Typeface Review

Carlyle Quaint

Reviewed by Paul Shaw on March¬†11,¬†2014

PLINC (Photo-Lettering Inc.), the online headline-setting service that House Industries started in 2009, has steadily expanded its library. Carlyle Quaint, digitized by Dan Reynolds, was added (and made available on the PLINC iPhone app) in 2013. It is a titling face consisting of capitals, lining figures, and basic punctuation. At heart the design is a Tuscan, but it is unlike any other Tuscan with the possible exception of Aldo Novarese’s Fontanesi (Nebiolo, 1954).

It has a touch of Art Nouveau. Carlyle Quaint is derived from — and named for — an alphabet designed by lettering artist Paul Carlyle, co-author with Guy Oring of Letters and Lettering (1938). However, the model does not appear in that book or any of the others Carlyle wrote. It first appeared in Photo-Lettering‚Äôs Alphabet Thesaurus Vol. 3 (1971).

Like virtually every other decorative display face, Carlyle Quaint is limited in use. It is a fun design, the kind of font that will appeal hugely to some designers and not at all to others. It appeals to me because its component parts — a constellation of unjoined fluid shapes — manage to frothy and floral, yet not wimpy or¬†wan.

The fluid shapes are tautly drawn and they are assemb­led with some surprises. First off, there is a subtle sense of torque or moment of force created by the delicate centrifigal joins of the ‚Äúdisk‚ÄĚ at the center of each stem or thick stroke to the curvilinear shapes above and below. Second, some of the shapes — like the crossbar of the ‚ÄėA‚Äô — flow in unexpected directions. Third, the organic shapes dance around one another gracefully. There is a lot of visual counterpoint. Carlyle Quaint is technically a stencil face, since there is no outline or other boundary holding its amoeba-like shapes together. This gives it a playful lightness.

An added bonus is that Carlyle Quaint is a chromatic font. On the PLINC website, one can determine not only the text to be set but also its coloration. The shapes have been segregated into inside and outside groups that can be independently colored. Enjoy Carlyle Quaint, but use it sparingly. Treat it like the ice cream sundae on a type menu: something to look forward to after a nutritious but dull meal of sans serifs and other typographic vegetables.

Paul Shaw is a designer and a design historian. For three decades he has researched and written about the history of graphic design with a focus on typography, lettering, and calligraphy. His books include Helvetica and the New York City Subway System, The Eternal Letter, and Revival Type.


  1. House is doing a noble thing by making these PLINC faces available again in a concerted way. In the catalogs you can see how much detail was lost when printing these elab­orate designs at a small size. It‚Äôs wonderful to see the crispness of the original film in digital form. Here‚Äôs Dan Reynolds (via email) on the digitization process and how much was changed in his revival:

    As is usually the case with revivals, House Industries and I decided to make some small changes to elements of some of the letters, numbers, and punctuation as found on the film negative. But not a whole lot of changes, in my opinion. Many new characters needed to be drawn, too, so that the font would meet today’s needs. I drew them, with art direction from House. These new characters are mostly just accented letters and basic mathematical symbols. It was our idea, I mean House’s and mine, to make the typeface’s design a two-layered one. As you can see on the website, most letters have three floral elements making up their vertical strokes. The middle of these three elements (as well as some other parts of certain characters) can be made a separate color from the other two, via the website’s interface.

  2. Claire Oring says:

    Hi there,

    Thanks for writing about my grandfather’s font. Are people actually allowed to take his fonts and profit off of them without our family‚Äôs permission? We do not grant permission for others taking his work and selling it. Very frustrating to find.

    Thanks for the thoughtful article.

  3. Hello, Claire! Great to hear from a descendent of Guy Oring! As written in the article, it‚Äôs my understanding that this is not your grandfather‚Äôs work. The typeface was created by Paul Carlyle who coauthored the Letters and Lettering book with Mr. Oring. In the 1950s‚Äď70s Carlyle designed several typefaces for Photo-Lettering, Inc., including this one, and there was likely some agreement of rights transfer to the company.

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