Author Archives: David Sudweeks

David Sudweeks is a letterer and type designer. He works at his home studio in Berkeley and at FontShop’s San Francisco Office as their type expert. He writes for FontShop,, and occasionally on The FontFeed,

Laski Slab and Graphie

Today we look at a fun and casual relationship between Paula Mastrangelo’s Laski Slab (made with the production help of Ramiro Espinoza) and Ryoichi Tsunekawa’s Graphie.

Laski-Slab-and-Graphie-1 Laski-Slab-and-Graphie-1a

Laski Slab was initially created for an online children’s magazine. Though spare, its inviting qualities are evident in the carriage of its bowls, the interplay of round and square contours, and small details such as its terminal treatments. Graphie does well as a complement to Laski Slab with its strong, wide dominance, ultra low contrast, and subtle mischief. Note the terminal angles of characters such as lowercase e and s. Such sign-painterly cues seem to be coming back into style forcefully this year. Together, the two create the kind of tension that holds well the reader’s consideration.

Laski-Slab-and-Graphie-2 Laski-Slab-and-Graphie-3 Laski-Slab-and-Graphie-4

That’s it. Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.

Defaults in Design

Starting the series back up on the subject of defaults, I spent some time thinking about how the limits imposed on the work we do ultimately influence our work’s form.


Though we’re the designers, and we make the stuff look the way it does, a flip-through sampling of the pages of any advertising or design annual from the last fifty years will reveal its decade of origin—not by looking at the cover, or even the content, but just by examining the processes used. I say limits meaning both those we prescribe and the external constraints imposed by the job or environment. Sibylle Hagmann gave a great talk at TYPO San Francisco on advertising design in the GDR (Germany behind the Iron Curtain) where she pointed out that it was the great shortage of material related to typesetting and design production that led to the development of manual processes and a diversity of interesting and highly refined illustration and lettering styles.

IMG_7027-530x353Sibylle Hagmann speaking on Typography and Culture; Photo by Amber Gregory


Seeing how an entire subgenre of design grew out of a set of constraints further opened my eyes to the idea that the look and function of our work is largely a matter of the defaults we accept. And that learning to recognize the previously unconscious decisions we make both frees us and constrains us to use and invent new processes and to be aware of the effects of our choosing.

To introduce a more practical side to this discussion, I thought it would be interesting to look specifically at the defaults I accept, so, over the course of the next few weeks I’ll walk through some InDesign, Illustrator, and HTML/CSS defaults I find handy, as well as touch on some manual processes I go through when designing for screen and print.

That’s all. Thanks to Kent Lew’s Whitman Display for setting the title. Catch the first iteration on defaults here next Thursday. This is Using Type.

Rough: New Caledonia and Brown Gothic

Today we take a look at a pair of faces that together introduce a bit of additional texture to the compositions they create. William Addison Dwiggins’s New Caledonia (digitized by Alex Kaczun), and Nick Shinn’s Brown Gothic.

New-Caledonia-and-Brown-Gothic-1 New-Caledonia-and-Brown-Gothic-2
Looking closely at Brown Gothic, you’ll notice the subtle swelling of the strokes at each form’s ends and corners. This light distressing, as its designer calls it, serves both to mimic the impression of metal type—and thus hint at a specific period, and to unify and flavor the face’s overall color. New Caledonia offers a distinctive variation from the norm in terms of texture as well, but not by recreating digitally the effects of analog production. The design’s roughness instead comes from a careful variation of contrast, character gesture and proportion. Together the two fill in for each other and suggest very strongly the typographic texture common to American books and magazines of the 1950s and 60s.
New-Caledonia-and-Brown-Gothic-3 New-Caledonia-and-Brown-Gothic-4 New-Caledonia-and-Brown-Gothic-5That’s it. Great Pairs continues here each Wednesday.

Nitti Grotesk Sweeps March Madness, Wins the 2014 Title

77 Nitti Grotesk
47 Elena

Pieter van Rosmalen’s Nitti Grotesk handily won over our previous year’s champion, Nicole Dotin’s Elena, last night in the season’s final face off. Nitti Grotesk is the fresh, proportionally-spaced sibling to Nitti, a monospaced typeface. (Usually family extensions happen the other way around.) We send our congratulations. Thanks everyone for taking part.

Final banner - Nitti Grotesk - Winner


Thanks also goes to Mark van Bronkhorst’s MVB Solano Gothic for refereeing the proceedings, and to Matthew Carter’s Miller and Jim Parkinson’s Sutro Deluxe for setting the season’s game titles.

