A conversation with: Mat Desjardins of Pangram Pangram Foundry



You would be surprised to learn just how much goes into designing a typeface. The right typeface can convey personality and feeling, while the wrong typeface can just as easily break a design and convey the wrong message. Serif, sans serif, font weight, kerning, spacing, all of these minute details come together as the primer to any form of communication or design. That's why, for our Chez Nous collection, Off the Hook reached out to Mat Desjardins, founder of Pangram Pangram Foundry to help us pick out a few fonts that would help represent the neighbourhoods that's make Montreal the beautiful city that it is. Montreal, c'est chez nous. 



OTH: Hi Mat! Could you introduce yourself to our readers? 

M: Of course! My name is Mat Desjardins and I've been designing fonts and typefaces for the past 6 years now. I am also the founder of Pangram Pangram Foundry.

OTH: That's amazing! Could you tell us a little bit more about Pangram Pangram? 

M: Pangram Pangram Foundry is a typeface design community that I founded back in 2015. We offer free-to-try, meticulously crafted, trend conscious fonts to empower the design community in testing out new fonts for their everyday designs. 

OTH:  So, typeface design. I must say, it's not the most common careers out there haha. How did you get into designing fonts?

M: No, definitely not haha. In the past, I did a lot of creative direction and have quite an extensive design background so I've been working with typefaces for quite some time now. It was unexpected but I mean, it also came about quite organically.

I'm self taught for pretty much everything I've ever done in my life and I came upon this book called Designing Typeface by Karen Cheng and it was super hands on. Extremely meticulous, very precise. That book is what inspired me to try my hand at typeface design.


M: This was back in 2015 and it was just a hobby for awhile but back then, it was more difficult to find well crafted, beautiful fonts that you could try for free you know? Especially for client work. It was always either the client wouldn't have the budget to purchase the license for a font or some other designer would share a font with you so everyone was just using the same font at the end of the day. No one was buying nice fonts just to try them out for their designs so for me it never made sense to charge the designer when ultimately the responsibility for purchasing the right license fell on the client. 

So, after designing my first two fonts, I decided to give them away for free. Ultimately, that became the ethos behind Pangram Pangram. To create a website where designers could try the fonts for free and buy the commercial licenses afterwards if they needed it.

OTH: How does that work? Is there a certain amount of uses for a font, are there any restrictions? 

M: Well, it's all very trust-based I would say. Designers can download the fonts and try them out for free for their personal use but when ultimately, if the design is to be used commercially then they have to buy a license for it. 

The goal behind PPF is not to write off designers, the goal to empower them to be able to create beautiful designs with the help of our fonts. 

OTH: That's one of the things that we believe is so amazing about PPF. Whether its intentionally or not, the world of design can feel very very intimidating but PPF is the opposite of that. It's very accessible. 

M: Exactly! In the design world, you always have to present the client with multiple different options when it comes to design work and more often than not, there are going to be multiple revisions and I thought it wasn't right for the designer to shoulder all of that responsibility. 



OTH: Can you speak a bit on your process behind designing new typefaces? How long does it take on average to design new typefaces? 

M: It's always a process of about 2-3 months to just build out the basic structure of the font into something decent but it can easily take up to 6 months to really fine-tune a font and iron out all the details. It's a lot of work. When you're designing a typeface, you first design the base, the alphabet but then you have design the different weights (light, bold, regular), and the symbols, the numbers, the special characters etc. 

I know some typeface designers that sit on a font and refuse to release it even after working on it for almost 3 years. 

OTH: That's crazy! Does it ever happen that after putting in all that time, you look at a typeface design and you absolutely hate it and scrap it all? 

M: Hahaha, like most designers, yes! All the time! When it comes to designing typefaces, I gain inspiration from looking at design work from up and coming designers and their design work and I try and look at trends. Similar to fashion, there are trends in the design world so I try and design typefaces that are ahead of the curve that I believe will be trending in the future. I don't scrap my old designs, but after looking at it for quite some time, I'll usually update it every now and then.

Take for example, the Neue Montreal font that's used in the Chez Nous collaboration. I just recently updated it with the launch of our new website so that the periods and commas are more squared off as opposed to the old rounded shapes. The feedback was crazy haha. We had some people writing us telling us we ruined the typeface but that's the beauty of typeface design is that you can alternating characters so people can pick and choose which characters they want in their typefaces. 

OTH: Speaking of the Chez Nous collaboration with PPF, could you tell us a bit more about how you approached it? 

M: I've been part of the Ringleaders for close to 10 years now. Soccer has always been big in my family and my brother (who was already a Ringleader) introduced me to Angelo back in 2011 so I've grown pretty close with him and Gildas. 

I had helped Ange with the redesign and font selection for the new Ringleaders website and when they approached me earlier this year to help pick out some fonts, I was ecstatic to help out. I picked out a few fonts from the Pangram Pangram Foundry repertoire that I felt really represented each neighbourhood. Obviously, I hadn't lived in absolutely all of them but I'm pretty confident in the choices we made for each font. In the end, we went with Neue Montreal for the Hochelaga, Montréal-Nord, Parc EX and Notre-Dame-de-Grace tees, Neue World for St-Henri, Verdun, Griffintown, Vieux Montréal, and Pointe St-Charles, and Formula Condensed for Chabanel, La Petite Italie, Le Petit Maghreb, Le Petit Portugal, Villeray, Plateau, Mile-End, and Outremont!. 








OTH: What's next for Pangram Pangram? What new fonts the design community look forward to? 

M: The fun thing about typeface design is that it doesn't just end at the latin alphabet. One of our collaborators in the Czech Republic is also Russian so he helps us create new expansions for typefaces in the Cyrillic alphabet, which isn't too difficult because the shapes are fairly similar to the Latin alphabet. 

Another one of our collaborators out in Brazil is also of Japanese decent so he's been working on incorporating Japanese Kana characters for our Eiko font. Japanese and Chinese characters are a bit more difficult to create typefaces for considering the sheer amount of characters but we've tackled Vietnamese and even Korean typefaces as well. 

We tend to tackle different alphabets as the design community in different cultures expand so right now we're looking to expand into the Arabic market with an expansion for our Neue Montreal font. Stay tuned!