New Additions: July 2019
26th August 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. Stephen Coles and Florian Hardwig give their take on the most interesting recent additions.
I’ve been fond of Carl Crossgrove’s Mundo Sans ever since it was released in 2002. It’s the kind of unpretentious, well-crafted sans serif that doesn’t get a lot of fanfare but calmly and soundly serves a range of purposes. Now it has three new weights (Hairline, Book, Demi) and a companion, Mundo Serif, to make it even more versatile. Mundo Serif follows in the Sans’ contemporary humanist footprint: it has a classic “oldstyle” structure with modern details, like low contrast, large x-height, and sturdy – almost slab – serifs. Authoritative and serious, but not dry and dull, it’s what I’d hope to see in a news magazine/website that covers current events via longform features.
Like Disney, Monotype knows that rebooting their classics is easy money. And, despite a long list of existing Nexts, Neues, Novas, the company has plenty of classics left to reboot. Surprisingly, Helvetica was still one of them. Other than format updates, character set expansions, and a specialty eText version, the most omnipresent typeface of our time has only had one significant digital reexamination: Neue Haas Grotesk. Until now.
Unlike Neue Haas Grotesk, Helvetica Now is a complete rethinking of the original typeface. It comes with alternates that many users will celebrate: a single-storey ‘a’, tailed ‘l’, straight ‘t’, spurless ‘u’, beardless ‘G’, and straight-leg ‘R’, some of which were previously found in “Textbook” versions of Helvetica. There is also the option of circular dots for tittles and punctuation. The biggest update, however, is found in the optical sizes. Helvetica Now Text and Display revive the size-specific spacing and weight adjustments from the metal type, but Micro is an entirely new design with details never seen in the typeface before. The idea was to correct Helvetica’s infamous shortcomings at very small sizes (e.g. tight spacing, closed apertures), but on first inspection this attempt feels uneven and underconsidered. The emaciated ‘f’, in particular, is a symptom of not going further to adjust the Micro proportions; without more ascender height the designers had to carve deep into the shape to allow for a larger aperture. Perhaps Helvetica Now performs wonderfully in print, but most type appears on a screen these days, and the extreme inktraps appear more likely to call attention to themselves than make text more legible.
Time will tell if consumers will buy tickets to this reboot – but it can’t hurt to ride the coattails of the greatest franchise in 20th-century type.
Jacques-François Rosart was a Belgian punchcutter active in the 18th century. For a long time, his types haven’t received as much attention as the work of contemporaries like John Baskerville or Johann Fleischman, Rosart’s rival at the Enschedé foundry in Holland. This has changed in recent years, and several type designers have started working on interpretations. Katharina Köhler’s Rosart began life as a master’s project at ECAL in Lausanne. Released in 2016 through Camelot Typefaces in Leipzig, it is among the first to be made commercially available.
Köhler based her impressive debut on a 1768 type specimen. Some of the Baroque characteristics like the ball terminals were embraced; others like the wedge-shaped serifs on the ‘E’ or ‘T’ were maintained, but dialed down a nod. The eccentric spur on the ‘G’ was given a modernized, more rational form. The result is a wonderfully forward-looking text face with sturdy forms and well-defined details. Rosart spans four weights in roman and italic and includes small caps. The only thing I wish for is the addition of a display cut for more sparkle at larger sizes.
GT Zirkon is the long-awaited second release by Swiss designer Tobias Rechsteiner, after GT Haptik (2010, together with Reto Moser). The design is a contemporary amalgamation of stylistic elements found in sans serifs from the late 19th and early 20th century, more specifically in the “gothic” faces of the British and American variety. This influence is evident in the double-storey ‘g’ and the angled stroke terminals.
What’s special about GT Zirkon is the normalized letter widths and the rather open spacing. Zirkon can further be recognized by its relatively high contrast between thicks and thins. This trait is more pronounced in the more extreme weights, and toned down in the Book and Regular, which are aimed at text sizes. The stroke modulation is accentuated by inktraps; originally invented to counter the ungainly ink spread in small print, the deep cuts here do double duty as an eye-catching feature for display sizes.
Originally released in 1899, Herkules belongs to a series of advertising faces made at the Berthold foundry in Berlin. Herkules was preceded by the lighter Carola-Grotesk and two italic styles, Regina-Kursiv and Hansa-Kursiv. The series was completed by Inseratschrift Rekord, a bold condensed oblique. All members share the club-like terminals, revealing their Art Nouveau provenance. Especially in the brawny Herkules, the letterforms look a bit as if they were made from modelling balloons.
After having revived the italic styles as Carlsbad in 2018, RMU has now followed up with a digital version of Herkules. ParaType’s Karolla Black is an alternative interpretation of Herkules with Cyrillic characters. While it’s always great to have digital versions of period faces for making historical recreations, I’ll be interested to see if this specific style can be put to good contemporary use.
The bifurcated serifs and the mid-stem decorations identify Rocaie as a Tuscan. This typeface hardly says “Wild West”, though. It’s much more sophisticated, with a festive air that brings to mind elaborate shop window lettering, spectacular drop caps, or high-end packaging. The display face is based on Rococo brass capitals that were once used in a bookbinding workshop for stamping gilded letters onto leather covers.
In his digital translation, Andreas Seidel made sure that the engraved ornamentation is precise, but not mechanical. The tooling is slightly different in each letter. It hence has a warm, handmade feel, without looking dated. Rocaie comes in five main styles (Regular, Solid, Pearl, Outline, Magnum) which can be used separately or in combination. Additional Cloud and Shadow fonts as well as thirteen Fill styles may be added in layers, for magnificent three-dimensional and multi-color effects.
By Stephen Coles (Mundo Serif, Helvetica Now) and Florian Hardwig (others)