At first glance, Comenia (Serif and Sans) doesn’t look all too extraordinary. Just another superfamily, one could think. Well, its character might be neither fancy nor eye-catching, but then, that is exactly what one is avoiding in this kind of type design. Rather, it’s about serving a specific purpose.
The three members of the prolific Czech type scene who teamed up for Comenia address a problem that hasn’t really been approached so far: the creation of a holistic type system, specially designed to meet the requirements of school.
This system consists of three branches. Comenia Serif by František Štorm is a contemporary 4-style roman with a whiff of brushiness in the details — see its foxtail terminals; a shapely reading face for longer texts. Comenia Sans by Tomáš Brousil is the humanist sans to go with it. It comes in 3 weights, each with pleasing italics, all of them also provided as condensed styles.
The extremely open counters and the large x-height are the outcome of in-depth research in readability. Particular attention was paid to the design of the diacritics — an important aspect in Czech and other European languages. Vertical metrics and colour of sans and serif are coordinated to match each other harmoniously. Still, Comenia is not as homogenous as other superfamilies, and in my opinion, that’s a good thing.
What really makes the school type system unique is Comenia Script, by Radana Lencová. This is what an up-to-date base handwriting model for abecedarians should look like! Upright, unconnected, and simple in principle; while slant, connections and swashes may come in later, with individual variations. Its entry and exit strokes help develop a flowing hand.
Let’s hope that publishers and authorities realize the significance of typography and start to improve their textbooks. The typographic toolbox necessary to do so is now available.
Florian Hardwig is a typographer by trade and hunter-gatherer of letterforms by obsession. With his Berlin-based studio he shapes books, websites and other publications. Florian writes about type and typography and co-edits Fonts In Use.