Monthly Archives: November 2012

Countdown: V

It’s practically over. November’s up in a matter of hours, leaving us with about three good weeks in December before the moon is turned to blood and the earth is rolled together as a scroll. (Is it clear yet that I don’t know any proper Mayan world-end prophesies?) We’re already to V, set in Erik van Blokland’s FF Trixie. This monospaced marvel and X-Files star comes in two rough weights, with a new HD variant for maximum character alternation (10,000+ alternates). Get the whole FF Trixie story, trailer, etc. on the microsite. And remember, time is limited.

V, set in FF Trixie

Pinterested: New pins this week


If you were in too much of a food coma over the Thanksgiving weekend and missed some of the typographic food FontShop posted for you, don’t worry — we’ve pinned it.

In our New & Noteworthy board, you can catch up to recent events and our newest fonts from the past week or so. You’ll find that registration for TYPO SF is up and running and that we have some swashtastic new fonts like Fan Script OT from Sudtipos.

We also continue to post more holiday fonts in our Festive Fonts board to help you get started on any holiday greetings you’re designing to send out to friends and family.

Type Trends: Monospace

If you’ll allow me to get a little meta for a moment; There’s been a popular call for this series to go into a bit more depth, so I’m splitting the next few editions or so into two parts—just to see how it goes. Each half will concentrate on the theory, and then practice of a given topic. I’m realizing that such a move may spell the end of type trends as a regular gig, but I’m okay with that. It’s better that a series be pointed and great and come to a controlled stop, rather than uninspiredly droning on, or publicly running out of gas. Anyway, I thought I’d warn you. I could cover phenomena I call ‘trends’ forever, but at some point the content would start to feel a bit forced. Little chance of that happening though, I’ve got at least four more good ideas and I know how to stop when it’s time.

Now on to monospaced fonts. The keyboard you sit up to at work has a layout taken directly from the typewriter, whose letters, out of practical necessity were hammered into the page at a fixed interval. Each character therefore was designed to function within the same space as any other character. Under these constraints, M and W appeared too narrow; I took up too much space, etc.. Type foundries were soon to jump on board, offering typefaces that could be hand set to mimic typewriter output. (I happen to have a small type case of this at home.)

The above images are from ATF’s 1912 catalog, perusable online at I can imagine these types were useful for setting keyboarding textbooks, or, as the above pitch explains, for personalized impersonal correspondence. FontShop has a pile of typewriter faces to choose from, Frederic Goudy’s Remington Typewriter being a favorite.

Just a quick note—though complete monospaced typefaces didn’t come about until after the invention of the typewriter, the concept of monospaced type or lettering did exist. For example, tabular figures were fit to a common width. Such was also the case with many interchangeable numbering and labeling systems. I was surprised to learn in my research that the Greeks sometimes composed their inscriptions in a gridded fashion not unlike monospaced type.

Obviously character-based languages often exhibit fixed spacing. (All Korean fonts are monospaced.)

Moving ahead to early computers, engineers—this time to conserve precious memory and computing power—kept similar constraints, resulting in all the first typefaces for screen, and computer line printers being monospaced. In 1984 the Macintosh introduced proportionally-spaced bitmap fonts, on screen and in print, though it kept Monaco around for tasks where monospaced fonts were best suited. Since that time, it seems like monospaced fonts have either been created primarily for use on screen, or for reproducing type used for the same purpose, in print. The exceptions are expansions of popular type families, (Univers Typewriter, Helvetica Monospaced, etc.), faces drawn to demonstrate some novel concept, (FF Trixie) or what I call documentary types, one-off faithful revivals of individual out-of-production faces.

Univers Typewriter

Helvetica Monospaced

Erik van Blokland’s FF Trixie

After some time, new typefaces began to expand their families to include monospaced variants, like Luc de Groot’s TheSans Mono, above. It’s at this point where things begin to change for monospaced type. Pick it up here next week.

Countdown: W

Leading us forward in our daily countdown to the end of the world is W, set in Cottonwood, the collaborative effort of Kim Buker Chansler, Barbara Lind, and Joy Redick while employed creating Adobe Originals in the late eighties and early nineties. Taking a look at the work of each, one finds that these designers had a real fling going with Wild West types. Cottonwood’s ornamented strokes put the weight at the top and bottom of the character, leaving spindly stems to hold the parts together. This pattern of reversed stress appears frequently among the wood types of the 19th and early 20th century. Another pattern among type designers you may not have noticed—is to name wood-type-inspired faces after types of wood: Mesquite, Birch, Maple, Poplar, Juniper, Willow, Pepperwood, Rosewood, Ironwood, just to name a few. You probably did notice. Oh well—not the end of the world.

