New Additions: February 2016
5th March 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.
There was a time when it seemed that every third website had at least a few words set in Verdana. Though it feels to me like yesterday, that time is now several years in the past, as webfont usage has finally been accepted by mainstream design. Yet there are still moments when I catch an intriguing glimpse of some very legible sans and wonder what it is … before I catch myself being surprised once again by Verdana. The truth is, Matthew Carter’s Core Font still works great on screen — HiDPI displays be damned. (In fact, you’re reading it right now!) Nikola Djurek’s Vita embraces the truth that a simplified, low-contrast, wide-apertured Humanist/Gothic is the best solution for a problem that is still quite common: small text rendered by a limited number pixels. Of course, this is by no means a Verdana clone. It is stylistically more streamlined, with its near lack of contrast, its spurless ‘bdpq’, and its taut, archery-bow curves that terminate nearly horizontally. It also has the broad style range (7 weights, with italics) we’ve come to expect from contemporary families.
We have seen many Grotesque sans/slab suites in the last decade. Take, for example, Fakt, Parry, Trilogy, and Trivia. Still, each of these has its own unique concept and family relationship. Equitan is further proof that this is not an oversaturated genre. Read the background story at Diane Ovezea’s website, where you’ll see that Equitan is just one of three very respectable retail typefaces she has released or announced since graduating from Type and Media in 2013. The young Romanian designer has already written several chapters of a very promising career.
Backfire is a lively upright script by signpainter-turned-type designer Jerry Berg. While the stroke endings are loose and casual, “crafted by running a brush twice, side-by-side for a double-thick, staggered-stroke effect”, the structure of the letters themselves is quite tight and disciplined. This is a very careful and legible brush script, despite its ebullience. We usually see type designers who mimic signpainted letters, which often results in typographic consistency, but lacks the imperfect yet controlled brushwork of a master signwriter. This face has the opposite problem: the letterforms feel authentic, but the font itself lacks the ligatures and/or alternates needed for clean connections. (The ‘i’ is often the culprit as it curves backwards, breaking the flow, even in the word “Backfire” itself.) After all, signpainters normally paint words, not individual letters, so the order and relationships between letters matter — especially in connecting scripts. It’s good to see new fonts coming from trained signpainters like Berg, but he may benefit from the guidance of a type designer who can help him build a font that does his work justice.
Over the last couple of years, René Bieder has developed a signature style: large sans or slab serif families with a big and broad lowercase, often with circular rounds. His designs tend to be utilitarian more than they are inventive — they stick to tried-and-true formulas already proven by previous successful typefaces. While Mirador shares the generous proportions and weight range of his other faces, it is much more adventurous in style. This combination of a high contrast, wedge serif on a geometric structure isn’t one I’ve seen before. I wouldn’t call it a “workhorse” as described in the marketing copy — it’s more of a sparkling display face best used sparingly for headlines and midsize text — but I applaud Bieder’s newfound courage to venture into uncertain territory.
Realtime is one of various modern attempts (see FF Typestar and the recent Input) to evolve the OCR-ish, mechanical type styles of early computer terminals into more traditional typographic fare. All of these designs soften the modular rigidity of their references and offer a proportional option for text setting, but Realtime is unusual in that the proportional characters are available through an OpenType feature rather than separate fonts. I am not sure how well this works in practice, but I suppose there’s no reason why a variation this fundamental can’t function by flipping an OT switch rather picking another font from the menu. I’d love to hear what font tech experts and Realtime users think.
Cobalte sits in a niche that is fairly uncommon in contemporary type: the Glyphic or flared sans serif. Jean-Baptiste Levée’s design is an offshoot of his other faces, Cogito and especially Gemeli, but whereas those faces are essentially modernist, the concave stems and angled terminals of Cobalte are reminiscent of older letterforms, like stone inscriptions or calligraphy. This was fitting for the more conservative luxury brands that commissioned the design. Still, unlike more familiar Glyphics like Optima, it doesn’t feel overtly classical, formal, or static.