New Additions: December 2015
14th January 2016
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. Stephen Coles gives his take on the most interesting recent additions.
I’ve been a fan of Vinter ever since it appeared on our jury table at the TDC competition in 2012. At that time it was a single font: a gossamer, circular sans with just enough weight to show an unusual bit of contrast. That combination of geometric shapes with modulation is something you don’t often see, and it was worth awarding. But that solitary style was limiting, so I can’t blame Frode Helland for revisiting his design to make it a full-fledged family. Adding weight certainly gives Vinter a different feel. The exaggerated flaring on the terminals and conspicuous diamond dots raise the temperature, making the boldest weight (Medium) a tad quirky and strange, a contradiction of the original’s icy elegance. This is ok, though: I admire some diversity within a family, and welcome more risktaking in contemporary type design. And Vinter is quite inventive — especially the italics, which use rotation along with slant, retaining the design’s signature circular rounds. Read more about Helland’s process for Vinter at I Love Typography.
FS Brabo is a departure for Fontsmith, a foundry that has made its name on fairly stark corporate typefaces. Instead of cold and austere sans, this is a warm and bookish serif. It’s inspired by metal type, matrices, punches of the 15th–17th centuries — particularly of Dutch and French origin — but it’s not antiquated in any way. Fernando Mello’s design is a crisp update of the Garalde style.
The core concept of Nils Thomsen’s Conto is not particularly interesting on its own. There are now dozens of spurless sans serifs, an idea popularized back in 1983 by Hans Reichel with Barmeno and even more so in the next decade with FF Dax. What Conto adds to the genre, besides its huge arsenal of 64 fonts (8 widths in 4 weights, plus italics), is a certain stability that other de-spurred sanses lack. The removal of that little extension of the stem can make type feel playful (like Barmeno/FF Sari), or worse — when performed by less skillful designers — weak, unsteady, and unbalanced. Conto feels solid and cogent, which is a testament to Thomsen’s drawing. It also has some stroke contrast, a trait that is becoming more common as we grow weary of the monotonous monolinear corporate sans.
Conto Slab companion is interesting, particularly where the serif is a continuation of a curved stroke (a, b, d, p, q, n, u). But this is more effective for display and logo work than for text, where it emphasizes the rocking motion of the spurless forms. So I’m not sure I’d use Conto Slab for a bunch of body copy, though TypeMates do make an OK case in this image. Perhaps if the type is small enough, the serifs take on more conventional forms.
One more note: Conto was released in memory of the late Peter Bruhn who contributed to the design and would have published it at his Fountain foundry were he still with us. It was touching to see Thomsen’s tribute to Bruhn in the typeface description. It’s certainly not the first, or the last, of such memorials from fellow type designers; Peter’s influence spread wide and deep.
Some typefaces simply generate joy; and many of those seem like they brought just as much joy to the type designer who made them. Nitti Mostro is one of these. You can picture the grin on Pieter van Rosmalen’s face as he took his Neo-Grot family to weird and wild places. The 18-style family has plenty of crazy effects and fancy fills in which to revel, but the most admirable aspect is the base design itself: how this display companion to Nitti Grotesk goes to extra heavy extremes, forcing crossbars to sink (f) and dots to shrink (i, j). It’s goofy and ostentatious, but not over the top. It works. Of course, many of the novelty styles obviously required a lot of labor along with the joy, particularly Chrome and Disco (see also Dala Prisma and Obsidian).
After Hoefler & Frere-Jones’s very public split nearly two years ago, the design world waited in anticipation for the next move from one of the world’s most prominent living type designers. Tobias Frere-Jones announced his new foundry in January 2015 and spent the next few months hiring a small team and designing his first typeface as a solo artist. Mallory is not likely to see mega blockbuster status, as Interstate and Gotham did before; it just has too much flavor to be as ubiquitous. But it is unmistakably a Frere-Jones design: expertly drawn and utterly useful. Like many of his faces Mallory is informed by historical American sources. In this case, the clearest influence is Dwiggins Metro. In fact, it has some things in common with Akira Kobayashi’s update of WAD’s groundbreaking “geometric”, but this design is uniquely Frere-Jones: a guy who repeatedly puts enough spin on well-worn classics to make them his own, yet not so personal that they can’t be used. And his fonts do get used — pretty much everywhere.
Mallory’s first test is the foundry site itself, and it performs beautifully in the blog where Frere-Jones had already been doing noble work, writing clearly and succinctly (even to non-nerds) about the mechanics of type design. His post introducing “MicroPlus” is not just an advertisement for an exclusive line of screen-optimized fonts, but a sincerely informative primer on the concept of optical sizes. It is very good to see Frere-Jones back in the saddle again.