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My type

As a child, I would always recreate signage I had seen in towns and cities I had visited. Drawing type was fulfilling to me. Growing older, it didn’t seem feasible for a person to make a living from drawing letters. Even contemplating it as an adult, there is an air of absurdity to it. Thankfully, some people don’t allow this train of thought to interfere with their love of type and continue to create a career for themselves. Some even go as far to create their own foundries.

The number of high quality fonts has surged over recent years due to the increased adoption of web fonts, even more so with the introduction of HiDPI computer displays that allow typographers to create fonts that can be more faithful to their original intentions.

The following foundries and families have caught my eye in recent years and I believe are worth sharing.

Calibre

Klim Type Foundry has quickly become my favourite. Every font of theirs has such a distinct personality that is conveyed so elegantly through the screen medium. Kris Sowersby, lead of Klim Type Foundry, recently unveiled a new family and design for the Financial Times paper which is well worth your time. However, I’d like to bring your attention to Calibre.

Calibre is a geometric neo-grotesque font that feels very approachable at first sight. It doesn’t let the geometry of existing letterforms dictate the form of other characters. It draws a lot of inspiration from Recta, designed by Italy’s Aldo Novarese. In ways, it feels to me like a much more approachable and stylised Akzidenz, but not so far in the direction that makes it soley suitable for headlines. It’s hard to single out favourite characters but the ‘a’ form is so rarely seen that it will never fail to catch my eye.

Miller

Churches and monuments in Scotland showcase some gorgeous carved typography. Wandering around much of Scotland I have often stumbled across an eerily familiar typeface; unsurprising, as original cuts of this particular family were created at William Miller’s Edinburgh foundry in the 19th century. This is perhaps why I am so fond of Miller by Matthew Carter. No replica of Miller’s Scotch Roman but true to the original form and contrast, it is able to convey a message with conviction to a reader. Miller has a different style to most serifs. Typical serifs strike me as tie wearers, but Miller definitely wears a cravat. More recently I came across it on the Boston Globe and recall seeing it in an issue of Wired too. It’s a particularly refreshing font in print.

Elena

Readability is a primary concern for those designing for the web. Due to the multitude of different ways that rendering engines work on platforms and browsers, it can cause a headache finding a typeface that satisfies all mediums and conforms to a brand.

Elena feels like it is built for readability, and as such does not impose its style on the content, but allows the text to speak for itself. Easily guiding your eyes horizontally thanks to is sturdy horizontal serifs and decent x-height, Elena makes it a lot simpler to read on screen and is less distracting than using something such as Palatino or Garamond (which to be honest, only barely looks good on high pixel density displays) as they tend to exhibit jagged edges at body copy sizes. It conveys a much more organic feel than overly machined serifs making it warmer in character.

Designed by Nicole Dotin and released in 2011 at the Process Type Foundry, they offer some of the best font licencing options available for the web and some other great fonts to peruse.

Akkurat

This one perhaps seems familiar to many readers. With the recent unveiling of the Apple Watch, along came an original typeface from Apple too. Din inspired so they say, but it seems to draw a lot of similarities with Lineto’s Akkurat also. Akkurat has more playfulness in terminals but ever so slightly harsher geometry overall. I feel it’s best not too talk much about this one and simply admire the form.

Esta

The first time I had seen this font put to good use was but a few months ago. I stumbled across the Oyster website and instantly loved what the designers had done with it. It’s one that still works better on high density displays but still looks very elegant on regular screens. Created by DSType, to me, Esta conjures images of sophisticated children’s books but is by no means childish. Its curves give it a warmth that is inviting to read and pairs well with the aforementioned Akkurat on their site too.

This is a very situational font but in the correct circumstances is very charming.

Neutral

Kai Bernau of Carvalho Bernau produced this wonderful typeface as a result of his graduation work at the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague.

A book was also produced to document the process and decisions throughout the creation of Neutral including email conversations between designers. I haven’t got my hands on a copy yet but I’m ever more eager as days go by to grab a copy.

Neutrality can be regarded as an auxiliary construction that lets us describe things and events that appear free of connotations to a specific social and cultural group at a specific point in time. Because everybody’s backgrounds and expectations differ, however, the more closely we attempt to answer the question ‘What is a neutral typeface?’, the fewer people agree on various details, and the more the proposal of a neutral typeface becomes a paradox.

Take a few minutes to browse through Carvalho Bernau’s work on publishing and culture and you get a great understanding of what they want to accomplish.