FF Quixo and MVB Solano Gothic

Today we take a look at the interaction between a couple of recent favorites of mine, Frank Grießhammer’s FF Quixo and Mark van Bronkhorst’s Solano Gothic.

To those who know its creator, FF Quixo is an autobiographical work—a serious piece of design that doesn’t take itself so seriously it fears a public perception of goofiness. The face achieves a nice texture both on the micro and macro level with a neat, quite carefully orchestrated, yet not-too-careful-looking speedball lettering approach. At size, FF Quixo’s text weight reads like a slightly upped-contrast Clarendon. MVB Solano Gothic stands in striking contrast, a set of two architectural-lettering–inspired alphabets that capture well the feel of American public building signage from, say, 1960. Drawn initially as a single style, caps-only typeface, the design was expanded to include a lowercase and small caps, in a range of weights, both in regular and Retro variants. The generous all-cap spacing seen below is activated via OpenType’s case feature, All caps, or by using the dedicated Caps font singles.

FF-Quixo-and-MVB-Solano-Gothic-2 FF-Quixo-and-MVB-Solano-Gothic-3

The characteristic held in common by each is that it’s a current reinterpretation of an old familiar standard. And to me, what makes the pair, is the particularly visible wink at the audience from the vantage point of the faces’ sources. Both evidently designs contemporary to the here and now, they stand as reminders that those draftsmen, letterers, and type designers who came before us also were confronted with the same challenges of form that we face today, and that they humbly achieved greatness through the same sensitivity to form that great work has always required.


I just as well add that FF Quixo has a fantastic set of dingbats, and that Solano Gothic sets short bits of copy just fine. To end, the below example shows what happens when you convert the eszett or German double s ligature, ß, to all caps—it becomes SS (as it should). Though recent attempts have been made to establish the validity of a capital German double s ligature, our two type designers in question today remain firmly opposed to such a step. That’s why I find it an act of supreme humility that Frank Grießhammer includes in FF Quixo the character in both cap and small cap form. He does exile the two to the glyph palette, with neither discretionary ligature nor stylistic alternate / stylistic set access by way of OpenType.


That’s all. Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.


  1. Posted February 27, 2014 at 4:24 AM | Permalink

    David—two questions on the subject of ‘ẞ’:
    From your text I get the impression that Mr Grießhammer included the new and contentious capital, but the illustration provided seems at odds with this since it specifically does not show the character in question. Is his ‘ẞ’ drawn as ‘SS’ in one glyph?
    Second, would you happen to know of any good English-language essays, arguments, or manifestos either for or against use of ‘ẞ’? I have a general sense of the arguments from Wikipedia, but my attempts at further reading have always dead-ended at pages beyond my language skills.
    Many thanks.

  2. Posted February 27, 2014 at 12:10 PM | Permalink

    Hi James. I leave some work to the reader here, to go and investigate the character set him- or herself. It’s drawn as a cap-height sharp double s ligature. Ralf Hermann is the Cap Eszett’s most vocal proponent. He lists his reasons for appending such a character to the German alphabet here: http://opentype.info/blog/2011/01/24/capital-sharp-s/
    The argument against (formerly not known as an oppositional argument but simply “the way it is”) goes like this: The eszett is unique to the lowercase. It’s a ligated long s and regular s. There is no uppercase equivalent.

  3. Posted February 27, 2014 at 6:38 PM | Permalink

    Thanks David. I very much enjoyed Ralf Hermann’s argument and the 2013 follow-up: http://opentype.info/blog/2013/11/18/capital-sharp-s-design-review/

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