Typographic Doubletakes

While good typefaces have prodigious families of carefully related styles, some of the best typography builds unexpected relationships between unrelated fonts. Here are five ways to create typographic connections, to help keep your design engaging and inventive.

Archer with Sentinel; Gotham with Verlag.

1. Avoid the Obvious


When reaching for a different weight, turning to a sympathetic but distinctively different typeface can add drama to a design. Sentinel and Archer are two slab serifs with very different origins — one a nineteenth century ‘Antique,’ the other a twenty-first century invention full of circular ‘ball terminals’ — but using them together adds visual interest to an otherwise muted composition. Among sans serifs, Verlag and Gotham are two plainspoken typefaces whose unique flavors are sharpened by the contrasting of their details, Verlag’s pointy apexes (in its A, N, and W) offering a sparkling counterpoint to the upright candor of Gotham.

TIP: Changes in both weight and scale help to accentuate the differences between these pairs, and draw out the unique character of each design. Used together, Sentinel seems especially prudent and Archer especially happy; Verlag seems doubly elegant and Gotham twice as direct.


2. Create Practical Pairings


No task is more familiar to a designer than selecting two typefaces that can work hand in hand, each chosen to present a similar but distinctive kind of content. Text-heavy applications, whether printed or digital, often need two contrasting faces to highlight different kinds of information. A practical text face with a large x-height, such as Mercury Text, can be usefully matched by a sans serif with similar proportions, such as Ideal Sans. (Try a ScreenSmart font, even if you’re working in print: their generous fit and open gestures make ScreenSmart fonts especially readable at text sizes — and at sizes smaller still.) And don’t be bound to the convention of pitting serif against sans: if your body face is a sans serif workhorse like Whitney, try a more colorful sans serif alternative for contrast, such as Operator. Operator’s taut curves and punchy gestures offer a nice counterpoint to the sobriety of Whitney, and the fixed-width Operator Mono can introduce a strikingly different rhythm that usefully contrasts with the text.

TIP: A fixed-width typeface like Operator Mono helps to quickly identify something as a computer program. But when the manuscript calls for highlighting a code fragment in the middle of a paragraph of text, switch to the font’s natural-width cousin, Operator. Since Operator shares the same underlying design as Operator Mono, these bold keywords are instantly recognizable as pieces of code. But their more traditional rhythm of wide and narrow letters makes for a more comfortable read.


3. Strike Subtle Contrasts


Sometimes the most engaging combinations are the ones that aren’t immediately apparent. Even though Gotham and Vitesse are manifestly different typefaces — one a sans based on the circle, the other a slab rooted in rounded rectangles — both fonts are equally dramatic in their use of geometry, and can be rendered in very similar weights. But typefaces don’t need to share a common weight to be good comrades, especially if they’re used at different sizes. Compared with the smaller Sentinel, the stems in Quarto are nearly twice as heavy, and its hairlines one-fifth as wide, differences that disappear when the reader sees each at its own set of sizes.

TIP: Rendering two contrasting typefaces with a similar fit can help close the distance between them. In both the examples above, careful thought has been given to the tracking of each typeface, with the intention of synchronizing the rhythm of letters and the spaces between them, even as the fonts themselves change.


4. Assemble Elegant Duets


Whether a sans serif with finely-drawn strokes or a serif face with delicate hairlines, light typefaces have long been a mainstay of fashion and luxury typography. Many species of hairline fonts pair handsomely together, especially when additional motifs reinforce their elegance. Here, the “low-waistedness” of Landmark, clearest in its A, R, and K, gives the design a deco-era elegance, a smart counterpoint to the crisp and evenly balanced Chronicle Hairline. Another strategy is to match faces with both common weights and a common approach to construction, like the starkly geometric Vitesse and Gotham — which careful readers may have noticed, reversed, in the section above.

TIP: When working with hairline fonts, decide early what size each font is suited for: some can perform at large text sizes, others are best used only for the largest display typography. When evaluating a serif face such as Chronicle, look not only at the weight of its hairline strokes like the crossbar of its H or the thinner arm of its Y, but also the weight of its serifs. Serifs are often considerably thinner than hairlines, and it’s these delicate gestures that will define how small the font can go.


5. Introduce Strange Bedfellows


Some of the most dazzling typographic pairings — and certainly my favorites — are those that use unexpected fonts together. At left, the grey flannel suit that is Tungsten Compressed is paired with crimson silk doublet of the St. Augustin Civilité, a fiery sixteenth century typeface that demands a good foil. The contrast between Tungsten’s restraint and the swashbuckling Civilité makes for a marvelous palette, and the contrasting proportions of these faces emphasizes the solemn verticality of one and the racy horizontality of the other. At right, the unconventional Acropolis Italic, made only of straight lines, meets the energetic Surveyor Display Italic, a typeface without a single straight line. Lending the fonts extra cohesion is their insistent angle of incline: both lean forward considerably more than a typical italic.