Dutch/American English/German: Freight and Edward

Freight is Joshua Darden’s robust text family, done in the style of Johann Fleischmann’s sparkling baroques, with a few of its own tricks. You’ll notice if you look through our Freight offerings, that there is in fact a Freight Sans, which pairs quite well if you’re going for more of an Americanized humanist feel, but I thought I’d stretch the range of Freight [serif] a bit more toward a British sensibility. To do that, I’m pairing it with the latest riff on Edward Johnston’s ‘block’ lettering, Hendrik Weber’s Edward. If I were keeping score, and clearly I am by the title, Hendrik is a German designer drawing from an English face, and Joshua is an American designer working from a Dutch one. Taking these additional lenses into consideration can help inform why certain characteristics of the faces are played up or deemphasized. Together, the two create an approachable and inviting atmosphere in their in-between weights, and a comical harmony when each bares its more extreme side.

Quick historical note: If you’re thinking, ‘This looks awfully familiar,’ It’s likely because it looks a lot like Gill Sans. Edward Johnston and Eric Gill were contemporaries, and their sanses look a lot alike. Johnston’s came first. End historical note. In nine weights, Edward captures well the quirks of the British sign painter and letter cutter, without trying too hard to be a faithful revival.

Because Freight comes in a range of optical sizes, you can either use them for their stated purpose, or use a more robust cut at a given size, for a coarser texture. See above Freight Micro, next to Freight Text. And below: Given the chance, Edward is quite capable of delivering texts of moderate length.

That’s all for now. Catch another Great Pairs here on Wednesday. PS. Did you spot the almost Erbar a?

Countdown: X

ITC Bodoni Seventy-two marks this, the third day of our countdown to the end, with an X. Unlike their romantic contemporaries the Didots, the Bodonis manage to present high court style with still a bit of down-to-earth-ness. Seventy-two is of course the optical size of the face, meaning it was designed specifically to be reproduced at display sizes ~72 pt. Looking through them, one can see how the lettershapes thicken up (lower in contrast) and become more caricatured as they progress from larger display sizes to smaller text sizes. And be sure to check out this face’s set of swash alternates.

Countdown: Y

Yes, we’re counting down to the end of the world. Today’s letter is Y, from Brian Willson’s Antiquarian, a draftsmanesque engravers face with cartographic roots.


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Countdown to the End: Z

The end of the world, that is. The cataclysmic climax accompanying the final days of the Mayan calendar, as I read it anyway, (I could be wrong) is the stuff of Hollywood productions and Woodie Guthrie songs. But we’re going along with it. Here to start us off is Z from Marcus Sterz’s Letterpress Phosphor, a visceral, inked-up version of Jakob Erbar’s Phosphor, a weighty inline sans with bite. We’ll have one of these each afternoon right up to the end.

Nice knowing you.

Pinterested: New boards this week

We’ve put together a menu of tasty typefaces on Pinterest for you to enjoy during the holidays. When you’re laying around in a food coma, you’ll be thanking us for giving you delicious treats to feast upon that won’t expand your stomach any more.

Our Savory Stems pinboard features a combination of mouth-watering pictures from fStop and delicious fonts available on FontShop. You might suddenly find yourself craving Grilled Chicken, Roast Beef, Canned Corn, or Cheese And Crackers — who knew you could do a little grocery shopping at FontShop? Take a look at Savory Stems for some kitchen inspiration as well as our other food-themed boards: SweetShop, Mugshot, and Edible Type!

Type Trends: Superelliptical Type

Happy Thanksgiving. Of all the holidays we celebrate in America, I’ve got to hand it to Thanksgiving for staying true to itself. Try as they might, the stores haven’t managed to over-commercialize it. It’s a feast day that spans nearly every ethnicity and religion, where we can take time from our regular schedules, sit up to our tables with our families, eat from our best plates and drink from our best cups, and be thankful.

Not to pull you away from spending time with your family, but I just had a few thoughts this morning I needed to write down. Last week’s look into faces exhibiting the Erbar a sent me on a quick tangent through the work of Aldo Novarese and Alessandro Butti. And while it’s true that Microgramma and Eurostile make use of a similar construction for the lowercase a, I had been saving these for their own spot in the type trends series, under what I call superelliptical type. Unlike slightly squared designs, for example Heldustry, or those exhibiting rectangles with rounded corners, types that make use of the superellipse exhibit outward-bowing curves on all sides of their bowls and otherwise round forms. Superellipses entered the world of type in the early 1950s with the release of Microgramma by the Nebiolo Type Foundry in 1952, and Eurostile, its revised sibling in 1962. Other notable employments of the shape can be seen in Hermann Zapf’s Melior, 1952 (see o), in early sketches of Adrian Frutiger’s Univers, 1957, and Roger Excoffon’s Antique Olive, 1962. Use of the shape, with its geometric precision and yet softened tight curves, lent a sense of otherness to faces like Microgramma, tied to scientific and technological advancement. I seem to recall some promotional material where Eurostile is touted as the ‘typeface of the future’ and that its forms, though odd, were ubiquitous given the common shape of television screens. (Thanks Jeff Kellem for this reference: Eurostile, A Synthetic Expression of Our Times.) And that holds true, so long as we continue to look daily to our cathode-ray-tube-based tv sets—though we likely haven’t done that for a dozen years or more. It’s perhaps due to the withdrawl of this form from daily life that we’ve seen a trending return to in type design. One place Eurostile’s presence doesn’t seem to have dipped through the years is automobile dashboards.

