Typeface Review


Reviewed by Victoria Rushton on May 9, 2016

So you’re at Crate and Barrel, browsing that wall of little things like spaghetti measurers and strawberry clamps and scissors that slice a banana so very evenly. And you know you don’t need them but you’re looking at them because it’s not like you could afford anything else at Crate and Barrel and why do you even come in here anyway. Does anyone else really, really hate those highly specialized kitchen tools? Those things that can do only one job each?

In case you are still reading: by my own logic, I should have something against typefaces that aren’t very versatile tools. But no! And I happen to particularly enjoy Blesk by Samarskaya and Partners. I’m compli­cated that way.

The typeface was inspired in part by the cover for Book of Words, lettered by Hans Tisdall in the ’40s, which has kind of a jumble of things going on. As you might know from its cool microsite, the font neatly parses that mix into four styles that are called something like, “just monotone,” “monotone with lil lightning knockouts,” “duotone with lil lightning knockouts,” and “duotone with lightning contours but no knockouts”. I don’t want to pick a favorite (please cast your votes in the comments), and what intrigues me is how you don’t have to. You could set a single word in multiple styles of Blesk, letter by letter, and no one would bat an eye. And that even brings it kinda full circle back to looking like the lettering that inspired it!

Blesk is only trying to be itself. The forms can be unwieldy, yet not clumsy. They have a motion that makes them look like they’re dancing with each other. It’s gutsy, at least in my small small world, to make something that doesn’t have a lowercase, but that frees its uppercase up to do more fun things than an uppercase that needs to match a lowercase normally could. Maybe once you’re hooked on its charm you won’t be able to help but want to commission a lowercase. That’s some advanced marketing tactics right there. Blesk has unconventional forms like the double-stemmed ‘U’, and especially the backwards ‘Y’, which for about the third time in recorded history just looks more balanced that way.

Blesk is such a specialized tool. But my employers tell me that the magical thing that happens when you make a font that only does a specific kind of job is that since it’s so competent at that one thing, people undoubtedly find other work for it. That’s how I see Blesk. Ksenya, I’m sorry I made this so much about kitchen tools but now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to see what else a carrot spiralizer can do.

Victoria Rushton grew up in several countries but spent a lot of that time inside making ugly ceramics. Then she went to RISD where she discovered snow days and letterforms, and now she works at Font Bureau. Her favorite letter is lowercase ‘k’ and her favorite dog is pug.

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