Championship Round! Nitti Grotesk vs. Elena

Final Final
41 Nitti Grotesk 43 Elena
24 Program 28 Colvert

This is it, folks. This is what you’ve been waiting for. It now all comes down to Nitti Grotesk and Elena. It’s anyone’s game. Vote for your favorite. Polls close tonight at midnight Pacific.

Final banner

Nitti Grotesk vs. Elena

0403 Final

Final Four!

Final Final Final Final
49 Nitti Grotesk 54 Program 69 Elena 59 Colvert
41 Today Sans 27 FF Mark 12 FF Videtur 32 Alda

It’s all winding up now. Tomorrow the championship round settles the question of which face takes all. Today, our final four contenders narrow down to just two. It’s been unpredictable going for those in the competition, Nicole Dotin’s Elena squarely shutting out Axel Bertram & Andreas Frohloff’s FF Videtur last night, two other decisive wins by Zuzana Licko’s Program and Jonathan Perez (et al)’s Colvert, and a narrow victory for Pieter van Rosmalen’s newcomer Nitti Grotesk over Volker Küster’s Today Sans. Will Elena take the title again? It’s all up to you! Your turn now. Polls close tonight at midnight, Pacific.

Final Four banner

Nitti Grotesk vs. Program

0402 Final Four1

Elena vs. Colvert

0402 Final Four2

Special thanks goes to to Miller Banner for setting the title graphic, and to MVB Solano Gothic, our call-it-as-he-sees-it referee.

Final Eight Narrows Down to Final Four Today

Final Final Final Final
17 FF Videtur 21 Elena 23 Colvert 27 Alda
16 Henriette 15 Arek 16 FF Tisa 12 Marat

Friday’s intense match-ups resulted in close shaves to the faces of the winners. With all the action compounding, the next three rounds will determine who sets the title. Now it’s game on in the last four matches in the Final Eight. Your turn to take it away! All polls close tonight at midnight, Pacific.
Final Eight banner

Nitti Grotesk vs. Today Sans

0401 Final Eight1

FF Mark vs. Program

0401 Final Eight2

FF Videtur vs. Elena

0401 Final Eight3

Colvert vs. Alda

0401 Final Eight4

What’s all this? It’s March Madness. Thanks goes to to Miller Banner for setting the title graphic, and to MVB Solano Gothic, impartial referee.

Serifs Finish Off Sweet Sixteen, Now!

Final Final Final Final
37 Nitti Grotesk 31 Today Sans 28 FF Mark 31 Program
21 Helsinki 17 Metro Nova 21 FF DIN 19 FF Netto

Decisive victories last night in a showing of superior stamina and underdog strength. Turning now to today’s match-ups: Get a closer look at each typeface by following the links just above each match graphic, or look it up in FontBook. Polls close tonight at midnight Pacific. You know what to do from here. Final 8 starts Tuesday!

Sweet Sixteen banner2

Henriette vs. FF Videtur

0328 Sweet Sixteen - Second half1

Elena vs. Arek

0328 Sweet Sixteen - Second half2

FF Tisa vs. Colvert

0328 Sweet Sixteen - Second half3

Marat vs. Alda

0328 Sweet Sixteen - Second half4

Special thanks again goes to to Miller and Sutro Deluxe for setting the title graphic, and to MVB Solano Gothic for reffing the proceedings.

Sanses Face Off in Sweet Sixteen!

Final Final Final Final
27 FF Tisa 30 Colvert 27 Marat 35 Turnip
23 Fedra Serif B 27 Maiola 23 FF Quixo 15 Alda

And it’s game on for the remaining sanses in today’s single-elimination madness! Some real squeakers last night on the serif side, including Colvert’s tight 3-point win over Maiola. Okay—from here it’s all up to you. Polls close tonight at midnight Pacific. Serifs fight it out tomorrow.

Sweet Sixteen banner1

Helsinki vs. Nitti Grotesk

0327 Sweet Sixteen - First half1

Metro Nova vs. Today Sans

0327 Sweet Sixteen - First half2

FF Mark vs. FF DIN

0327 Sweet Sixteen - First half3

Program vs. FF Netto

0327 Sweet Sixteen - First half4

What’s all this? It’s March Madness. Special thanks again goes to to Miller and Sutro Deluxe for setting the title graphic, and to MVB Solano Gothic for reffing the proceedings.

Southeast Serifs Vie for Final Spots in Sweet 16!

