Category Archives: Great Pairs

Tiina and Monopol

Let’s take a look today at Valentin Brustaux’s Tiina with Tomas Brousil’s Monopol.
Tiina is a sturdy, contemporary serif face, drawn from no specific tradition or family line. Its low contrast and generous fit serve to keep the face both approachable and firmly affixed to the page. As a block of text, Tiina holds together exceptionally well.
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Monopol exists solely as an extra compressed, or skyline sans in a range of weights from very thin to as heavy as heavy goes. Its construction is that of the draftsman-inspired alphabets of the early to mid-twentieth century, with several well-considered exceptions in form and fit. Depending on final size, you may need to track Monopol open some. Together, Tiina and Monopol form a fine working relationship, each offering more than sufficient ground to allow its companion’s distinguishing characteristics take the role as the figure.


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Great Pairs land here each Wednesday. This great pair was originally published July 31, 2013.

JAF Lapture and Geogrotesque Stencil

Today we pair Tim Ahrens’s JAF Lapture, a careful reworking of Albert Kapr’s Leipziger Antiqua, with Eduardo Manso’s Geogrotesque Stencil. I love stencil faces.



JAF Lapture comes in a three weights (with companion italics) across a generous four optical sizes arranged below into columns: Caption, [Regular], Subhead, and Display. Geogrotesque Stencil spans seven weights from Thin to Bold.


The particular stencil variant shown above is one of three. See sets A, B, and C below, the difference between the them being the width of their bridges. A non-stencil version also exists, complete with italics.


Above: Geogrotesque Stencil C Light with JAF Lapture Display. The decisions made to preserve some characteristic signs of Lapture’s age and the age of its influences can cause it to come off a bit stern. Pairing it with a contemporary sans, and specifically this lighthearted stencil face, highlights Lapture’s easily overlooked newness and freshness.



Great Pairs land here each Wednesday. Today’s was originally written by me and published here on April 24, 2013.

Skolar and HWT Artz

Today we look at David Brezina’s Skolar paired with Erik Spiekermann’s HWT Artz, the latter I might add is on sale now through June 30th.

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Skolar, originally designed for academic publishing, creates an appealing, vigorous texture on the page. A close look at the forms themselves reveals the reliance upon the manual models that inform its appearance. The extensively gifted family, linguistically speaking, supports Greek and Cyrillic, as well as Gujarati and Devanagari, (you’ll need to contact the foundry directly for those). Typographically speaking, the glyph palette leaves little room for want, including small caps, math symbols, and all the most common super- and subscripts (scientific superiors and inferiors) and many you may wonder whose standards require. In sum, it’s a family with range.

When I first came across Erik Spiekermann’s HWT Artz, I didn’t know the backstory, and assuming the label meant that what I was seeing was a digital revival from the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum’s extensive holdings, I was surprised that they had inventoried anything from Germany at all. I wrote an e-mail to Erik. Then I found out the real story. HWT Artz, like HWT Van Lanen is one of a handful of original designs produced at the Hamilton Museum into working wood type having existed first as digital type. The other example that comes to mind is Nick Sherman’s Brylski. (All three of these carry the names of Hamilton Museum workers and founders.) From its conception, HWT Artz accepted as a design constraint that the forms require as little hand finishing as possible, meaning that all sharp angles were to be eliminated in order to allow the width of the pantographic router bit (the means of production) to traverse the tight interior and exterior spaces it left behind.

On its own, though only a single weight and with minimal alternates, HWT Artz makes a strong statement. With Skolar, the two lend each other support, though there’s no question who maintains the dominant role.

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Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.

Kade and Freight Micro

Author’s note: I’m making transparency a central theme in this edition of Great Pairs.

Today we look at David Quay’s Kade together with Joshua Darden’s Freight Micro, and since I’m promoting the new Tryout feature at, all of the images shown here link you to their source, where you can go and mess around with the samples, and very possibly come up with something that works even better for your own purposes.

Quickly, let me add that this feature (the new Tryout feature) is limited to webfonts that we offer, so keeping this page open as a reference to what will work is advised: FontShop’s Webfonts. I also recommend against pasting text into the Tryout feature, and also, you should use a modern desktop browser. Going against this advice (as I have as part of testing the feature) will reveal what remains to be fixed, however, the feature’s failure to deliver the expected result looks a lot more like it’s simply not responding to your input. Sticking to options you can be somewhat confident will work will give you a much more positive experience with this tool. Today is May 23, 2013 and the above is all subject to change. Now on to Kade and Freight Micro.

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Reading about Kade, the concept comes from lettering on ships and docks in the Netherlands, an engineer’s approach to letter making. Getting my own good look at the face, I see it doing well in the portrayal of the idea of technical subjects, such as math and sciences. Freight Micro is one optical size of Freight (serif) drawn specifically to function at around 6 pt and below, and part of the larger Freight Super Family.

