VirusFonts release Doctrine

Doctrine, the latest typeface from Jonathan Barnbrook’s VirusFonts, has its roots in an unlikely source…

doctrine_airkoryo_3_0.jpg - VirusFonts release Doctrine - 5269

Doctrine, the latest typeface from Jonathan Barnbrook’s VirusFonts, found its first outing on the sleeve of David Bowie’s new album, The Next Day (above). Released commercially this week, the typeface has its roots in the most unlikely of sources…

By now we should be used to the fact that when it comes to influences and references, the work of Barnbrook Studio is more wide-ranging than most. But the origins of Doctrine, the first commercial font release from Barnbrook’s type foundry VirusFonts for three years, still manages to intrigue. Yes, it’s a typeface born out of the livery of the national airline of North Korea: Air Koryo.

While the basic structure of the sans serif face owes a debt, VirusFonts say, to such classic sources as Adrian Frutiger’s Univers and Max Miedinger’s ubiquitous Helvetica, the key reference can be found on the battered fuselages of Korea’s national carrier, Air Koryo:

“VirusFonts has long been interested in the link between ideology, language and typography,” explains Jon Abbott, who designed the face along with Jonathan Barnbrook and Julián Moncada. “This concept inspired Doctrine.”

“The idea of the infamously repressive North Korea, which severely limits the opportunities for its citizens to travel, actually having a ‘national carrier’ could be “something of an oxymoron”, Abbot continues. “With a dubious safety record and dismal reviews, there’s something wonderfully naïve about Air Koryo’s attempt to look like a serious airline.”

Koryo, he says, has “rudimentary aircraft livery and branding, often crude in application and at times, even looking hand-painted. This peculiar conceptual mix – part political philosophy, part corporate branding – was [our] inspiration.” Marrying Koryo’s idiosyncracies to what Abbott claims to be the “most ‘ideological’ of typographic forms” – neo-grotesques such as Univers and Helvetica – creates a more ‘human’ alternative, he says.

Beyond the ideological, Abbott says that Doctrine’s influences also encompass Edward Johnston’s eponymous sans for the London Underground (note the diamond shaped dots in an alternate lower case ‘i’) and Paul Renner’s experimental drawings for Futura.

The Doctrine font family comprises two distinct styles, Doctrine and Doctrine Stencil, each of which comes in five weights (Thin, Light, Regular, Bold and Black). Open type features include stylistic alternates, discretionary ligatures, super and subscript and fractions. Doctrine Stencil specificallly has numerous titling alternates – there are up to four versions of each glyph. These versions can be accessed via the Titling Alternates and Swash Character functions.

It’s in the alternate characters and glyphs that Doctrine’s designers, Abott, Jonathan Barnbrook and Julián Moncada, have managed to incorporate further historical and cosmopolitan references. The “long s”, for example, fell out of mainstream use in the early 19th century but has been revived for use here – as shown in the above sample image in the word “congress”. Also shown above (and below) is the alternate lowercase e that is clearly inspired by epsilon, the fifth letter of the Greek alphabet, plus an alternate, hooked lowercase f.

Also note the asymmetric alternate capital A above which directly refrerences the Air Koryo livery.

For more details about Doctrine and Doctrine Stencil, visit

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  • I really like how they have taken the dot of the lowercase letter ‘i’ and turned it 45 degrees to make a more unusual shape. I like what they have done, good work.

  • Nice font but just been to their site and it costs $80. That’s a lot of money for a font!

  • @Mark

    The full set costs $217 50¢ / £140 7p which for is an average price for a professional typeface.

    Considering it includes 5 weights, with alternate character sets for each weight it would appear to be good value for money as well.


  • Mark, do you have any idea how much talent and work goes into creating such a well-developed, conceptually rich type family? If you simply translate the amount of man hours involved (and then we’re not even taking into consideration the artistic value which is extremely difficult to translate into monetary value) $80 for a font is a steal. You can always use Arial. I am pretty sure came pre-installed on your computer. :)

  • £80 is a lot of money. You are right. But it is not a lot of money for the work that goes into a well designed typeface/font. A single hour of work usually tends to be between £40 and £80. And if you think of all the details you have to take in consideration when designing a good typeface … Honestly? I can’t really understand comments like this.

  • Yves, I agree that making fonts is a lot of work but I believe that this does (or should not) play a role for pricing. From an economic point of view, the moment a font family is finished, for setting the price it is completely irrelevant how much work went into it, even though this is a bit counter-intuitive. From a rational point of view, the price of fonts (like for any software) would be set entirely on the assumed price elasticity of demand and no other factors. In other words, you try to guess how much people are willing to pay, so as to find the price that maximises the profit.

  • FWIW, “How much is a font worth” depends on the user, not the maker of the font, and it varies from one user to the other. Saying that $80 is a lot is simply a reflection of the intended use which, in this case, is probably non-comercial or small-scale. In that case, “80 is too much” is an appropriate subjective assessment, perfectly fine as long as one doesn’t complain, which the above post didn’t.

  • richard gilbert

    £80 is a lot of money. You are right. But it is not a lot of money for the work that goes into a well designed typeface/font. A single hour of work usually tends to be between £40 and £60.