Introduce Xiaoyuan Gao and her commonSans

Xiaoyuan Gao
xiaoyuangao.nl x.gao.work%40gmail.com @sdfggvfvj

Xiaoyuan Gao (She/Her) is a Rotterdam-based freelance graphic designer, image-maker, type designer and the initiator of “notyourtype foundry”. In her practice, she loves experimenting with unconventional approaches to type design and typesetting. She sees type design (making custom characters into a font file) as making a tool for typing, just like a customised typewriter. She also enjoys creating visuals out of found images , which allows her to combine typography and imagery in playful ways.

Introduce Xiaoyuan Gao and her commonSans

A conversation with Xiaoyuan Gao

How did you start with commonSans?

I start it long time ago, somewhere in 2021. It did not have a name first, but more like a rough idea — the ink bleed appearance on the surface of mass produced objects. I collected some images such as egg stamps, expiring dates, and capacitor. I found the text on those products surface very interesting, they all have ink bleed. At that time I wanted to totally just trace them, but it was difficult to me to imagine how other characters works together, most of the characters I could get from images was numbers and a few latin based glyphs, not so much. I stopped after a while, mostly because I noticed my techniques are limited to find a solution for recreating a typeface that has bit of ink bleed effects. But it's not like fully stopped, it stays in my mind... In the past years, I have been keep practicing, sometimes I get into doing modular fonts, sometimes I wanted to draw a regular letter, I have drawn a lot of "a","s"and"n"... I know that some people suggest to draw "o" "n" "h" first, since their shapes are easier to be reused and develop other latin based letters. I tried, but it was always a bit odd to me to start with those. At some point, I feel maybe it just doesn't work for me... So I decided to just do what I feel like, I like "a" a lot, I feel the "a" could represent a vibe for a typeface. Luckily after trying and trying, it works to me, because I can feel the shapes start to be interesting to me. It make me feel I could continue and draw others.

Do you want to add more styles for commonSans?

I'm planning to, that why it's called commonSans (1.0) :)

How did type design become almost main part of your practice?

In the beginning (probably in 2020), it was more like a toy or hobby to me. I did already spend a lot of time trying things, because I love the fact that anyone can make a font file, and people can just use it for typing something, print something, make use of it. I love that a font file is almost like a customized digital typewriter, besides... you can always change the "buttons". I also tried to read some book about type design, but it was hard to me due to my own anxiety condition... I think the big turning point was a project made for my friend Jing in 2019, it was really something changed my perspective on what type design could be, could do. I was never fully into type design until that project. I had a intership with Charlotte Rohde in 2021, was also very good, learnt a lot during the intership, also gave me a bit clue how things work in general. I really appreciate that!

In general, to me it's just good to try and make things, and it doesn't matter if it looks "professional""perfect" or not. Honestly there are so many great and practical typefaces, maybe even too many... Why not make something different? Something UNprofessional, UNconventional, NOT that pleasing, just to see how that will work with text or people. These thoughts didn't come together right away several years ago, but they really matter to me, also not getting discouraged just because it does not look that "good" or does not look similar to other "good ones".

Have a look!

Introduce Xiaoyuan Gao and her commonSans
Introduce Xiaoyuan Gao and her commonSans
Introduce Xiaoyuan Gao and her commonSans
Introduce Xiaoyuan Gao and her commonSans
Introduce Xiaoyuan Gao and her commonSans
Introduce Xiaoyuan Gao and her commonSans
Introduce Xiaoyuan Gao and her commonSans
Introduce Xiaoyuan Gao and her commonSans
Introduce Xiaoyuan Gao and her commonSans
Introduce Xiaoyuan Gao and her commonSans
Introduce Xiaoyuan Gao and her commonSans
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Introduce Xiaoyuan Gao and her commonSans
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