Nicely Done: Tré Seals

It’s always thrilling to see designers combining type in interesting ways, an excitement that’s amplified when a designer uses an exceptionally large set of fonts in a single project. But it’s icing on the cake when that designer shows you ways of combining fonts you’d never have expected. Designer Tré Seals accomplishes all of these things in his new portfolio site, which uses a whopping six font families from our collection: Obsidian, Surveyor, Ideal Sans, Ringside, Operator and Tungsten are daringly diverse choices, which Seals uses to great effect, in clever and delightful ways. He takes a methodical, systems-based approach to select and deploy his type: most of the typefaces are only used in one context, others on just one page in the site. Finding them all is a bit of a typographic scavenger hunt, and a rewarding one for the design-minded.

For his project, Seals took inspiration from vintage postal labels, choosing the engraved Obsidian as his cornerstone when creating the type system for the site. Like Obsidian, the Surveyor, Tungsten and Ringside families have historic roots that connect with the traditions of stamps and labels, an assortment to which he added two novel ingredients: the quirky Operator, which serves as a bridge between the old and the new, and for a neutral voice, the clean, Humanist lines of Ideal Sans.

But Seals’s work isn’t only exciting because of the number of faces he uses or the themes they share. What makes it truly special is his creative eye in deploying the fonts in unexpected ways. When many people think of Tungsten, they immediately recall the robust bolder weights with their industrial presence, but Seals opts instead for a lighter weight that achieves an elegant and refined tone. Ringside is a similarly surprising choice: in less careful hands, its Grotesque construction might feel out of place next to Humanist designs like Operator and Ideal Sans, but Seals makes it work by using only uppercase letters, which naturally have simpler and clearer shapes. Overall, the site is a typographic delight that gives the audience a glimpse of Seals’s design inspirations, his systems-based problem solving abilities, and his creativity. He uses each of these six typefaces thoughtfully and with restraint to create an experience that shows off his work in the best possible light. — Bethany Heck

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