Final Final Final Final
30 Trola 28 Quiosco 26 Elena 32 Arek
26 Henriette 16 FF Videtur 20 FF Unit Slab 20 Richler

This last round determines who advances to the Sweet Sixteen. Get to it! All polls close at midnight (Pacific).

FF Tisa vs. Fedra Serif B

0326 Southeast Serifs1

Maiola vs. Colvert

0326 Southeast Serifs2

FF Quixo vs. Marat

0326 Southeast Serifs3

Turnip vs. Alda

0326 Southeast Serifs4

Northeast Serifs Compete in Today’s Face-off

Final Final Final Final
31 Helsinki 36 Nitti Grotesk 29 Metro Nova 26 Today Sans
23 Telefon 18 MVB Solitaire 19 Baton 22 Frutiger

Henriette vs. Trola

0324 Northeast Serifs1

FF Videtur vs. Quiosco

0324 Northeast Serifs2

Elena vs. FF Unit Slab

0324 Northeast Serifs3

Richler vs. Arek

0324 Northeast Serifs4

Northwest Sanses Face Off!

Final Final Final Final
82 FF Mark 61 FF DIN 69 Program 60 FF Netto
13 Nomada 33 Marat Sans 31 Petala 44 ITC Franklin

…And we’re back to the action, finalizing today the western contenders to advance to the Sweet 16. To get a better look at each face, follow the links above each match-up. It’s up to you now; Get voting! Polls close tonight at midnight (Pacific).

Telefon vs. Helsinki

0321 Northwest Sanses1

Nitti Grotesk vs. MVB Solitaire

0321 Northwest Sanses2

Metro Nova vs. Baton

0321 Northwest Sanses3

Frutiger vs. Today Sans

0321 Northwest Sanses4

What’s this? It’s FontShop’s March Madness Face-off! And it picks up with the Northeast Serifs bright and early Monday morning! See you then.

Maiola and Pill Gothic

Today we take a quick look at Veronika Burian’s Maiola with Christian Robertson’s Pill Gothic.


Maiola-and-Pill-Gothic-2One of the first things you’ll notice about Maiola up close is its rough and expressive texture. At size, this detail becomes hardly anything observable, an interesting proof of concept masterfully carried out all the way. Pill Gothic responds with a more traditional sans construction, but with interesting hard edges included here and there to offer some formal commonality. Together the two take full advantage of the maximum versatility gained through each faces’ extensive range of weights.

Maiola-and-Pill-Gothic-4 Maiola-and-Pill-Gothic-5

Maiola additionally covers Cyrillic and Greek, offering these as separates, or in an all-inclusive Pan-European set. (At least that’s what I assume Maiola PE means.) That’s it. Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.

The Madness Begins! Southwest Sanses Face Off


March Madness returns to FontShop this year with a selection fresh off the drawing tables. Several new releases join us as strong and underdog contenders face off in each round of single-elimination madness. Who will take it all? You decide.


Now comes your part: One vote is one point scored by each face. The full tournament schedule is on the bracket. Stay plugged in here for more updates. Get to it! Polls close tonight at midnight (Pacific).

FF Mark vs. Nomada0319 Southwest Sanses1

Marat Sans vs. FF DIN

0319 Southwest Sanses2

Petala vs. Program

0319 Southwest Sanses3

ITC Franklin vs. FF Netto

0319 Southwest Sanses4

The action picks back up here on Friday. And thanks again MVB Solano Gothic for serving as referee.

Imprint and P22 Underground

Today we look at the pairing of an early twentieth century rethinking of the Caslon letter, Monotype’s Imprint, with Paul Hunt & Richard Kegler’s  P22 Underground, drawn after Edward Johnston’s signage system for the London Underground.
Imprint-and-P22-Underground-1 Imprint-and-P22-Underground-2

Imprint was similarly credited to Edward Johnston among others, designed expressly for the short-lived British printing magazine, The Imprint, for which Johnston was also one of the editors. The face’s late-Victorian/Edwardian sensibilities are evident throughout. It sets rather light and reserved as digital type, though I imagine it reproduced with a touch more heft on the page in metal. Like all Caslons, its strength comes in a melodious chorus of imperfect forms. With restrained expressionism, P22 Underground plays a compatible supporting role, matching period and certain stylistic traits such as eccentric use of terminal angle and contrasty patches of negative space. Looking for a similar sign-painterly sans, perhaps a bit more updated? Try Edward.

Imprint-and-P22-Underground-3 Imprint-and-P22-Underground-4 Imprint-and-P22-Underground-5That’s it. Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.