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Typeface Review

Serge

Reviewed by Nicole Dotin on March 13, 2013

When I was a graphic designer, I thought of a typeface almost singularly though the lens of use. What would it communicate? would it produce a page of even color? Did it have small caps? As a type designer, I tend to focus on the designer’s point of view and personality revealed by the typeface instead.

Were they bold or conservative in their form-making? Did they rely heavily on existing type for inspiration or chart new territory? Did they give their full attention to every member of the family? Did they even have a good idea for the typeface to begin with?

When I look at Cyrus Highsmith’s Serge I see a designer who is comfortable and confident in their choices. Although Cyrus has a full stable of versatile, hard-working faces like Antenna or Stainless, he is no stranger to exuberance (see Loupot), whimsy (see his sketches) or creative diversity (see Occupant.org).

Serge is surprising but not a surprise, and an extension of his talent we’re lucky he indulges. Strains of the 1950s echo through Serge, but (and crucially) those aren’t the only notes you’ll see. Cyrus draws on his multitude of interests and combines the spirit of a previous era with his own angular sensibilities to create a type design with no obvious counterpart. Inevitably, Serge will be used in design pieces to recall the ’50s but I can’t wait to see it set in a contemporary context where its newness and unique qualities prevail.

Many type designers today seem to be walking along the same narrow hallway, finding inspiration in identical materials and bumping into each other far too frequently in their travels. In this context, Serge is a breath of fresh air from a designer who is not only talented at the technical execution of a typeface, but made his way out of that narrow hallway and had the courage to be original.

Nicole Dotin is a typeface designer and partner at the Process Type Foundry. Her typeface Elena is on Typographica’s 2011 list.

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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 and designed by Chris Hamamoto. Founded in 2002 by Joshua Lurie-Terrell. Relaunched in 2009 by Coles and Hamamoto.

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