The design concept for Antithesis revolves around the number three and the bidirectional esthetic tension, or dialectic, that any two of the three pieces, different yet part of a greater whole, can establish.
This design principle with the three poles that are in tension and dialogue with each other draws inspiration from numerous sources.
The rock-paper-scissors game is one good example to illustrate that tension. Three poles stand in a direct, bidirectional relation to each other. In any of the three combinations, one will win, and one will lose. As soon as another pole is introduced to the equation, the construct collapses. (Kids over here sometimes introduce the well into the game. Rock and scissors fall into the well, but paper covers the well. So the well loses out against one and wins against two—the dissolution of the idea)
Likewise any two of the three styles of the typeface are meant to be used next to each other, even in slightly unusual combination of Italic and Bold, for instance.
Then, there’s the three phases of the existence of the universe, according to hinduistic belief. The holy syllable om (in fact three sounds, a, o and m) stand for the creation of the universe, the duration and the dissolution. And possibly its reincarnation.
This is the main hook that connects the typeface with the film (more infos soon).
And lastly we have the three phases of philosophical dialectic, often attributed to Hegel, but Hegel attributed the terms to Kant. The Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis model is used to reach a conclusion through discussing reactions and negations to an initial thesis, and then merging the two into a new reality.
Hegelian dialectic, usually presented in a threefold manner, was stated by Heinrich Moritz Chalybäus as comprising three dialectical stages of development: a thesis, giving rise to its reaction, an antithesis, which contradicts or negates the thesis, and the tension between the two being resolved by means of a synthesis. [...]
The formula Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis does not explain why the Thesis requires an Antithesis. However, the formula Abstract-Negative-Concrete suggests a flaw in any initial thesis—it is too abstract and lacks the negative of trial, error and experience. For Hegel, the Concrete, the Synthesis, the Absolute, must always pass through the phase of the Negative, that is, Mediation.
When designing an interpolated typeface, not only does one need to pay attention to several obstacles introduced especially when interpolating between very thin and very heavy weights, but most importantly the construction (serifs, no serifs, cursive…) must be identical between the masters used for the interpolation. As a result it is comparatively easy to have a large amount of fonts computed from a small amount of masters (usually just two), but those fonts will by principle all share the same construction.
Having designed interpolated typefaces from the very beginning and basically ever since, I grew unsatisfied with the interpolation technique itself and the design of many other type families being released today.
Designing one weight at a time with focus and ignoring the constraints introduced by interpolation to me is a form of luxury in today’s type design (which doesn’t mean I will make no more interpolated typefaces).
Relation to Thesis, the type family
When I first designed Antithesis in the Type]Media type design master in Den Haag, a relation to Lucas de Groot’s Thesis family of typefaces (not officially called Thesis, rather TheSans, TheSerif, TheMix and so on) was not intended, not by design and not by name. However, while working on the design it became apparent that Antithesis indeed stands in a special relation to Thesis, and not only by the name.
By the time De Groot first released Thesis in 1994, it was one of the biggest typefaces of its kind, indeed a thesis. And having been expanded ever since, it still is. With above 500 individual fonts it is most likely the largest and best structured type family ever made.
De Groot made heavy use of interpolating the weights using a ground breaking non-linear interpolation theory developed by himself.
Antithesis, on the contrary, was designed with a less is more attitude as far as family size and use of interpolation is concerned. Reduce to the max, as a popular ad campaign claimed. It was supposed to feature the classic Regular/Italic/Bold fonts only, none of them being the result of interpolation, and none sharing construction. So yes, indeed, Antithesis constitutes the antithesis to Thesis as the most important ambassador of its kind in terms of design concept, not detailed letter shapes. The main relation summarized, though, is: They are not related. Which of course in itself already constitutes a relation.
The two interpolation theories
Following De Groot’s interpolation theory, where stem width of weight C relates to stem width of B in the same way as stem width of B relates to stem width of A, to create a visually smooth increase of weight throughout an interpolated family, we can now establish an Antipolation theory where none of the weights are related, in either construction or weight, or both:
The future, Synthesis
So while I was advised to not intentionally relate Antithesis to Thesis (which I didn’t, at first), I find this non-relation quite fascinating and I wish a third person would manage to create a Synthesis typeface, merging the two concepts into a synthesis, contributing the third piece to a greater whole, the trinity, and hopefully within Lucas de Groot’s and my lifetime. Following De Groot’s interpolation theory using the release years 1994 and 2014 as stem widths in an extrapolation, this is to be expected around mid of 2035. Of course, following the above, newly established Antipolation theory, it could be around any other time.