Light, regular, bold, extra bold, and black weights, often with italics. This is how we normally think of the styles in a standard type family.
Instant is a typeface that questions this convention, and I really appreciate this kind of effort. Instead of designing five weights and five italics, Jérôme Knebusch looked beyond the traditional model and made something truly original, interesting, and fun.
Based on the concept that “the quicker we write, the more oblique the writing”, Instant was designed in five styles: Vivid, Quick, Regular, Slow, and Heavy. The idea was to base the styles on speed instead of weight — an idea I find most appealing.
￼The family leads with Instant Vivid, a playful, semi-italic, almost handwritten style. From there, the members change with each style, ending in a robust sans serif: Instant Heavy.
These varying styles may be combined like a traditional five-style typeface while bringing a new dimension to type composition due to their shifting details. With Instant, it’s almost like you get multiple typefaces in one.
Instant confuses me… The part of me that loves innovation gets happy looking at it, but the part of me that insists on sober usability sees a fundamental violation. And I’m not even talking about the lighter weights being too close to handwriting (something I complain about as a rule :-) but the fact that “you get multiple typefaces in one” actually does more harm than good. People choose a font (partly) because of a specific mood it conveys; you don’t want a font going bipolar on you when you change the weight! I have a hard enough time accepting Hasebe’s and Yanone’s much gentler implementations of this recent and highly problematic “each weight should have its own character” philosophy — Instant really goes overboard! Which does make me smile, but the way one smiles at a misbehaving child… It’s hard to take it seriously — it’s just having too much fun to be useful to other people, which in the end is a font’s career. Children don’t have careers.
Now, if Knebush would multiply each of the five flavors with five weights — ideally that each maintain color across the flavors — we’d be talking “Favorite Fonts of the Decade“.
BTW, the difference between this and Satura — which I adore no end — seems to be that Satura is a series with clear boundaries between harmonious components, as opposed to something presented as a tight continuum that’s supposed to be intermixed to be fully useful. On the other hand I guess it might very well be just a matter of looking beyond how something is presented, and using it in cool ways that perhaps the designer didn’t anticipate. Like I said: dunno.
Here’s a new example of the problematic “each style should have its own look” philosophy that I mentioned.
It’s great to see that Licko is still making fonts, and there are actually quite a few things I like about the fonts that make up Program… individually. But making the Narrow fonts totally different in character than the regular ones* to me makes no sense. A designer who chooses the regular for a job because it’s “just right” will not think the Narrow fonts are “just right” in the same project. They’re essentially different typefaces, and casting them as width-variants is a sort of wishful thinking that confuses users. Hopefully, though, savvy users will simply treat the two widths as different typefaces and be able to leverage the commendable qualities of each.
* Even though the matching of stem widths is a cool idea.
Instant is now available as a variable font.