Meet Jos Buivenga: The Designer of the Museo Font

WebdesignerDepot Staff By WDD Staff  |  Apr. 08, 2009

If you frequent design and CSS galleries, you may have stumbled time and time again upon an excellent typeface released last year that took the design world by storm. I’m talking about Jos Buivenga’s font ‘Museo’.

I’ve never seen a font being adopted so quickly and fondly by web designers across the world. It’s been listed as one of the top 10 fonts of 2008 by

Museo is being used everywhere, web and print, including our own logo here at Webdesigner Depot. Museo Sans, its sans serif companion, was recently introduced and another style is in the works.

In this article, I’m interviewing Jos Buivenga, the author of the popular Museo font and find out more about his influential typeface, his design process and what the future holds.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I was born in 1965. I live in Arnhem (the Netherlands) and work 4 days a week at an advertising agency as an art director.

My love for type design started about 15 years ago. I was playing around on my first MAC with a very early version of Quark Xpress. While I was doing that I kept wondering what it would be like to set a piece of text in my very own font.

That’s how my first font family Delicious came to see the light. Every Friday (and most weekends) I dedicate my time to type design.

Every typeface I worked on was a great journey where I could really lose myself in the creative process and for me, that’s what counts the most.

Jos Buivenga

How was Museo conceived?

Museo was conceived out of the love for one letter form. In some kind of daydream I saw before me the letter ‘U’ with the endings bent. So it really started with my love for the letter ‘U’.

Jos Buivenga’s Museo

Can you tell us a bit about the design process?

The design of Museo was fairly straight forward. I remember a few things that really determined the design…

Museo looked a bit like some piece of bent metal wire so I thought of making the stroke contrast as low as possible and I also wanted to keep the shapes simple like for instance a nice round geometric “O”.

Because of that stroke’s weight and because of the fact that I wanted a fairly heavy Museo weight it seemed very difficult to me to make a heavy lowercase.

That’s the reason why Museo was first intended to be caps only. Thanks to my blog, Museo got a lot of attention early on. People liked it a lot and many started to ask for a lower case version. I still had some of the very early contours of a lowercase with a 100 weight.

I had to research what concessions I had to make to the strokes of the heaviest weight to do this. I tried some things and I eventually decided that if stroke changes had to be made I would make them, if possible, in the middle of the character.

My studio

I planned 5 weights for Museo. At first, I thought of just calculating the weights in a linear way. I made a Multiple Master of the extreme weights and this is how I first generated the three medium weights in the beginning.

Having a thorough look at it, it looked like the difference between the light weights (100 – 300) was larger than the difference between the heavy weights (700-900). So,  I then decided to determine the weights by changing them manually, and to judge them by eye.

I measured the new stems and recalculated the values so that I could use those for generating different instances. It turned out that the weight distribution wasn’t linear, but more like a parabolic curve.

Museo was intended from the beginning to be a display font. That is the reason why I chose to align the ascenders with the caps height and also aligned the diacritics with the caps height. That way a more harmonious look is possible when diacritics are used.

Why do you think people love this font so much, what makes it so special?

That’s a secret… No, I’m just kidding. I wish I knew, but I really don’t.

Will you be extending the font or adding more weights?

I have no plans to extend Museo, but I do have plans to make a Museo Sans Rounded.

Why did you choose to have each style named with numbers like 100, 300, instead of calling them bold, extra bold, etc?

When you set a font in FontLab to the appropriate weight, next to it appears a number. Some kind of weight indication that (I’m not sure) seems to me is being used by some programs.

I liked the numbers so I used them as a style name. So that is where the 100 to 900 naming came from. I had the weird thought that if you name the different styles with numbers, people would be more willing to collect them all. What was I thinking? Who knows… maybe it worked :-)

Why do you distribute some of the styles for free?

When Museo was in the making I also had the plan to sell some of the weights. At that time I was already working 4 days a week and my goal was that I could financially compensate myself for that loss of income by selling fonts.

I tried to do that for a while with donations but that didn’t work well enough. Because everything I had done until then was for free, I decided that I wanted to offer more free weights than paid ones.

When I was about to release Museo, my website attracted many unique visitors each month and I didn’t want to put all those people off that knew me only because of my free fonts. It was kind of a gamble to do this and almost everyone I knew told me that I was crazy. Especially because I offered the most usable and probably also the most wanted weights (300 – 500 – 700) for free.


What are you working on now?

I’m working very hard on Calluna and Calluna Sans. Also, I’m working on Questa which is a square typeface like Didot and something I always wanted to do. And the one I mentioned earlier: Museo Sans Rounded.

Museo Sans Rounded – in development


A look at ‘Museo’ around the web



Jos Buivenga runs his own Font Foundry called Exljbris and he also runs a font blog. All fonts are available for purchase at

There are 5 versions to Museo, 3 of which are free and can be downloaded from as well. Museo Sans is available in 10 weights, 2 of which are free. Here’s more information on how to order or download these fonts: Museo | Museo Sans

Have you used Museo in your designs? Please share your examples with us and let us know where else you spotted ‘Museo’…