Aldo Novarese & Alessandro Butti’s Microgramma, 1952.

Aldo Novarese’s Eurostile, 1962.

Hermann Zapf’s Melior, 1952.

Roger Excoffon’s Antique Olive, 1962.

Silas Dilworth’s Breuer Text, 2007.

Cyrus Highsmith’s Ibis, 2008, a synthesis of the work of Walbaum and the above Melior.

Jean-François Porchez’s Allumi, 2009.

Also a few we don’t carry from H&FJ: Vitesse (pictured above), Forza, and Idlewild.

Kevin Thrasher’s EXT Unicase, 2012. Talking with Kevin recently he told me that this didn’t come from studying any of the above types, but just from looking around visual culture generally. Maybe there’s something to this. Where else have you seen superelliptical typefaces?

(Update: These are apparently more common than I thought, though I still think I’m seeing an uptick in their popularity. Thanks Richard Taylor for mentioning the following: David Farey’s Cachet, 1997; Ole Schäfer’s FF Fago, 2000; Chester Jenkins’s Apex, 2003; Cyrus Highsmith’s Antenna, 2003; David Quay’s Foundry Monoline, 2003; Joshua Darden’s Freight Micro, 2005; Seb Lester’s Neo Sans, 2005, and Soho Gothic, 2008. Also thanks Nick Sherman for saying the word I was afraid to say: Squircle.)

Tight Fit: Elena and Anchor

Though not designed in tandem, Eric Olson’s Anchor and Nicole Dotin’s Elena were drawn with an awareness of one another, and happen to pair well. I could argue that Anchor pairs well with just about any text face given its compact structure, rounded stroke endings, and nondescript style. But particularly with Elena, Anchor lets show its best qualities in this interplay between loose and taut.

Created specifically for compact, legible headers, Anchor’s warm temperament shines at generous display sizes and cools slightly in the subhead range. With Elena, Anchor takes on a slightly more serious grotesque tone, like an Univers Ultra Condensed but without losing its Americanness, like a nice skyline gothic. As one takes Anchor up in weight, its ability to keep a straight face diminishes, particularly when displaying more involved lettershapes, like its quirky ampersand.

Anchor on the other hand plays up Elena’s lively side. Note Elena’s strong diagonal motion starting from its baseline serifs upward. Elena is a fully contemporary text face, achieving its immense readability though lessons taken from Renaissance and Neoclassical types. On its own, it’s Elena’s texture more than anything that impresses me.

Set carefully, Elena works at modest display sizes, though it’s good to keep in mind that text faces are designed to work at text sizes.

A general note on pairing: You’ll see that I rely heavily on the text face, in this case, Elena to do the heavy lifting in my compositions, and that I allow the secondary face to serve the reader primarily in navigating the piece. As mentioned before in this series, one of the challenges of practicing great typography is learning to manage the relationships between faces that take on opposite roles. To learn what each is capable of on its own isn’t enough. One rather needs to—through experience—see how the two interact in a variety of settings.

Catch another Great Pairs here on Wednesday.

TYPO San Francisco Returns April 2013

The first TYPO San Francisco took place this past April and was a huge success. Our second TYPO will once again feature a diverse array of local and international creative and inspiring speakers across multiple industries.

TYPO San Francisco Contrast takes place April 11 and 12, 2013, at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Confirmed speakers include:

Jessi Arrington
Ludovic Balland
Marian Bantjes
Peter Bil’ak
Matthew Butterick
Keetra Dixon
Jens Gehlhaar
Meena Kadri
Erik Kessels
Somi Kim
Travis Kochel
Eike (Hort) Koenig
Faythe Levine
Tom Manning
Christoph Niemann
Mike Salisbury
Satsuki Shibuya
Erik Spiekermann
Jeff Veen
Armin Vit
Ursus Wehrli

Registration is now open. Early bird tickets save you $100 before December 31.

While you’re off for Thanksgiving, have a look at what TYPO San Francisco 2012 was all about:

New Fonts This Week

This week we have a couple fresh new faces, new webfonts, as well as some great deals we’d like to share with you.

Check out new webfonts from DSType and Newlyn. Get a 30% discount on Sudtipos‘s Fan Script until November 26. Also, for the month of November, NeubauLaden is offering 50% off on all packages. And be sure to check out Hoftype’s Carat Light—it’s FREE! As always, subscribe to our newsletter and read this blog for the full stories.

Now for all the latest from the following foundries:


VLNL Kimchi



New webfonts



Staff Picks, November 2012

November’s nearly gone, and of course that means December’s bound to come and go in a wink. While we’re still in November, Staff Picks are out, so let’s get right to them. Here’s the complete list, and we’ve highlighted a few below:

Meghan picks Benton Modern Display by Richard Lipton, published by Font Bureau

“The Great Pairs series made me fall in love with Benton.”

Mimi picks Adios Script by Alejandro Paul of Sudtipos

“So pretty and fun and flirty.”

Volker picks Alexander Quill by Jim Rimmer, published by Canada Type