New Additions: August 2019
19th September 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.
Ludwig Übele has made himself a name for original, well-crafted, and usable text typefaces. In recent years, he fathomed several different directions within the sans-serif space. The modulated Contemporary Sans, the squarish Kakadu, and Aspen, a text grotesque, have all been featured on the Identifont Blog before.
Niko is LudwigType’s most recent release, and once more I’m impressed. In many regards, Niko is a further development of Riga. Originally drawn as a custom typeface for a German daily newspaper, Niko is crisper: counters in ‘b’ or ‘q’ aren’t round, and the shoulders (see e.g. ‘m’) are flatter. The regular width also has less condensed proportions than Riga. Identifont’s Differences tool makes it easy to inspect the relationship.
In the italics, the right-hand stems curve towards the baseline, adding both stability and a sense of movement. Adapting this convincing calligraphic feature to a sans serif is an idea that was already implemented in Riga, and earlier in Georg Salden’s Polo. (For more than a decade, Übele has been collaborating with Salden to make the seminal German designer’s typefaces available in digital form.) With its wedge-shaped entry strokes and varied proportions, Niko is lively and full of character. Each of the glyphs is beautiful to look at, and yet there’s nothing that gets in the way when they line up to form words and paragraphs. The family spans three widths (regular, Condensed, Extra Condensed), each in nine weights in roman and italic, all equipped with small caps. Niko is a formidable reading sans, and astoundingly versatile on top.
Sibylle Hagmann’s output is constantly amazing. She has already released a number of intriguing typefaces under her Kontour label. Several of them follow historical leads, but they’re the opposite of nostalgic. After Kopius, a roman inspired by the East German Liberta, she now turned to another, much more popular typeface from the mid 20th century: Antique Olive. Released in the early 1960s, it has been described as Roger Excoffon’s “latin” response to neo-grotesks like Folio or Helvetica and their cold “Germanic” temper. I’m a sucker for Antique Olive, but I realize that it’s often perceived as too eccentric.
Utile can be regarded as an updated, easier-to-use revisitation of Antique Olive. Hagmann kept the topological DNA, as exemplified by the vertically cut terminals or the straight-legged ‘R’. She eliminated the horizontal contrast with the heavy tops and reduced the extreme x‑height. Thanks to the wider proportions, Utile’s counters are circular, not olive-shaped. This may sound like the result was sterile, but no: The stems were given subtly – and asymmetrically – flared endings. Interestingly, the flaring is found in the lowercase only. In text sizes, this treatment imbues the lines with a welcome vibrancy. When viewed large, it adds a sculpted quality.
Hagmann didn’t stop there. For Utile Display, she applied a distinct vertical contrast, and lengthened the extenders. The outcome is an elegant and fashionable stressed sans that doesn’t need to shy the comparison with the epitome of the genre, Hermann Zapf’s Optima. Similar ideas – how would a sans with stroke contrast look like? – have been investigated before by Albert-Jan Pool in his URW Linear/URW Imperial pair, and more recently in Yassin Baggar’s Beausite, or Chi-Long Trieu’s upcoming Basel. I’m sure we will see more in this vein in the near future. Both Utile and Utile Display come in a range of seven finely graded weights, plus italics.
It takes some chutzpah to name this typeface “Standard”. The design is anything but normal. Constructed from straights and semicircles, with perpendicular joints that yield L-shaped counters, it almost looks like extraterrestrial code. Or are these the traces dug by a bark-beetle? No, it’s Benoît Bodhuin at work. His contemporary “artist’s typefaces” strike a nerve, not only among students. The graphiste from France is less interested in optimal readability, and rather in the ornamental aspects of type. Some letters are barely recognizable without context (‘k’, ‘v’, ‘Q’), others fall apart (‘m’), or fall over (‘x’). Trying to read more than a few words in Standard makes me want to kick something. And yet none of this matters when these odd characters come together in mesmerizing, maze-like patterns. Wow!
Standard is available in six numbered weights. The bolder it gets, the tighter it’s packed. The family is complemented by Pickle-Standard, a bold variant in upright, italic, and contra-italic styles. Pickle-Standard is distinguished by smaller counters and more strongly modulated strokes. Moreover, it has rounded semi-serifs, or pimples like a pickled cucumber, which accentuate the horizontals and minimize the white. I’m sure daring designers will find great ways to put the tipsy Standard and its drunk cousin Pickle-Standard to use. All I’m asking is to use it responsibly. Tchin‑tchin!