making of

by Hannes von Döhren & Livius Dietzel

Same as it ever was

Our first idea was to create a headline face built up by combining straight lines with brush-stroke elements. How could we create a complete design with this system that would still maintain enough consistency?

Our first round of sketches were limited to just a few letters. These allowed us to easily examine the possibilities of our self-defined brief.

From analog to digital

Next, we drew a basic alphabet on the computer. We realized that the strict concept behind our design could be brought to life quickly. At the same time, we weren’t satisfied with certain letter pairs in our first round of test print-outs. By rigidly applying of our design hypothesis, we came to results that were too wooden. In particular, the brush elements were too dominant in the uppercase letters. In order to bring more clarity and compatibility into them, we toned down the stoke artefacts; in some cases, we left them out completely.


Since we envisioned the typeface for use in large-scale applications, we decided to view the inktraps as design features in their own right. These became prominent elements of ITC Chino Display. Additionally, sculpting the perfect counterforms was as important to us as drawing the black letter strokes.

Next step: a display family

As we were filling out the heavy weight, we asked ourselves if the same design principles might also be applicable to a light version. In order to create the largest amount of contrast with our heavy cut, we decided upon a hairline weight; one that would only employ the lightest, seemingly monoline strokes. This brought about new challenges, namely to somehow keep the brush-stroke feeling visible — even without the fat black elements — as well as not to stray away from our idea of the general ITC Chino character.

An ITC Chino for long texts

We envisioned that the display family would be most useful in packaging designs. Since headlines in these applications are often paired with smaller-sized descriptive texts, we decided that a companion text face would be necessary. Our starting point for the ITC Chino Text design was the thinner of the two display weights. We made these letters heavier and narrower, taking out some of the brushy elements along the way. However, in test print outs, it was clear to see that the basic architecture of the display weights could not create a homogenous, legible rhythm.

ITC Chino Text’s new beginning

In order to meet the demand for a professional text face, we would need to create a whole new foundation. As much as it hurt us, we had to throw our first sketches for the text face completely overboard. A more holistic approach would be necessary.

Our new concept sought to develop a humanistic skeleton, one that we could apply the typical ITC Chino features onto.

Oops, it’s getting big

We discussed which areas we could set ITC Chino Text in. What applications could professional designers use this typeface for?

The new ITC Chino Text should:
– be able to stand alone, or combine with the ITC Chino Display weights
– support a broad spectrum of usage possibilities (from packaging to editorial and corporate design)
– meet all contemporary expectations for a professional and efficient text family (i.e., include Small Caps, multiple weights, Iitalics, broad language support, multiple figure options, etc.).

We set out to build a text family of 10 fonts. With this single decisions, we created an additional year’s worth of work for ourselves!

ITC Chino Text’s Development

We studied classic types characterized by good rhythm and legibility. Our conclusion was that text faces should be reserved, so that they don't influence the content of their document. Instead, they should be one with the content itself. For the new text family, we began with the Regular weight's design. We intentionally reduced the impact of the ITC Chino brush-stroke elements. At the same time, we maintained the characteristics of our ITC Chino idea: friendliness, clarity, and verve. We optimized legibility by equalizing the widths of the letters, and we kept retooling the fonts’ spacing until our countless test print outs began to show a homogenous rhythm and equal gray value.

Hello superfamily

From the completed ITC Chino Regular, we developed a Black and a Light weight. With a MultipleMaster axis, we interpolated the Medium and Bold. These two raw results were then optimized by hand. This way, we could give each weight its own individual details.

Real Italics

To sit alongside the five upright fonts, we added Italic variants. The characters from the upright files were obliqued, and then optically corrected. Outstroke terminals were added, and the letters a, f, and g — as well as a few others — were replaced with “true Italic” versions.

Nerd stuff: kerning & OpenType features

Only one phrase can sum up kerning: your eyes will glaze over. But when the steps are kept well organized, one can sift the positive elements out from the drudgery of a kerning marathon. We used the ITC Chino project to step up personal kerning and spacing lists for ourselves, which we will continue to use in additional typeface design projects. ITC took over the final OpenType feature programming, which activates the oldstyle figures, as well as the features for tabular figures, figures in circles, ligatures, arrows, Small Caps, etc.

ITC Chino Pro has a judicious demeanor that is well suited for text composition. It also has a lighthearted and uncomplicated personality – with a bit of urban sophistication. This is a typeface family that is poised to become an important communication tool.


ITC Chino Display is the perfect complement to ITC Chino Pro – and can work on its own as a delightfully capable choice for headlines and copy at large sizes. The Thin is a chic monoline melding of script and sans serif character traits while the Ultra is a more whimsical – and more substantial – interpretation of this theme.

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