Typeface Review


Reviewed by Ricardo Cordoba on May 9, 2016

NSW01 is a compact display face that takes some unexpected turns. At first glance, it seems very modular and const­ruct­ed (and, to this reviewer’s eye, remin­iscent of Neville Brody’s 1980s typefaces). But a closer inspection reveals many idiosyncrasies.

For starters, NSW01 features unicase glyphs, which make it a great choice for setting solid, tightly-leaded headlines (extra leading is needed for diacritics, parentheses and brackets, and the tail of the capital ‘Q’, all of which fall outside the cap height). Within the subset of uppercase letters, ‘N’ and ‘W’ have diagonal strokes, but the capital ‘M’ does not. And the capital ‘R’ has a notch, just like a lowercase ‘r’. Meanwhile, the “lowercase” subset has a few bona fide minuscules (b, d, h, k, t), but most of the other characters function as alternates of the uppercase glyphs. To wit: the lower­case ‘e’ and ‘f’ are nearly identical to their uppercase counterparts, except that their corners are rounded. Other letters are “gaspipe” alternates (m, n, w). The lowercase ‘i’ and ‘j’ are just like the uppercase versions, but without serifs. Characters with descenders (g, p, q, y) impishly rest between cap height and baseline. All these quirks give NSW01 that tough yet dynamic feel.

Matt Willey, currently the art director of the New York Times Magazine, drew this face for 2015’s Voyages issue. He’s built up a portfolio of solid editorial design work in his native England (in 2014, Creative Review named him Designer of the Year), and has created custom headline faces for many of the publications he’s worked for. He’s also self-published most of these fonts, with assistance from Henrik Kubel (of A2-Type).

The name “NSW01” comes from Willey’s father’s initials. (I want to mention that the namesake, Nick, died from cancer in 2011, and Willey is donating proceeds from the sales of two of his typefaces to cancer charities.)

Willey’s bespoke type designs are solid and versatile, and NSW01 is no exception.

Ricardo Cordoba is a graphic designer based in New York City. His interests include book covers and typeface design. He contributed to Quipsologies from 2010 through 2017. During 2017, he worked as a freelance copyeditor and fact checker for AIGA’s Eye on Design. He is a frequent contributor to Typographica.

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