Whitney: clear for signage, compact for print.
When Tobias Frere-Jones was asked to develop an institutional typeface for New York’s Whitney Museum, he had to contend with two different sets of demands: those of editorial typography, and those of public signage.
Typefaces for catalogs and brochures need to be narrow enough to work in crowded environments, yet energetic enough to encourage extended reading. But typefaces designed for wayfinding programs need to be open enough to be legible at a distance, and sturdy enough to withstand a variety of fabrication techniques: fonts destined for signage need to anticipate being cast in bronze, etched in glass, cut in vinyl, and rendered in pixels.
While American “gothics” such as News Gothic (1908) have long been a mainstay of editorial settings, and European “humanists” such as Frutiger (1975) have excelled in signage applications, Whitney bridges this divide in a single design. Its compact forms and broad x-height use space efficiently, and its ample counters and open shapes make it clear under any circumstances.