TIP: Keeping eccentric typefaces at arm’s length helps accentuate their uniqueness, something that’s easiest to do by segregating each font by size. In these examples, each typeface is assigned a specific range of sizes that’s free of other fonts, a clear and inviolate ‘altitude’ that further distinguishes its role in the design. —JH

Nicely Done: Purcell Heli-Skiing

With the imminent return of snowstorms to New York, we can't help but mention a wintry website that uses typography to great effect: Purcell Heli-Skiing, who have spent forty years choppering more than 50,000 adventurous skiers and snowboarders to the Purcell Mountains of British Columbia. The website, designed by Ontario-based They, plays with the scale of its typography in a thoughtful and deliberate way. Text faces Gotham SSm and Sentinel SSm are used throughout, punctuated by the lighter weights of Tungsten Light in all caps, creating a monumental but hushed tone that evokes the striking terrain itself. —NW

Made with Cloud.typography

Videri Chocolate Factory

A colorful and unexpected palette of webfonts helps three chocolatiers deliver their most piquant flavors online.

It was the shared dream of Sam, Starr, and Chris that brought about the Videri Chocolate Factory. From the historic Raleigh Depot in downtown Raleigh, NC, the three operate a retail storefront, a factory floor, an outdoor café, and now a website where an animated collection of webfonts from H&Co helps them tell their story.

Videri’s diverse font palette includes Landmark , Verlag, The Fell Types, and Indicia.

Finding a way to express the company’s personality with typography was a top priority for the the team at PRPL, the digital creative agency tasked with creating the site. “I wanted to create a type system that felt friendly and organic, but also would feel at home in a factory setting,” said George Kedenburg III, lead creative at PRPL.

Kedenburg chose a vivid collection of fonts for the project, relying not only upon hard-working ScreenSmart fonts for text, but some rare and unexpected choices for display typography. Verlag and Sentinel ScreenSmart are used throughout the site, while headlines feature a mix of our more exotic typefaces: the dazzling Landmark Inline and Dimensional, the textured Fell Types, and the rubber-stamped Indicia font from our Numbers collection.

At small sizes, Sentinel ScreenSmart keeps the text perfectly crisp.

PRPL assigned distinct roles to each typeface, and used the Cloud.typography character set panel to carefully control what each webfont includes. (The Indicia typeface is used for all the numbers on the site, from prices in the shopping cart to the digits of the company’s phone number.) Refining each font’s character set not only helps reinforce the site’s brand guidelines, but helps keep webfonts lean, and quick to download. “That’s something I don’t think we’ve ever done, or thought would be worth doing,” adds Kedenburg. —NW

An H&Co Type Tasting

Typefaces: Sentinel and Gotham

We keep a running tally of the interesting media in which we’ve seen our fonts used, from corrugated cardboard to topiary. The designers who choose our fonts often share their more startling experiments on our Facebook page, including more than a few typographic tattoos. But with the holiday season upon us, things have taken a decidedly gustatory turn.

Designer Luke Elliott kicked things off over Halloween with his Gotham jack-o-lantern, to our knowledge the first example of in-gourd typography featuring an H&Co design. An anonymous designer followed over Thanksgiving with a beautiful collection of Gotham cakes that revealed the challenge of inlining a sans serif, in fondant no less. The latest contribution to the genre came last night, with designer Zach Higgins tweeting his exploration of the Sentinel Light Italic lowercase z rendered in toast. We’re left to wonder if our graded faces, such as Mercury Text or Chronicle Text, might provide designers with micro-fine control to adjust the relationship between color and burn. Please help us with this important research and share your findings. —JH

Giving Thanks

Typefaces: The Proteus Project, Sentinel, and Shades

One of the things we’re grateful for at H&Co are the designers who treat our typefaces with such extraordinary care. These days, some of the most exciting work that we get to see is on Dribbble, where designers of the highest caliber share their works-in-progress with the world. This weekend, I gathered some of my favorite fragments that designers have created using our typefaces: here are three new Dribbble collections using The Proteus Project, Sentinel and Shades.

It’s fascinating to watch the creative processes unfold, and heartening to see our typefaces along for the ride. (It’s also a welcome surprise to discover that the polished work you’re admiring comes from the hand of a second-year student, an experience that’s more common than you might imagine.) So herein you’ll find some of our favorite picks: from Roger Dario’s guilloché treatment of Saracen, to Trent Walton’s use of Sentinel for charity:water (itself a rebound of an earlier version in Vitesse), to Andrew Power’s rendering of one of my favorite Steve Jobs quotes using our Cyclone typeface.

