New Additions: October 2019
31st October 2019
We add hundreds of fonts to the Identifont database every month. Most of these are recent releases, and some are simply new acquisitions from foundries who were not yet represented on our site. Florian Hardwig gives his take on the most interesting recent additions.
When it comes to type, one size often doesn’t fit all. More and more typefaces are presented in so-called optical sizes. This is true for the three font families highlighted in this post. They all come in variants optimized for a specific size range, with adjustments regarding proportions, spacing, contrast, counters, and more.
The latest release by young German foundry TypeMates, and their first by an external designer, is a serif family intended for editorial use. Mona Franz began work on Bridge during her studies in the Type and Media program at the Royal Academy in The Hague. She opted for two optical sizes. The display subfamily – cleverly named Bridge Head – is static, with tight proportions. It does without italics, and instead is offered in three widths; Head Con(densed), Head, and Head Ext(ended). Each has six weights, from the nearly monolinear xLight to the Black with the pronounced vertical stress of a Didone. Bridge Head’s hallmark is the counter shape of round letters like ‘O’. It’s divided by four corners, with the lean horizontal connectors providing the inspiration for the name.
In Bridge Text, Franz reduced the feature to just two corners, top left and bottom right, yielding asymmetrical counters and a more dynamic attitude. The text version spans five weights in roman and italic styles. With the unbracketed serifs and, in the lighter weights, the moderate stroke contrast, it’s a pleasant alternative to “reading slabs” like Chaparral – similarly vibrant, but without the humanist ductus. See them side by side in Identifont’s Differences tool.
The foundry’s promotion emphasizes the “kickass K and rebellious R”. They will help in identifying Bridge, and it’s okay and even desirable to have some attention-grabbing details, certainly in a display cut. However, these letterforms with their complicated construction are not on a par with the rest of the glyphs, in terms of quirkiness. I hate to be a killjoy, but they strike me as weaker points in what is otherwise an impressive release.
Originally designed half a century ago and a trailblazer of the contemporary sans serif, this addition to Identifont was long overdue. Despite its influence on other typeface designs, Polo never reached a wider audience. One could argue it was ahead of its time, and indeed there was hardly anything like it in 1972. Neither a grotesque nor a gothic, and not a proper humanist sans like Syntax either, Polo is a highly readable all-purpose sans, with unambiguous “roman” shapes for ‘a’ and ‘g’. It has a large x-height, with a mean line that’s intentionally left vague through angled entry strokes. This suppleness is further supported by the hybrid figures that are neither fully oldstyle nor lining. Polo is derived from writing, but not calligraphic; it’s clean and clear, but not without character.
The reasons why Polo tended to fly under the radar also have to do with its designer, Georg Salden (b. 1930), and his strong belief in self-distribution. Disgruntled by some bad experience early on, Salden started to produce his fonts himself, initially as film strips, and sold them directly to his customers, making him the first independent type designer in Germany. Not only in this regard, he pioneered what became the standard with digital type in the 21st century. To this date, Salden’s typefaces are exclusively available from his own label, now named TypeManufactur. Polo is an early masterpiece, but its age doesn’t show. The current version in OpenType format comes with many features including small caps as well Greek and Cyrillic extensions. It spans numerous styles in four widths and up to seven weights. The core family is offered in three optical sizes. Polo 11 is distinguished from Polo 22 by ink traps that ensure well-defined counters and joins in small sizes. A tad lighter and narrower, Polo 66 is optimized for headlines.
As far as the number of optical sizes is concerned, Louvette is the winner of this selection. CJ Dunn started his typeface as an exploration of Louvaine, a Bodoni adaptation devised by Morris Fuller Benton in 1928, alongside Ultra Bodoni. Louvaine is characterized by the abrupt transition from thins to thicks, a feature it has in common with Ultra Modern (1928), Mondial (1936), or Tippecanoe (1940s).
Louvette is not intended as a literal revival, but instead aims to make the concept of a Bodoni with straight-sided counters fit for contemporary use. Its four subfamilies – Banner, Display, Deck, Text – help to maintain nicely thin hairlines across a range of sizes. This feature can come in handy in Augmented Reality applications, too, as the specimen video demonstrates. Each size comprises five weights, with the Ultra belonging to the genre of fat faces. In addition to stroke contrast and spacing, the descender lengths change as well. The larger the size, the shorter the descenders, allowing compact lines in display uses. Louvette is optionally available in variable font format, with axes for hairline thickness and descender length. I’m especially intrigued by the possibility to control the descenders of individual glyphs. This way, font users can avoid a collision as described in the First Spiekermann Dictum without having to increase the line spacing, or to fiddle with outlines. Let’s hope that Louvette will meet with more success than the short-lived Louvaine!