What is it about these letters that overpowers my senses, that makes me stare at each of them longingly? Is it in the flick of the lowercase ‘e’? Or perhaps I’m drawn to the restraint of the design or to the barely perceptible quirks that appear like hushed giggles on the screen. But then why are these large apertures, with their inscriptional characteristics, so attractive to me? And why am I brought to the edge of my seat by the long, outstretched descender of the ‘y’?
I find it extraordinarily difficult to write about Apres, the type family designed for the Palm Pre in b by David Berlow and publicly released by Font Bureau in mid–2014. I poke and prod this typeface in the hope that I might reveal its inner logic, but I still wonder: where is the source of its charm?
A quick glance at the range of various widths and weights of this type family shows us that Apres does not fit neatly within the Geometric Sans category. Sure, traces lodged in its design cannot be separated from the history of geometric typefaces (take a look at the lowercase ‘i’, for instance, or the capital ‘M’, which looms sinisterly with its pointed apexes), but using the word “geometric” here simply wouldn’t describe the letters accurately. And if we take a peek at the other category that the Apres family might slot into (Humanist Sans), then we’ll begin to notice its geometric characteristics more prominently. At certain sizes and weights, however, Apres appears to drop its geometry in favor of more organic shapes with an angled contrast, and letterforms that generally appear less mechanical and biting than their peers.
Aside from my own indescribable admiration of the design, it’s also peculiar that Apres emerged from Palm, a company that isn’t particularly well known for its fine typography. It’s clear from the design of the phone’s interface that this custom type family was hardly put to good use, though — all of that easy charm in the letterforms had been siphoned out by a meagre, uninspired UI. But now that Apres can be licensed to the wider world, I’m confident that we’ll see that charm restored. Subsequently we should try to remember, as best we can, that small wonders often emerge from the most unlikely sources.
Robin Rendle is a freelance typographer and front-end developer from the UK.