The New Archer Heavyweights

We’ve seen designers choose Archer for everything from wedding invitations to movie titles. Archer has a natural affinity for book jackets and product packaging, and developers have made great use of Archer ScreenSmart on the web. And some of Archer’s most unexpected performances have been among its best, delivering brand identities for news outlets, department stores, and multinational banks. The more designers have done with Archer, the more they’ve wanted to do with it, and the more we’ve wondered what else might be possible. So eighteen months ago, we returned to the drawing board.

New Voices

Archer was designed to be charming, a delicate book face that never raises its voice. Increasingly, we’ve seen designers coaxing new moods out of Archer, tightly letterspacing its boldest weights to achieve a more boisterous tone. Seeing the potential for a more graphic Archer, we explored how heavy the fonts might go; the answer is a lot heavier. So today we’re introducing Archer Black, Extra Black, and Ultra, each in roman, italic, and small caps, pushing the Archer family to a total of eleven weights. These new styles offer a wealth of new voices: now the ever-polite Archer can be exuberant, adamant, jolly, rustic, solemn, sporty, and vibrant.

New Textures for Text

Archer has always performed in both text and display sizes, a tradition we’ve continued with today’s new styles. The new Archers are vivid at large sizes, and clear in text — and they’re outfitted with all the trimmings needed to articulate content. The new Archer 3 Pro contains small caps, tabular figures, fractions, and even numerical indices. And if you’ve been using Archer’s heavier weights for text, now you use these heaviest weights for emphasis: just as you’ve paired Archer Book and Bold, you can now pair Archer Bold and Ultra.

Introducing Obsidian

I’ve always wanted to create a decorative display face in the Regency style, one of those stout, industrial alphabets enlivened by bright, detailed illumination. Toward the end of our Surveyor project, a deep exploration of engraved map lettering, this idea started to feel especially relevant: engraved maps were often badged with elaborate title pieces, and the more time we spent with these hatched and shadowed letters, the more we could imagine how some of their visual qualities could be successfully interpreted in a contemporary typeface — and one that would be useful and relevant to designers today. But then there was the matter of draftsmanship: how do you do it? Type design is still largely a manual art, and the thought of devoting years of our lives to drawing tiny curlicues was a bleak prospect indeed. Like the best of dead ends, this was where things started to become interesting.

I’d been discussing this puzzle with Andy Clymer, a senior typeface designer at H&Co. As part of the Surveyor design team, Andy had spent a lot of time with the heaviest members of that family, the ones most closely connected with the Regency style. An accomplished programmer and a procedural thinker generally, Andy had taken a short sabbatical in 2013 to attend the first class of the School for Poetic Computation, an artist-run school in New York that explores the intersections of code, design, and theory. Returning with some fresh ideas about particle studies and 3D modeling, Andy and I met to reframe the project: what sorts of rapid prototyping tools could we build to help explore different options, and how might these help us execute our ideas across the massive scale demanded by a contemporary typeface? Not content to be a mere set of decorated capitals, our typeface would need 1,400 glyphs spanning both roman and italic styles, bringing its esprit to the most esoteric of punctuation marks and accents.

Ultimately, Andy’s scripts would become an entire suite of proprietary tools for interpreting two-dimensional letterforms as three-dimensional objects, through the application of virtual light sources that vary in position, angle, and intensity. Like the best projects at H&Co, the typeface was shaped not only by exchanges between designer and editor, but by the iterative cycle of what the tools can do, what we need the tools to do, and what the tools turn out to be able to do that we didn’t foresee going in. After 53 weeks in development, I’m proud to present a project that seemed unattainable just 54 weeks ago: the new Obsidian typeface, from the designers at H&Co.

New from H&Co: Tungsten Rounded

There’s a wonderful materiality about rounded letters. Their lighter weights have an engineered quality: for me, they always bring to mind the controlled movements of a router, steadily cutting channels in brass or steel and leaving behind a spray of metal shavings. Their heavier weights are the stuff of the roadside, both the vacuform plastic letters that advertise gas stations and motels, and the painted signs that herald this week’s prices for groceries or liquor. Applying these tactile qualities to our suave Tungsten family gives us Tungsten Rounded, a new family of six fonts that’s at once earnest, energetic, and wry.