We’ll be updating these collections and creating new ones in the coming weeks, so if you’re posting to Dribbble, make sure to tag your own work with the names of any of our fonts that you use. Until then, thank you from all of us at H&Co for making our work a part of yours. We’ll be thinking of you this Thanksgiving. —JH

Good Fonts, Bad Fonts, and the Presidency

Somehow we’ve let the election season come to a close without thanking both parties for making this an 100% H&Co election. Continuing the signature voice of its 2008 campaign, Obama for America kept Gotham as its typographic keystone, this year adding our Sentinel typeface as a companion slab serif. The GOP chose fonts from us as well, the Romney campaign settling on Mercury for its serif and Whitney for its sans.

We’d especially like to thank the teams at Obama for America and Blue State Digital for making us a part of their outstanding work on Barackobama.com. Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed that webfonts from H&Co made their first appearance on that site earlier this year, an especially meaningful milestone for all of us. It’s not often that your first beta tester is the President of the United States.

If the coming days bring a bitter electoral challenge, or the next four years bring the nation continuing deadlock on Capitol Hill, Americans will know exactly who to blame: typeface designers. According to this study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, bad typography may be useful in softening the stance of the politically extreme. The theory is that awkward or uncomfortable typography disrupts a reader’s “confirmation bias,” one’s tendency to only see things that are agreeable. What amateur typography might do for a candidate’s credibility is anyone’s guess, and whether the study’s choice of Times Bold really counts as an acceptable control for “good typography” remains an open question. But I look forward to the 2016 election, in which the honorable grunge candidate will face off against his esteemed colleague using Comic Sans. —JH

House of Flying Reference Marks

Last spring, when answering a reader’s question about our favorite characters to draw, I got to spend some time with some of our beloveds: the and ß that rarely see the light of day, as well as H&Co’s middle name, &. It took great self-control not to spill the beans about another pair of favorites, the dagger and double dagger, for already waiting in the wings were my favorite daggers to ever come out of H&Co. They’re the ones in our just-released Sentinel family, seen here.

Daggers come from that archipelago of typographic symbols known as reference marks, which refer readers elsewhere for explanatory or exegetic notes. The traditional first-order reference mark is the asterisk¹¹ The New Oxford English Dictionary advises: “Avoid pronouncing this word ‘astericks’ or ‘asterik,’ as many regard such pronunciations as uneducated.” Frighteningly, Garner’s Modern American Usage (Oxford University Press, 2003) cites some printed examples of the spellings “astericks” and “asterick,” in The Washington Times (1998) and Florida Today (1999), respectively., a longtime favorite: in The Elements of Typographic Style, Robert Bringhurst observes that asterisks have been in continuous use for five thousand years. Asterisks can take countless forms, though custom favors ones shaped like stars, flowers, or bathtub faucets; any number of petals is permissible as well, with five-, six-, and eight-lobed asterisks being most common. [Clock starts now in anticipation of the world’s first seven-lobed asterisk. —Ed.] The approach that a designer follows in the asterisk is usually echoed in the typeface’s second-order reference mark, the dagger (also known as the obelus, obelisk, or long cross), and its third-order mark, the double dagger (a.k.a. diesis or double obelisk.) Both characters have functions in genealogy and other life sciences, where the asterisk indicates the year of birth (*1499), and the dagger the year of death (†1561). There are standard fourth-, fifth- and sixth-order reference marks, too: they are the section mark (§), parallels (||), and number sign (#), after which the cycle repeats with doubles, triples, and so on: *, †, ‡, §, ||, #, **, ††, ‡‡, §§, ||||, ###, ***, †††, ‡‡‡, etc. Beyond three, numbered footnotes are always preferable, even if you are David Foster Wallace.

Daggers afford the type designer a rare opportunity to quote from more widely recognized visual languages, such as architecture and other applied arts. The daggers in our H&Co Didot family echo the kinds of details common in period decoration, and those in Whitney evoke the simplified asterisk of the typewriter, its center removed to prevent the buildup of ink. In Sentinel, we wanted the design’s industrial brawn to be mellowed by some lyrical flourishes, which in the daggers produced a ‘twisted quillon²² Dagger anatomy, for the quiz: the quillon is the guard that separates the hilt of a knife from its blade, and the choil is the notch where the blade meets the quillon.’ that you’ll find in another place slab serifs traditionally reside: find a pack of playing cards, and look closely at the dagger of the “suicide king.” —JH

Introducing 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.

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