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The thing that really unifies this combination is its attention to the relationship between interior and exterior contours, hard lines wrapped with taut, smooth ones. In Kade, this is mainly a stylistic decision. In Freight Micro, similar results were arrived at under the constraints of performance at very small sizes. It’s fine, by the way to use a typeface intended for small sizes at larger ones, though be careful of it falling apart. The other way around (using type drawn for large sizes to set text) generally doesn’t work.

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That’s it. Great Pairs land here each *Wednesday.

*though you may have noticed today’s not Wednesday, it’s Friday. I had to replace a bad hard drive and got a little behind this week. Thanks for reading.

Essay Text and Carter Sans

Today we look at the nice, natural relationship between Ellmer Stefan’s Essay Text and Matthew Carter’s eponymous Carter Sans, which was co-produced by Dan Reynolds.

The thing I see most pronouncedly in Essay Text is a deliberate leaving in of the details—things that would be stripped or otherwise rationalized away. To make it clear that these small touches (such as its pointed curves or a seemingly misplaced heaviness in the tail of the y)  have a purpose, the same are emphasized to allow demonstration of the principle.

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Together with Essay Text, I’ve paired Carter Sans. A sans it is, though its flared terminals land this also in the category of Glyphic, or Thorn Serif. (The term glyphic here makes reference to lapidary inscription.) Carter Sans has a nice, hearty and uncomplicated feel to it. Seeing the two together was enough to convince me of their compatibility.
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Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.

Berling Nova and Neuzeit S

Today we take a brief look at Karl Erik Forsberg’s Berling Nova and Wilhelm Pischner’s Neuzeit S.

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One thing quite evident in Berling Nova is its ability to set running text with confidence – the way it carries its weight, and how much it dares use in a text face. The complete set comes also with two display cuts, for larger work, above. Something about this face, its cleanness and lack of ornament led me to find a similarity with Neuzeit S, while looking through the Helvetica Alternatives FontList. Neuzeit S’s roundness, spareness, possession of eccentricity, and generous spacing is as much of a unifier as I required. Reading about our sans companion today, I found out that the S stands for Siemens, the original client for whom the face was made. Should you require more than two weights of Roman, Akira Kobayashi completed and re-released a set of optically corrected obliques in the Neuzeit Office set. A Rounded variant also exists.
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Together the two slip tightly into dominant and subservient roles, or mesh as well-fit, well-oiled gears.

Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.

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.

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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.

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That’s it. Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.
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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.

Marat and Marat Sans

Call me lazy, but sometimes I think it’s revealing to look at pairings where the faces are expressly made to work together. Today it’s Ludwig Übele’s Marat and Marat Sans.

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Pervading both designs but particularly visible in Marat [serif] is a certain speed of stroke that snaps at the terminals. Marat Sans is considerably more calm in this regard, though its exuberance is undeniable in its heavier weights. Rather than assuming the more common role as a tempering force in the pairing, the subtle mischief of Marat Sans’s forms only encourages its serifed companion’s playfulness.

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At text sizes, Marat reduces to a pleasant texture, setting economically on the line.

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That’s it. Great Pairs continues here Wednesday. Both Marat and Marat Sans are participating in this year’s March Madness.

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.

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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.

Adriane and Brooklyn Samuels

Today we take a look at the pairing of Marconi Gomes Lima’s Adriane and Hans Samuelson’s Brooklyn Samuels.


A recent expansion of the Brooklyn Samuels family gives us four new numbered widths from (if I were to name them) compressed to normal. Its unusual constructions and softened corners create a casual and inviting texture. Adriane’s strong Neoclassical core gives it the ability to play it straight, though its lively gestures serve as a strong unifier.


The two create a nice cohesive relationship. Brooklyn Samuels irons out much of the bounce in Adriane, and gives its eccentric italic and swash forms license to relax and be themselves. The text preceding No. 4 above is tracked open slightly to allow its setting of a short passage at a smaller size.

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That’s it. Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.

Parkinson Electra and Metro Nova

Let’s look at the pairing of two successful Dwiggins revivals today, Jim Parkinson’s Parkinson Electra and Toshi Omagari’s Metro Nova.
William Addison Dwiggins’s work is marked with a distinctive American voice, and in its forms, an intense preoccupation with detail, a push to ever hold the reader’s attention with an enlivening texture. Both faces exhibit a certain fanciful approach to lettermaking that favors innovation over convention. Note how the serifed face below, Electra, compromises the construction of its lowercase g without sacrificing in the least its stateliness or legibility. Metro gets a similar clickety-clack rhythm from its varied gestural axes and terminal angles.

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That’s it. Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.


Bullen and Rhode Wide

Today’s pairing is Juliet Shen’s Bullen with David Berlow’s Rhode Wide.
Bullen-and-Rhode-Wide-1 Bullen-and-Rhode-Wide-2We’re really just looking at one small part of the larger Rhode family, which draws from American gothic wood type. Bullen is likewise an synthesis of several ATF faces, each chosen for its quirks. In spite of its quirks, Bullen produces an immensely readable result.
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Together, the pair is possessive of a kind of charm that comes from a carefully controlled clumsiness. Rhode Wide emphasizes Bullen’s economical fit.


Great Pairs continues here next week.