Castledown was designed by Colophon founders Anthony Sheret and Edd Harrington and is intended to help young children read and write. It’s available in eight cuts from regular to heavyweight and comes with additional cursive and dotted versions to help pupils practice their handwriting.
Sheret and Harrington have been working on Castledown since early 2012. The type family was created for Castledown Primary School in East Sussex at the request of headmaster Neil Small, who was “sick of using Comic Sans,” says Sheret.
“Neil wanted something that was clear and legible but still friendly, and had secondary options [such as bold versions] that the school could use in any situation,” he adds.
While Comic Sans is widely used in many UK schools, it is problematic: letters are crooked and it’s not suitable for use in serious contexts, such as letters about bad behaviour or sensitive issues, explains Sheret. Alternative fonts often also have a double storey ‘a’.
Castledown, however, has a single story ‘a’ and has been designed in line with how children are taught to write. Letters have also been slightly weighted at the bottom, which is believed to aid some children with dyslexia or other reading issues by curbing the brain’s ability to reverse letters.
Before designing the typeface, Sheret and Harrington held a series of workshops with Castledown pupils to gauge their opinions on various fonts and letterforms. “We showed them a range of fonts, asked them which they liked and which they didn’t, and spoke to them about their cursive handwriting exercises and homework,” says Sheret.
“Conducting research within an institution, particularly an educational one was different to how we normally work,” he adds. “The process was also in two-parts — when working on our standard commercial releases, they are slow burners that are split tasks, but because this family would be implemented into schools we first worked on the proportional side of the family, and [then] the cursive.”
The first versions of Castledown were released last summer and the typeface has since been implemented throughout the school with a positive response from pupils and staff. Sheret and Harrington have since been working on the additional cuts and plan to release a Castledown handwriting app and wooden stencils.
“It’d be nice to see it take off in other schools too. We’d like to offer a complete educational package [with wooden letters and an app]. We kind of think of this as the Jamie’s Dinners of school fonts,” says Sheret.
Castledown is currently on display at the Design Museum’s Designs of the Year exhibition and Colophon has released a limited edition specimen book to celebrate its release.
Colophon is also hosting an exhibition at KK Outlet next month to celebrate the foundry’s fifth birthday and will be showcasing designs by Anthony Burrill, Studio Makgill and Dries Wiewauters. For details, see kkoutlet.com