New Additions: January 2015
4th February 2015
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 additions from January.
There is something very unusual about Minotaur. It’s something you probably can’t catch on Identifont’s sample image, but visit the large previews at Production Type and you’ll see that what makes this face unique is not necessarily its skeleton — at first glance, a slightly unusual Scotch Roman — but its skin. This typeface, like its companion Minotaur Sans, is drawn without curves of any sort. The main inspiration came from early vector-based technology, when computers were only capable of drawing straight lines. The result is admittedly strange, but it’s a sort of strangeness that feels right at home with a certain sophisticated modern aesthetic, one that nods knowingly to two typographic histories, one metal (the Scotch) and one electronic.
Minotaur Beef cranks up the weirdness to eleven. It looks as if designers Jean-Baptiste Levée and Yoann Minet began with Minotaur Sans and then pumped it with so much air (liquid?) (meat?) that it swelled beyond its regular confines, producing a spate of obese, ink-trappy wrinkles. The transformation is so extreme that even the straight-lined contours are pulled into bulging curves. This is another one of those typefaces I can’t imagine at work in the real world, but I admire the designers for their mad audacity.
Some in the professional type community bellow harsh critiques of the Google Fonts project, and I joined the gripey chorus more than once, complaining that the overall quality of the library is quite low, and thus fails an opportunity to bring good type to a web dev/design audience who doesn’t have a lot of experience with type choices. There are well designed exceptions, of course, and Playfair Display is one of them. For one of the earliest Google releases, Claus Eggers Sørensen made a delicate, sparkling face that is meant to be used large — exactly the opposite of what the default webfonts (Georgia, Verdana, Arial, Lucida) were meant to do. In filling this gap it showed just how useful non-standard webfonts coud be. With its ball terminals and strong contrast on a vertical axis, Playfair can serve as a convincing display companion for Georgia, or it can be an appealing counterpoint to the plain, sans serif text that pervades the web.
After fewer than five years on the font scene, Laura Worthington makes consistent appearances on the retailer best-seller lists. She’s not a complete novice — she brings with her years of calligraphy and lettering experience — but it’s impressive how quickly she found hotspots in the type market. One of her bright schemes was to develop suites of typefaces that span categories yet share the same hand-rendered style. This began with the vintage simulators Charcuterie and Boucherie, but I think she hits her stride with Adorn which is in tune with her natural voice: genuinely sweet, contemporary rather than retro. As you click through the 20-font set it’s hard to believe all this work came from one human in such a short period of time. Even the user guide is an impressive tome, weighing in at 178 pages. And still, it doesn’t feel like she cut a lot of corners in this collection. Effortless and carefully produced, the scripts are obviously her forte, but the Roman and Serif are also delightful and offer users tools that are far less common.
Anyone familiar with Jack Yan’s work would immediately see it in JY Shapa — the scimitar-like details, the idiosyncratic shapes, the refusal to conform to conventional baselines and other guidelines. In this case, however, the designer is not Yan, but his colleague, Jure Stojan. Shapa is Stojan’s fourth design for JY&A and it’s by far his most consistent and functional. Still, it’s pretty odd. I’m afraid it won’t attract many users — but I hope it does. It could serve a role for those who seek an unorthodox look to their text, much like Xavier Dupré’s and František Štorm’s faces often do.
There have been many recent attempts to draw large-lowercased geometric sans serifs and extrapolate them into grand families disguised as workhorses. Most of these fall far short of their goal. Still, they get released … because they sell, in spite of their weaknesses. It seems that circular rounds and broad caps will always be crowd-pleasers. Galano Grotesque fares better than many of these others. Its designer René Bieder is no longer a newbie, having learned from several previous releases, and his drawing has improved here. Galano Grotesque’s cap/x-height proportions fill a niche: a lowercase much larger than classic geometrics like Futura, but not to the gross extremes of Avant Garde, Century Gothic, and the contemporary releases in this genre. Like FF Mark, released a year previous, the size is a fairly happy medium that fits a broad range of uses, from short bits of text to headlines. But I wouldn’t call this a text face — the caps are too small and the extenders too short for long passages. Despite Bieder’s description copy which suggests the opposite, his companion Galano Classic has proportions better suited for reading. Even his own text samples in each face bear this out. It’s a good reminder that when it comes to choosing type, look past the marketing spiel and trust your gut.