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Typeface Review

Domaine

Reviewed by John Boardley on March 11, 2014

Kris Sowersby’s Domaine family has its origins in a logotype for the Australian wine company, Hardys. I am an unabashed fan of Sowersby’s work. He is an exceptional type designer, one who has a particularly acute sense of what good type should look like.

In Domaine Text and Domaine Display, he has again extruded the very best elements from a number of cross-genre exemplars. Never aping, but mindfully deconstructing, then distilling only the best elements, the choicest ingredients into something purer, something new; and above all, and most crucially, something eminently usable. With Domaine, the gradation of weights from Light through Black is pitch perfect; the contrast, especially in the heavier weights, spot on. Yet, despite the evident technical prowess, there is still flourish and flare, though it never descends into affected flamboyance.

The so-called Latin types are an unusual genre. It’s quite a challenge to take this style as a starting point and proceed to make something unified and useful out of it — something that has a use beyond a quirky, multi-word headline. The Latin letterforms have their charm, but sometimes they verge on ugliness at worst, and ungainliness at best.

Sowersby was able to reign in or pacify the genre by taking cues from the Scotch Romans, but without surrendering some of the charm, including the sump­tuous curlicue fish-hook terminals. Perhaps it’s just me, but in the narrow and condensed Romans the flavor of the Latin exemplars shines through a little more.

Domaine is Sowersby’s largest family to date, compris­ing 46 fonts. But it is so much more than an impressive range of styles; it’s what good type should look like.

John Boardley is a British-born writer, publisher, and graphic designer living in Saigon, Vietnam. He is founder and editor of ILT and publisher of Codex.

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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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