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Typeface Review

HWT Tuscan Extended

Reviewed by Dan Reynolds on March 11, 2014

Mark-marking with the help of letters carved into wooden blocks predates the Gutenberg printing revolution. Large-point-size typefaces manufactured from wood instead of lead alloy have been with us for centuries, too. However, for most of today’s graphic designers, what comes to mind when think­ing of wood type is the panoply of styles used in the nineteenth-century ephemeral printing of France, Great Britain, and the United States.

To achieve a very similar surface effect with digital tools, it is not necessary for contemporary designers to rely on typefaces. The use of certain filters in Photoshop or Illustrator seems enough for many graphic artists. Some makers of digital typefaces have responded to this by marketing pre-distressed fonts, in order to save their customers from having to age the appearance of their text themselves.

Fortunately, the ease of applying filters hasn’t stopped the more historically aware graphic designers from searching for scalable vector fonts featuring letter­forms more period-appropriate to the sought-after wood type aesthetic. Already in the early 1990s, Adobe’s type department was producing work in this vein (Birch, Mesquite, Rosewood, etc.). Several members of the American font community recently came together to support the Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, which is indeed an unequaled sanctuary for remaining wooden type sorts from the 19th and 20th centuries. Under P22’s auspices, there is now a Hamilton Wood Type Foundry distributing new digital fonts inspired by old wooden type.

One of my favorite works of 2013 is their HWT Tuscan Extended typeface, made by Frank Grießhammer. It may come as no surprise that Grießhammer is with Adobe. Perhaps in honor of their own pioneering digital wood-type-style fonts, Adobe seems to be actively supporting both the Hamilton museum and the HWT foundry. Grießhammer is not the first Adobe designer to release a font via HWT, (see Miguel Sousa’s contribution), but HWT Tuscan Extended is the weirdest so far. Indeed, its letterforms were the strangest, most odd-looking glyphs that anyone in 2013 was likely to see.

HWT Tuscan Extended is a useful digital tool, within the limits permitted by such an unusual design. The font includes both uppercase and lowercase letters (a feat uncommon in many real wood type faces), and accents for dozens of European languages (a feature not common in virtually any real wood type face).

Dan Reynolds cares about letterforms. He is a typeface designer and design researcher in Berlin and Braunschweig, Germany. His proudest achievement for 2015 to-date is finally getting a dog, after obnoxiously complaining about not having one since at least 2008.

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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.

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