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.

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

Introducing Sentinel

Typeface: Sentinel

Is any typeface more in-the-know than a Clarendon? These smart looking slab serifs have the timeless style of a charcoal gray suit, or a well-chosen pair of horn-rimmed glasses: they’re approachable, welcoming, and effortlessly persuasive. Yet they’re tough to use — out of the question for setting text — because they lack italics.

Enter Sentinel®, a new slab serif from Hoefler & Co. A new take on this lovely and useful style, Sentinel is a refreshingly complete family in twelve weights (Light through Black, with italics throughout) that’s designed to shine in sizes both large and small. Featuring text-friendly features like short-ranging figures, and our Latin-X® character set for extended language support, H&Co is delighted to present the entire Sentinel family for just $199.

Atoms & Aldus

Last week I mentioned the atomic pen, which scientists used to construct some awfully tiny letters one atom at a time. These are small letters indeed: measuring two nanometers in height, they’re about ¹₄₀₀₀₀ the thickness of a human hair, which surely gives their inventor sufficient authority to issue the casual throwdown that “it’s not possible to write any smaller than this.” But it is, of course, and the technique for doing so has been known to typefounders for more than five hundred years.


Ode on a Grecian Kern

Greek Week Continues!

Like all good New Yorkers, we know how to respond to unattended packages: with deep dread and unbridled panic. Yet despite our daily diet of Orwellian public service announcements, a devil-may-care attitude moved someone at H&FJ to immediately open the unmarked brown paper parcel that was left outside our door (candy!), inside which were these: a pair of fired clay sculptures in the shape of — what else? — the h and fj from our very own Grecian italic typeface, and this week’s cause célèbre, Acropolis Italic. Bookends? Graven images? Anyone care to fess up? Whoever you are, you’ve earned your stripes for ginning up an ‘fj’ ligature where there was none; that takes both thoughtfulness and pluck. So thank you for the gift, secret admirer! Do get in touch so we can send you a proper thank-you note, or a restraining order. — JH

Greek Week Continues

Typeface: Acropolis Black Italic

Right on the heels of yesterday’s post about Grecian italics comes this, a reminder that Swing University is back in session. Swing U, a production of Jazz at Lincoln Center, is a terrific series of courses directed by jazz authority Phil Schaap. Design Director Bobby Martin Jr. developed this identity for Swing U using none other than Acropolis Black Italic, what was heretofore the world’s only Grecian italic typeface, and certainly one of the most exotic faces in the H&Co collection. Every octagonal typeface has a collegiate quality, and Martin cleverly teased this out of Acropolis by adding a double outline that’s right off a varsity jacket. That he’s got the swash T in there adds a nice note of syncopation — a great way of marrying academics and bop. It makes perfect sense and looks great; to paraphrase Count Basie, “if it looks good, it is good.” — JH

Mrs. Gray and the Mystery of the Grecian Italic

“Grecians” are slab serif typefaces in which curves are replaced by bevelled corners. The fashion for octagonal letters took off in the 1840s (the style may have begun with an American wood type, produced by Johnson & Smith in 1841), and by the end of the decade there were all manner of Grecians on the market: narrow ones, squat ones, light ones, ones with contrasting thicks and thins, and ones without. It’s unusual that the rather obvious “square-proportioned” Grecian didn't arrive until 1857, and that no one thought to add a lowercase until 1870. It’s this very center of the Grecian universe that our Acropolis typeface occupies, which includes an additional feature of our own invention: a Grecian italic, something that no Victorian typefounder ever thought to create.

Or so we thought. This is the Six-Line Reversed Egyptian Italic of William Thorowgood, which sure enough qualifies as a Grecian italic. It has many peculiar features, but the most unearthly is its date: 1828, thirteen years before the first Grecian roman appeared. What’s the story?


Oakleaf: Behind the Scenes

Kathy Willens, Associated Press

The typeface we designed for The Nature Conservancy is an extension of our Requiem font, which explores the work of sixteenth century scribe Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi (1480–1527). Arrighi is best remembered as an exemplar of the written italic, but his upright roman capitals capture an interesting balance of calligraphic and typographic traditions. The three variations of the capital T on the left offer different ways of reconciling the influences of the seriffed inscriptional letter and the swashed written one, and it was this kind of tension that we hoped to explore further. On the left screen is an enlargement from Arrighi’s 1523 writing manual Il Modo de Temperare le Penne, and on the right are two variations of the capital E in the font we designed. The cursive form on the left was one of the first digital drawings made by designer Andy Clymer, and we all thought it was immediately successful. In the final font, it’s almost perfectly preserved from this initial stage.


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