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Typeface Review

Colvert

Reviewed by Gerry Leonidas on March 13, 2013

Collaborative projects are nothing new in typeface design, but Colvert was developed specifically by designers native to each script. This is not axiomatically a Good Thing; but the team’s aim to eschew enforced homogeneity, and to seek “a minimum optical continuity […] so each one can express at the best its own characteristics”, is fundamentally correct and typographically unimpeachable.

The development of coherent typographic families that span many scripts is, arguably, the most significant advancement in typeface design in the last decade. It also raises profound questions for type designers about typographic hierarchies, related styles, and the range of originality and innovation in the context of each script. Until recently, most such typefaces were the products of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and major foundries with branding clients. Colvert is an example of this process maturing into the wider design community, where freedom from external briefs allows for greater insight.

The Latin, unsurprisingly, is the least exciting of the four scripts — but it establishes a reference tone and formality for the regular and sets the relationship with the secondary style. The other three scripts (on which I write with different degrees of confidence) combine contemporary and traditional elements that impart personality and uniqueness, and make the family “of its time”. Colvert’s designers treat modulation, counter shapes, and the design of instrokes and outstrokes flexibly, foregrounding the integrity of each script without sacrificing functionality.

The italic is a notably nice touch across the scripts, dealing with the different conventions for secondary styles with flair and sensitivity. I am particularly pleased to see an Arabic which explores degrees of formality within a key style as a route for typographically rich texts.

Gerry Leonidas teaches at the Department of Typography at the University of Reading. Since 2001 he has run the MA Typeface Design programme and he is heavily involved in knowledge transfer projects, CPD, and course development.

2 Comments

  1. Hrant says:

    I could opine that the Greek is particularly nice, but most of all I think the collective level of sensitive competence in Colvert is highly impressive. The team that made it really knew how to integrate the various scripts into a superbly versatile whole, and I hope they keep collaborating.

  2. Yves Peters says:

    I just published a four-way interview with Jonathan, Natalia, Kristyan and Irene on The FontFeed, which offers insight in this fascinating collaborative typeface design project.

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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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