A common dilemma when working with rounded typefaces is what to do when two adjacent letters overlap. For the signpainter, the tiny divet created by two intersecting curves is quickly dispatched with a brush, but the letters in a typeface usually go unsupervised:

In Tungsten Rounded’s heaviest weights, we addressed this problem with a set of 151 alternate characters, designed to interact in more predictable ways. An OpenType feature automatically engages these characters when needed, to ensure that all of the 548 potential collisions are managed correctly, from common pairs like AX, to truly exotic ones such as .

New from H&Co: Nitro & Turbo

In contrast to our last release, a hundred-style family inspired by tiny engravings on vintage maps, today we’re introducing a two-style family of forward-looking, stadium-sized letters: meet Nitro & Turbo.

The irrepressibly energetic Nitro grew out of a commission from Michael Bierut at Pentagram, to create an original typeface for the New York Jets. An unusual project, Nitro started not with a moderate weight roman, but with a black italic, usually the most peripheral member of a type family. Instinctively we felt that Nitro could benefit from a companion design, but what? What additional style could offer a visual counterpoint, while sharing the design’s explosive energy and unstoppable momentum?

In place of a companion roman or a set of lighter weights, we decided to explore one of typography’s less obvious directions: the backslant. Like every project that begins with an unvoiced “how hard can it be?”, the answer came back, “harder than you think.” Backslants are eye-catching because they confound expectations, but tricky to draw because they go against the natural motion of the hand, the pen, and the alphabet itself, making them a design challenge as formidable as it is irresistible.

The result of the project is two fonts, the forward-leaning Nitro, and the backward-leaning Turbo. Both fonts have the versatility of a good hot pepper: they add a useful dash of fire to a surprisingly wide range of recipes, and in the right setting, they’re fantastic on their own.

Introducing Landmark

In 1999, we received an irresistible commission from Michael Bierut at Pentagram: to design a typeface for Lever House, one of New York’s most significant architectural landmarks. In a neighborhood of skyscrapers designed simply to warehouse the maximum amount of rentable real estate, Lever House is a rare building with thoughtful urban values, featuring a grand public colonnade, a welcoming sculpture garden, and an enormous setback that showcases that rarest of midtown luxuries: the sky.

The typeface we created was an airy sans serif, patterned after the existing lettering on the building’s Park Avenue window, and related to the style of its cornerstone inscription. The project revealed some interesting discoveries about the way architects use capital letters, and how a typeface designed specifically for architecture could serve designers especially well. A decade after completing the project, we set about creating a collection of decorative variations inspired the material and environmental qualities of buildings: the interplay of structure and surface, the effects of shadow and light, and the transformative power of perspective. Bringing typographic qualities to mechanical forms turned out to be a formidable challenge, but a fascinating one, ultimately absorbing our designers for more than a year. The result is the family of four new typefaces that we’re delighted to introduce: Landmark Regular, Inline, Shadow, and Dimensional.


A good type family balances cohesion and diversity. Its styles need to feel related, but each is entitled to its own personality. Nothing’s worse than paying for a collection of two dozen fonts, only to discover that each speaks in exactly the same voice.

Tungsten began as a focussed set of styles that aspired to being disarming instead of pushy. “Smart, tough, and sexy” was how we described the design, a brief that gave us enough latitude to create four distinct designs: a sporty Medium, an articulate Semibold, a stylish Bold, and a persuasive Black. We stopped at four, discovering that so many of the strategies that served the design in these proportions became impractical at lighter weights. Tungsten is all about the interplay between positive and negative space, a relationship that disappears when the strokes become thin, and the spaces cavernous. So while we could make the design perform mechanically at lighter weights, it no longer felt like Tungsten.

But then we discovered something interesting. We found different strategies to use at these proportions, which could make the design look familiar but feel different. We created new designs whose forthrightness came through in different ways: some were elegant, others earnest. And when we started exploring different widths, we found we could gradually turn up the volume, and watch Tungsten go from cool to vibrant to ecstatic.

