Typeface Design

 ‘Fifteen is the number of perfection”

The typeface Schmid Fifteen is inspired by Helmut Schmid’s perception of the fifteen stones in Ryoanji Garden in Kyoto and his unique perspective of perfection. Helmut Schmid, one of the finest typographers stated, ‘‘perfection is like symmetry, static and lifeless”. Most people aim to be perfect. They perceive perfection as being in the best state and being flawless. However, in Schmid’s perspective, perfection is static and lifeless.

Ryoan-ji is a Zen temple located in northwest Kyoto, Japan. The garden is a rectangle of two hundred and forty-eight square meters. Placed within it are fifteen stones of different sizes, carefully composed in five groups; one group of five stones, two groups of three, and two groups of two stones. These stones are thoughtfully arranged and positioned such that the entire composition cannot be seen at once from the veranda. When one looks at the garden from any angle, only fourteen of the stones are visible at one time. It is traditionally said that only through attaining enlightenment would one be able to view the fifteenth boulder.

‘‘Fifteen is the number of perfection”, Schmid commented on the fifteen stones in Ryoanji Garden. It was said by Senno Rikyu that anyone who has studied Helmut Schmid’s work and his typographic development would have described the fifteen stones in the garden at Ryoanji garden to be pure Schmid.


In each letter of Schmid Fifteen, only fifteen modules are used for construction, nothing more or less, perfectly fifteen. In order to create a simple and static looking typeface with exactly fifteen modules in each letter, the modules picked should be able to work harmoniously with one another. For a typeface design, five basic modules can be difficult for the typeface to look coherent; hence, the modules were designed to be similar and simple, so that they look more harmonious when placed together. The san serif typeface design aims to achieve the look of perfection; static and lifeless.


The specimen book of Schmid Fifteen revolves around the idea of the number fifteen. There are fifteen modules shown on the book cover, created using board of a different thickness. This allows the modules to be raised slightly above the surface of the cover. The raised modules represent the fifteen stones in the Ryoanji Garden. I decided to apply cement to mimic the appearance of stones.