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Typeface Review

Charcuterie

Reviewed by Thomas Phinney on March 11, 2014

I cheated by picking Charcuterie as my favorite for 2013. It’s not one typeface, but ten, comprising 22 fonts. But that’s the point: what binds these fonts together is not being a single family or even having a common structure, but rather their 1900–1930s sensibility and irregular hand-lettered look.

This differs from most superfamilies, such as ITC Stone (Serif, Sans, Informal) or Thesis (TheSans, TheSerif, TheMix). Their members share a common structure and proportions. Sure, they work together wonderfully, but not in the same way, nor with the same degree of variety.

Some Charcuterie subfamilies are clearly based on the same outlines, such as Contrast and Filigree, or Engraved and Etched. More often, design elements echo across several subfamilies, such as the distinctive bowl shape of the cap ‘R’ and ‘P’ between the Sans, Flared and Serif subfamilies. But there is no single constant throughout, except the time period and the hand-lettered appearance — which was common in advertising and titling of the day.

There are many impressive things about the execution of the project: first-rate lettering; four of the 21 subfamilies have multiple weights to enable more and better combinations; the coordinated Frames, Ornaments and Catchwords fonts look great with the others.

I am particularly taken by how much dynamic range Worthington has injected into the subfamilies, from the relative formality of Charcuterie Engraved or Filigree to the quite casual Charcuterie Sans, from the extended Serif and Flared to the condensed Sans.

Certainly you could combine elements incorrectly if you tried, but it is easy and natural to make combina­tions that work together wonderfully well — although I can’t really imagine improving on the awesome promo ads shown here, designed by Joe Newton (former type director at Veer). While nowadays we tend to advise against combining many different styles in one document, it was commonplace in the century-ago period evoked by Charcuterie, and with this family, it looks great. Applied to a document, project, or identity, Charcuterie’s diverse fonts can work like a fabulously coordinated color palette.

Thomas Phinney is a font and typography expert and consultant. He is senior technical product manager for fonts and typography at Extensis, including managing the font library for the WebINK web font solution. Thomas is also treasurer of ATypI, the international typographic association. From 1997–2008 he did type at Adobe.

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Typographica is a review of typefaces and type books, with occasional commentary on fonts and typographic design. Edited by Stephen Coles and designed by Chris Hamamoto. Founded in 2002 by Joshua Lurie-Terrell. Relaunched in 2009 by Coles and Hamamoto.

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