So today, we’re delighted to introduce The New Tungstens, a set of four different widths, each in eight weights, starting at $199. The full collection includes Regular, Narrow, Condensed and Compressed, and right now you can save $300 when you buy the complete collection of 32 styles.

Typographic Gifts for Designers, Part 16

“Modern Gaspipe” is the charming taxonomic name for this kind of letterform. We’ve explored the style in our Tungsten type family — itself a fine holiday gift, ahem. But for those with a hankering for decor, the always fruitful Three Potato Four has this unlittle item for sale, a huge handpainted wooden figure three (34" / 86cm), perfect for your living room, studio, or threearium. Thanks to Brian Hennings for finding this one: frankly I’m amazed that he hasn’t had his fill of these kinds of letters. —JH

G Thing

Typeface: Acropolis

An Acropolis Italic sighting is a rare event, so even at 48 pixels I couldn’t help but notice that George Garrastegui used the font’s letter G in his Twitter icon. George was kind enough to send me the original file, though it’s not the mere design fragment I’d assumed: it’s a photo of a foot-high sculpture in corrugated cardboard, made manifest by fellow designer Maurizio Masi. Thank goodness George’s name begins with a letter that can stand on its own, for had he been ‘Frank’ or ‘Peter’ he’d have been doomed to the Sisyphean life of forever righting his own lopsided initial.

Is it me, or is there something vaguely menacing about the typeface when it’s enlarged to these proportions? Maybe it’s a byproduct of being given material form; curiously, this is not the first time Acropolis Italic has gotten a spooky 3-D treatment… —JH

These Aren’t The Fifty States You’re Looking For

Photo: Michael Moran. Typeface: Gotham Bold

In Fast Company, Ellen Lupton writes:

The graphic designer Michael Bierut, a partner working in the New York office of the firm Pentagram, designed a 21-foot sign for the new U.S.-Canada border crossing at Massena, New York. The sign, as well as the building, which was designed by architects Smith-Miller & Hawkinson, has received substantial praise as a bold and daring piece of federal design. Too daring, perhaps. The sign is being dismantled by the Customs and Border Protection Agency for fear that it will be a target for terrorists.

I share Michael Bierut’s hesitation in second-guessing the seasoned professionals at the Department of Homeland Security, who surely know more about armed extremists than I would ever want to. Still, I think there’s a compromise to be struck: if the goal is to create a typographic fig leaf that disguises one’s arrival at our 9,161,923 square kilometer nation, why not change the inscription to “Bienvenidos a México?” —JH

St. Patrick’s Type

Three of my favorite things are big type, chromatic type, and type specimen books, and St. Patrick’s Day offers the perfect occasion to bring all three interests to the table, literally. Parked here at our conference table is the 1904 type specimen of the Roman Scherer company, a wood type manufacturer in Luzern who specialized in two-color type. This page shows the shamrocked “Serie 5401” in the gargantuan size of 40 ciceros — that’s a cap height of almost seven inches (173 mm) — which cleverly gives the illusion of a third color by overprinting red and green to produce a perfect black.

The font was manufactured in at least six sizes, none of which have we ever seen in the wild: like the rest of Roman Scherer’s other chromatic faces, which I’ll post later, these seem to have vanished into obscurity. —JH

Indy Boys Fly The Biggest Heds

Now that’s what I call a banner headline. Yesterday’s Indy Star had a nice enough 180pt Gotham Condensed on page one, but it took a win for the Colts in Superbowl XLI to produce this whopper: a 9,800pt headline emblazoned on the outside of the newspaper’s offices. Biggest Gotham ever?

Eli Manning’s got to be wondering why, after quarterbacking the Giants to a victory in Superbowl XLII, he hasn’t gotten the same reception as his brother Peyton here. Every single one of the New York dailies uses an H&Co font, and our office buildings are considerably taller: couldn’t 620 Eighth Avenue or 220 West 42nd Street manage a Gotham Condensed headline in 50,000pt? (Where’s that Christo guy when you need him?) —JH

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