Favorite Favorites Typographica 2012
Typographica returned this month with its annual list of favorite new typeface designs of the previous year. Editor and typography expert Stephen Coles solicited entries and essays of support from many of his typographer and type designing colleagues. Their 2012 list is an overwhelming collection of text, display, and decorative typefaces. I’ve spent some time with Typographica’s Favorite Typefaces of 2012 and I was left with some lasting impressions and the recognition of some outstanding examples.
My first impression of this list was its daunting size. The front page of the review offers up 55 typefaces from 54 reviewers. The honorably mentioned Notable Releases add more than 100 to the list. The size of the list was fodder for comments on Twitter and attached to the article itself. As Stephen Coles notes, we are certainly in a Golden Age of Type. For designers like me who might take advantage of this bounty, it has become a full-time job keeping track of what is available. Fortunately there are arbiters of taste like Mr Coles and friends who offer their own recommendations. Yet a list this big is difficult to digest, and even harder to remember.
The Typogaphica 2012 Favorites list is useful as a reference, worth bookmarking and returning to when looking for new typeface possibilities. Unless you’re a designer with an over-abundance of disposable income, it’s most certainly not a shopping list.
I am a typophile. Like an oenophile– the wine snob– I have developed a cellar, or library, of typefaces. I have paid a price for these, and have kept them ready for the right use. I wish it were true that all of them were purchased for specific jobs with budgets where type purchase was included. But, being a typophile, I have also been known to purchase typefaces because I appreciate them enough to want to have them on-hand for graphic design exploration. I’ve come to question this typography cold-storage. I really have no business buying fonts that I do not have an immediate, cost-justified need for. Viewing lists like this is window shopping. Too often it is akin to perusing the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog, where materialistic lust is stoked. This is type porn. In moments of weakness, that lust has gotten the better of me. I’ll save that story for another post. Instead, I’ll share my favorites from the 2012 list.
Some of the Typographica selections are noteworthy because of an interesting technique. This is true of Sodachrome where the letters can create a layered, multi-color result. The effect is similar to seeing a 3D image without your red-and-blue-lensed 3D glasses. While this is a clever visual trick, a designer would need to shoe-horn a concept to make Sodachrome an appropriate choice. Sodachrome was created by Dan Rhatigan and Ian Moore of The Colour Grey. Sodachrome was selected by Frank Grießhammer; Frank designs for Adobe.
Axia is another standout in Typographica’s 2012 list of favorites; it’s a square sans serif with an edge. Axia begs the question, “Do we really need another square sans serif?” Well, apparently we do. In the last decade, typography has been inundated with square sans designs. Along with a deluge of slab serifs, square sans are to this millennium what Meta and a myriad* of tastefully condensed sans serifs were to the 90s. Axia is more brutal than other square sans like Process Type’s Klavika, or Parachute’s Square Sans Pro. It’s sharpness and angled cuts make it a more rigid, teutonic cousin to those more approachable typefaces. It is modern and enigmatic. Axia is an avant garde take on what may have become a typographic cliché. Axia was created by Sibylle Hagmann of Kontour; Axia was selected by Berlin designer Florian Hardwig.
Idlewild by Hoefler Frere-Jones is a typographic sonic boom. It stakes a claim as the standard bearer for the next trend in graphic design– a resurgence of the extended sans serif. At first glance there seems to be anachronistic nostalgia in the DNA of this all-caps typeface family. But further examination reveals this to be a surprising and refreshing typeface. Unlike those that came before (e.g. Eurostile) Idlewild is wide without feeling heavy. Even in its bolder weights there is a lithesome elegance to its form. When it comes to self-promotion, nobody creates sample images better than the good people of HFJ. Their type samples are the centerfolds of type porn– minus artifice and implants.
Editor Stephen Coles selected Bernini Sans by Tim Ahrens and his Just Another Foundry. Bernini was created from the ground up as a versatile typeface family for use on websites. On his Typographica site, Coles has replaced the venerable Lucida Grande with Bernini. Bernini has that utilitarian, quiet confidence that I admire in typeface design. As Coles states, “It just works.” Typefaces like this are like great actors that disappear into their role; if Bernini were an actor, it would be Daniel Day-Lewis. And, it would probably also be Meryl Streep. The Bernini family is two related typefaces– siblings Bernino and Bernina. Bernino is the more staid brother; Bernina is his more curvaceous, inviting sister. Ciao bella. It is an abundant family of 50 fonts comprised of italics and an array of weights and widths. The JAF Bernini family is a bargain at $489 for the entire family.
Adelle Sans is the fraternal twin of TypeTogether’s beautiful slab serif, Adelle. It was created by José Scaglione and Veronika Burian. Nadine Chahine of Monotype was quick to point out this Adelle’s cheerfulness; she called Adelle Sans a feel-good typeface. Dr Chahine is certainly correct. In her brief, spot-on review, she calls Adelle Sans uncomplicated and friendly. I am an ardent fan of TypeTogether and their personality effusive typeface designs. For the typographer, personality is a prime consideration in type selection. Even so-called neutral typefaces like Helvetica and Univers are imbued with mood and attitude. Those two are fastidious, but Univers is the more cerebral of the two. Helvetica is cocky. Univers is arrogant. Frutiger is their easy going cousin. Adelle Sans is generations younger and looks it. She respects her elders, but they appear stiff in her company. Adelle Sans is smart and good-humored. Helvetica and Univers are easily offended. Adelle Sans doesn’t give a shit what you think about her.
Tablet Gothic is another Burian-Scaglione TypeTogether collaboration. Ivo Gabrowitsch described this family as “the most useful editorial typeface of the year.” That’s high praise from the Marketing Director at FontFont. Tablet Gothic’s utility comes from its beautifully strong design and the versatility of 42 fonts. Tablet Gothic is reasonably priced at $650 for the entire family.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include one the great serif faces in this cherry-picked list. My serif pick is Harriet by Okay Type’s Jackson Cavanaugh. Reviewer André Mora– Design Director of Seattle Met magazine– selected Cavanaugh’s Harriet Series as his favorite for the Typographica list. The Harriet Series is an elegant, open, refined serif in the tradition of Baskerville, with a dash of Century. Harriet is no shrinking violet when it comes to personal fashion; her makeup is flawless, she is impeccably dressed and accessorized. Like Adelle, Harriet wears her personality on her sleeve; she is a friendly, sophisticated hostess with flair.