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Typeface Review

Clear Sans

Reviewed by Michael Surtees on March 11, 2014

Having spent time recently focusing on dispersed levels of data, I was drawn to Clear Sans for its practical nature. The different weights between light, thin, regular, medium, bold, and even italic offer great options for both readability and contrast, making all sorts of type and numbers easy for users to digest. More and more I noticed that I didn’t have to squint the way I usually do with fonts that I tend to see used a lot for dashboards, analytics, and other user interfaces. One trick seems to be to use type in “playful” ways, set large; Clear Sans feels grown up and swings to the other side of the spectrum.

Experimenting, I noticed an efficient use of space both vertically and horizontally. In terms of line height, the short descender space of the ‘g’ and ‘p’ work to keep things compressed while not feeling crushed, thanks in part to the large bowls that keep the characters open. Letters like ‘m’ and ‘w’ adapt well to ‘a’, ‘c’, and ‘e’ and help to keep words tight (in a good way). I also noticed that Clear Sans remained readable whether sitting on a flat background or on busy imagery. The sharp angles of ‘n’ and ‘u’ also made the face stand out for me.

The sensible nature of Clear Sans makes it easy to work with. Aside from the technical attributes, it doesn’t try to feel too “techie” with irrelevant flourishes. Each letter has a nice detail but doesn’t overpower the next letter. If I use words like “efficient” and “practical” a lot here, it’s because they give a good overview of what each character is like viewed up close.

Editor’s note: Since there is no design credit given on the Clear Sans website, I asked Monotype Type Director Dan Rhatigan for more info. He says they began with an unpublished design by Robin Nicholas which Rhatigan and George Ryan reworked for Intel. — SC

Michael Surtees is a multidisciplinary designer based in New York City. He has published DesignNotes since 2005 where he tries to explore people's daily experiences and observations with design. Recently he shifted from being the Principal and Creative Director of Gesture Theory to designing products at Dataminr.

2 Comments

  1. David Salvia says:

    In trying to look this font up for possible purchase, I found, on myfonts.com, a different typeface called “Clear Sans”.

    What seems odd is that this Intel version was released Nov. 5, 2013, and the version on myfonts.com — “clearly” not the same face — debuted on myfonts on Nov. 6, 2013.

    I wonder if myfonts.com is displaying the wrong font, or if these two different fonts just happen to have surfaced at the same time, with the same name.

  2. The naming overlap is an unfortunate coincidence. (Kinda surprising the name hadn’t been used until now.) Monotype’s family was produced and in use before Summerour’s, but Summerour was likely unaware that it existed since it was a proprietary design and not publicly promoted until later.

    Duplicate names occur quite frequently, actually, but usually the existing name is for a very old analog font. Rarely does it happen in within the same year.

    There has always been a need for an independent database of typeface names, but the drumming for that sort of resource has gotten louder in the last couple of years as the release of new fonts grows at an ever increasing rate and the number of available names dwindles.

    For now, a font maker’s best method, besides checking for registered trademarks, is to search databases like Identifont (and the upcoming Type Record) and large retailers like MyFonts, FontShop, and Fonts.com, but of course this doesn’t cover everything, such as open source and proprietary fonts.

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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.

Set in Bureau Grot by Font Bureau, Nocturno Display by Nikola Djurek, Fern (unreleased) by David Jonathan Ross, and JAF Bernini Sans by Tim Ahrens.

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