Typeface Review


Reviewed by John Boardley on March 13, 2013

Fred Smeijers’ Puncho pushes the boundaries of how far one might slice and dice a roman while preserving legibility. It sits confidently ensconced, insouciantly balanced on the fence demarcating legibility and illegibility. Of the first Stencil Font Series from OurType (comprised of Puncho, Orly Stencil, Standing Type, and Remo Stencil), Puncho is my clear favorite.

A good stencil is much more than an arbitrarily cut-up typeface. Among my favorite features are the subtle curves and bulges that lend Puncho some of the warmth and informality that other more severely, precisely sliced stencils lack.

In contrast to many stencil typefaces, Puncho reads pretty well at small sizes. That’s no surprise, considering that Smeijers’ design is based on S.M. Spencer’s late nineteenth-century letter punches for a typeface whose caps were just a smidgen over three millimeters tall. Puncho’s forms are based on those of a slightly sloped and sturdy few-frills unbracketed slab serif. Its quirks are no affectation, but rather the product of the manufacturing process and of the demands of drawing letters for stencil reproduction at relatively small sizes. Almost all of the cuts or bridges run perpendicularly to the baseline, making for a lovely picket-fence rhythm that further amplifies the micro white space and balances black and white.

Of course, it goes without saying that, despite its fine performance at small sizes, Puncho comes into its own at display sizes, where its coarse and subtle details shine, and the white space punches out through the black. It’s not pretty or elegant in the way that Dala Floda (Commercial Type, 2010) or Typonine Stencil (Typonine, 2008) are, for it has a different pedigree and purpose; but there is a delightful beauty and charm in Puncho’s robust, rough-hewn forms.

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.

One Comment

  1. Oh my god! What the freaking hell … !? This is amazing! It’s mental! I LOVE this! Sadly, I can never use it because it’s too close to lettering (people would think I made it), but if I were a designer, oh how I would. I would, I would!

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