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Typeface Review

Harriet Series

Reviewed by André Mora on March 13, 2013

Warning: Upon licensing the Harriet Series, a sudden urge to set everything in italics may overwhelm. Take her in doses. For instance, you could print the lowercase ‘p’ from Harriet Display Light Italic and hang it on the wall, stare at it each morning, and develop a singular lust. The desire to italicize entire pages will soon seem less romantic.

This impressive family (appropriately titled “Series”) is made up of four text weights and six display weights. Jackson Cavanaugh released it on Valentine’s Day and it comes with a heart that has more soul than either of the two found in Zapf Dingbats.

Its own description calls it a rational serif, and you could acknowledge its vertical axis and then think nothing more of the term. But I believe that Harriet’s true rationality lies in how it solves this problem: there are too few worthy successors to Baskerville fit for today.

That does not mean Harriet is a revival. Nor does it mean Harriet is entirely a transitional design. The influence of mid-century moderns like Century is present, but, on the whole, Harriet maintains a historical elegance too often lost in contemporary typefaces. In truth, Harriet may be more reminiscent of Bell or Bulmer, which were early deviations of Baskerville’s forms. But no matter — all of these B-fonts feel drawn to the ground, like balloons losing air. Harriet is fresh with helium.

So let’s not imply the influence of anything too regal — Harriet skirts nobility. Her nose may point, but not towards the sky.

Simply, she’s a joy to use (and to read once set), with styles ranging from delicate to downright fat. She’ll sit on her hands or bounce down the block. Her manners are always good, but good manners mean one thing in a teahouse and another in a taphouse.

A minor complaint may be Harriet’s embarrassment of riches. Four text weights will inevitably lead to settings too light or too heavy. Could three weights have been enough? Careful typographers won’t find this to be a problem — it will allow for plenty of play in settings ranging from ten to 16 points. By now it should be clear that Harriet is anything but prudish. Rational, yes. Restrained? Nope.

André Mora has one eye open, one eye closed, and his tongue is stuck out. He has designed a bunch of magazines, taught publishing design, and worked for Font Bureau.


  1. tessera says:

    I have whole family (Text & Display) and I truly adore. Soon, enormous book typeset in Harriet & Alright Sans by Jackson comes out of the printing house.

  2. Along with Turnip, Bernini, and Timonium, this was my favorite of the year. I think André describes very nicely what makes it so appealing. While many of its references (especially in digital form) are damp and drab, Harriet is full of life. To quote from my review in Print magazine, Dec. 2012:

    “With its vertical stress and prominent ball terminals, Harriet is sparkling and debonaire, with a tone of authority. It is a practical and handsome alternative to the anemic, vanilla, or otherwise uneven interpretations of this style.”

  3. This is a lovely typeface. Classic yet so, so fresh. Because of some of its Clarendon-like features, I am thinking it might look great paired with Neue Haas Grotesk. Will have to try it out.

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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 with Caren Litherland 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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