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Type designer Mariya V. Pigoulevskaya on adapting Tautz for Vikings: Valhalla

type-designer-mariya-v.-pigoulevskaya-on-adapting-tautz-for-vikings:-valhalla

Mariya V. Pigoulevskaya

Vikings: Valhalla, the sequel to the hugely popular Netflix series Vikings, recently dropped on the streaming site. And to help create a distinct identity for the show, the head of design at The Northern Block, Mariya V. Pigoulevskaya, was tasked with creating a typeface that captured the spirit of the programme.

Set a hundred years after the show which spawned it, Vikings: Valhalla is a gritty historical drama which chronicles the beginning of the end of the Viking age. And, as its subject material dictates, a show about raiding Norsemen needed a suitably rugged font. Enter The Northern Block and Mariya V. Pigoulevskaya.

As a collaborative type foundry, The Northern Block are typeface experts who have designed the lettering for some of the most talked-about TV of recent years. If you’ve sat through the epic Beatles documentary Get Back, you’ll already be familiar with their work. But for Vikings: Valhalla, Mariya was approached with the idea of font customisation in mind.

Type designer Mariya V. Pigoulevskaya on adapting Tautz for Vikings: Valhalla

Type designer Mariya V. Pigoulevskaya on adapting Tautz for Vikings: Valhalla

The font in question was Tautz, a typeface originally designed and released in 2014. Inspired by British style and heritage, especially the masculinity of the fashion brand E. Tautz and Sons, Tautz already had a very distinctive personality, which the show’s creative team was eager to build.

Mariya tells Creative Boom that Tautz is “a visually powerful type family featuring striking sharpness and rigid structure.” In other words, it’s the perfect foundation for a show that needs a rough and ready font.

“When creating a unique identity, a typeface is an essential building block in successful brand creation,” Mariya explains. “Whether you are working on a startup, refreshing your existing branding or launching a new Netflix show that has a distant connection to a very successful predecessor, choosing the right typeface is the key to successfully making people feel a certain way about a brand.”

Type designer Mariya V. Pigoulevskaya on adapting Tautz for Vikings: Valhalla

Type designer Mariya V. Pigoulevskaya on adapting Tautz for Vikings: Valhalla

For Vikings: Valhalla, one of the feelings which needed to be conveyed was that this is a show with a brand new storyline which needs to take centre stage. Jeb Stuart, the creator of Vikings: Valhalla, has a love for historical writing material, strong women and detailed research, which has been fed into all aspects of the show’s visual identity, including the choice of typeface and the custom modifications which followed.

“Type customisation is one of the most popular ways to create a distinctive identity,” Mariya reveals. “Whether you are looking to add value by refining your existing typeface or implement details crucial to your vision, it offers an excellent time to value ratio. In addition, it allows for better clarity when visualising the final design.”

As with any font customisation project, the requirements are usually requested by the client. Vikings: Valhalla was no exception. “Every modification project is tailored to the customer’s specific needs,” says Mariya. “The work might range from designing additional currency symbols, expanding the language coverage, creating display weights or modifying the elements of the type family entirely.

Type designer Mariya V. Pigoulevskaya on adapting Tautz for Vikings: Valhalla

Type designer Mariya V. Pigoulevskaya on adapting Tautz for Vikings: Valhalla

“The process, techniques and timing vary depending on the style of the typeface and the scope of work involved. Each customisation can take any time between a couple of weeks to six months depending on the complexity of the design edit.”

Following the initial discussions with the creative team of Vikings: Valhalla, Mariya and her team at The Northern Block were provided with a very detailed brief. “The client’s custom requirement was to build on the sharpness of the font by adjusting elements within the individual characters, such as removing the crossbar on the letter A and creating dynamic angled cuts to the selection of characters by removing the serif.”

As a huge fan of all things Viking and Norse herself, working on the series presented a unique challenge for Mariya as she could not let her personal bias towards the era overpower the work. “When it came down to focusing on this custom project, I had to assume a neutral position,” she says.

“It became a very focused idea, one I very much enjoyed, but one that also brings a different type of pressure. To overcome this, I built a strong client relationship with a lot of communication to ensure we were producing exactly what they envisaged throughout the project.”

Type designer Mariya V. Pigoulevskaya on adapting Tautz for Vikings: Valhalla

Type designer Mariya V. Pigoulevskaya on adapting Tautz for Vikings: Valhalla

All the hard work and contact paid off, though, as Vikings: Valhalla now has a font worthy of the great series. The type design stands up there with the greatest fonts to have graced our screens of late, so does Mariya think that audiences are becoming more sophisticated when it comes to appreciating good lettering?

“Type is a powerful marketing tool,” she says. “When it comes down to attracting attention to a particular show or a brand, it is safe to say that investing in a strong typeface is a winning move.

“In the last ten years, technological improvements facilitated the exponential rise of the streaming culture. The worldwide pandemic accelerated this growth, and the need for thrilling entertainment had never been greater.

“Such giants of the streaming world like Netflix and Amazon Prime have become a lucrative market for creatives and content providers. Streaming platforms have multifaceted business structures, from running studios that produce original content and purchasing works at film festivals to acting as distribution platforms.

“Strong marketing will undoubtedly elevate the value of your product in this highly competitive environment.”

Type designer Mariya V. Pigoulevskaya on adapting Tautz for Vikings: Valhalla

Type designer Mariya V. Pigoulevskaya on adapting Tautz for Vikings: Valhalla

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