover of a horror-themed puzzle book which I bought for my daughter and after looking at it for several days I gave in to a compulsion to design a font which would be a better title font for a book like that. Because my computer access was limited while traveling I drew the characters by hand, starting with a set of rough-looking serif characters and then adding somewhat ominous, magical elements to create alternate versions of each character. The font ended up being very successful and was picked as the signature font for the Harry Potter merchandising campaign so it appeared all over the place on packaging for action figures and toys. The result was that it became overexposed, so a few years later I designed Valdemar Alternate so that there would be more variant characters, giving designers more options and giving the font a longer shelf-life.
What are some of the decisions you face when designing a font like this? Any surprises in the making of this one?
Dave: The challenge on Valdemar was coming up with elements to add to the basic characters which looked mystical and yet were visually appealing. Most of them worked, but I really hate the "L" in the Valdemar Alternate character set with the short, rather weak looking spike going through it. But the biggest challenge was to come up with enough little quirks for 26 and ultimately 52 characters while not duplicating ideas I'd used in a couple of past conceptually similar fonts like Necromantic and Ironworks. The main surprise is how popular Valdemar has been. There are other fonts I've put enormously more work and thought into which haven't been anywhere near as popular. When I made it I was just kind of playing around, but clearly the idea resonated with people.
You've designed some amazing fonts. At this moment, what are three of your all-time faves you've designed?
Dave: I like Hadrianus because although it's derived from Roman inscriptory lettering, it's still basically an original design and it's the first traditional text font I did which works really well. Earlier text fonts I designed were either too derivative of other fonts or awkward looking, but Hadrianus works. I rather like Newgrange because I took the basic elements of Celtic calligraphy and took them to an interesting extreme and I think the result is very effective. Another favorite is Orpheus, because like a lot of my fonts it came from looking at someone else's work -- in this case the overly popular Morpheus font -- and deciding that I could do the same concept and make it better. With Orpheus it really worked. Now we just need the world to realize that they should be using it.
Much appreciated, Dave! Thanks for the time. Long live Scriptorium!