On a recent trip to Copenhagen, I was pleasantly surprised with the overall high quality of the typography in the city. One thing that particularly caught my eye were the banners at the Royal Danish Playhouse. It bothered me that I couldn’t identify the typeface on it – a strong Egyptienne with some whimsical details. Intrigued, I entered the building with its prize-winning architecture and took a closer look at some of the theater’s printed matter: repertoire booklets, posters, magazines. It turned out that there is a whole family at play: the heavier weights have the vigor of a Clarendon, while the lighter styles are more demure.
Back online, I found out that Det Kongelige Teater (“The Royal Danish Theater”) uses its own custom typeface – no wonder it didn’t ring a bell! It was designed by Jonas Hecksher and is simply named DKT. Hecksher is a partner and creative director at e-Types. This Copenhagen-based design agency created the new visual identity for the theater in 2005. Hecksher says that he based his typeface design on an assessment of what the theater needed:
DKT references the classical Egyptienne typefaces and spans from dogmatic and loud to elegant and refined. In its expression it has a humane element: details are slightly tilted, or off – creating personality, warmth and humour. By virtue of its different values, the typeface can span both very classical and very modern expressions. This way it captures the diversity of the theater’s art forms and activities.
In 2011, e-Types started their own foundry. Playtype offers more than 50 typeface families designed by Hecksher, alongside designs by his colleagues, including Jens Kajus, Henrik Kubel, and Scott Williams. The DKT typeface, however, can’t be licensed – it remains exclusive to the theater.
The DKT family comprises 4 weights; Light, Regular, Bold, and Heavy. The Light has no italic companion. Only the Bold is equipped with small caps. All in all, there are 8 fonts. To some extent, this range is employed in a very systematic way. Order and hierarchy are established with the aid of weights and sizes.
DKT is not just a nice typeface, it is also used in very creative and often downright playful ways. This is something where many institutions fail: they adhere too closely to the guidelines of a once established corporate design. What initially looks cool and powerful soon appears repetitive and stale. Not so with the Det Kongelige Teater. Their graphic design succeeds in keeping the palette fresh. It is done by an in-house team featuring Søren Ajspur and Jesper Gregers Larsen.
The typographers employ the full gamut of options: centered headlines take turns with justified columns and sections that are set flush-left. All-caps are mixed with common casing, colored blocks with black-and-white lines, italics with upright styles. Still, it never gets to the point of feeling chaotic or overcrowded. As everything is kept within the family, all elements fall into place. It pays off to start from a solid base.