Archer, the colorful slab serif.
Sweet but not saccharine, earnest but not grave, Archer is designed to hit just the right notes of forthrightness, credibility, and charm.
Slab serifs have been evolving for two hundred years, yet the category continues to be dominated by two basic styles: Antiques and Geometrics. Antiques arise out of the same nineteenth-century tradition that produced the Modern and Scotch styles: at heart, they’re text faces, and they feature all of the qualities needed to thrive at small sizes. (Antiques customarily have the traditional ‘two-storey’ forms of a and g, and a capital R that ends in a flourish.) Our Ziggurat typeface is an example of the Antique style in full flower, capturing the best of what the style has to offer: it’s warm, comforting, and persuasive. But this coziness comes at the expense of modernity, and in the wrong context even the best Antique can feel old-fashioned, musty, and irrelevant.
The Geometric is a twentieth-century riposte to the Antique. Informed by the same kind of rationalist thinking that inspired the great sans serifs of the Bauhaus, Geometrics abandon traditional forms in favor of mathematical strategies. A Geometric’s O is circular rather than elliptical, and its forms shed their residual contrast between thicks and thins. Geometrics usually apply this same rationalism to the woollier parts of the alphabet, replacing the alphabet’s beaks and tails and ball terminals with a program of matching serifs. While these faces can sometimes be bracingly modern, they’re often monotonous, and many Geometrics suffer from an astringent sting that makes them difficult to use and unwelcome to read.
When Martha Stewart Living asked us to develop a new typeface for the magazine, it seemed that a slab serif could answer much of the brief. A slab could be personable, straightforward, and credible, though it would take special effort to also make it pretty, hard-working, and frank. Archer would have to answer some formidable typographic demands, since Living is an almanac of lists, recipes, charts, diagrams, tables, calendars, and glossaries. To make the typeface frank — direct, but not brusque — we introduced subtle cues from the world of typewriter faces, which combine the ordinariness of Antiques with the modern practicality of Geometrics. We restored the vanished ‘ball terminals’ to the lowercase, and uncharacteristically applied these gestures to the capitals as well, in order to yield a font that’s friendly without being silly, and attractive without being flashy. The result is a typeface that’s well-mannered, easy to work with, and inviting to read.