Again and again, I find myself returning to Production Type for my font needs. The foundry’s work fits the bill on a technical level. The typefaces are legible and functional, but uninhibited — most of them retain a certain je ne sais quoi.
Stratos jumped out at me immediately. What caught my eye was the modern employment of an old technique called multiplexing. Erik van Blokland, who recently published Action Condensed through Commercial Type, described multiplexing to me this way:
Linotype had two images on the same matrix. The matrix had a single width. They did all sorts of combinations, mostly for publication typesetting. Regular/bold (explains some of the fug in Times), but also roman/italic and even text serif/bold sans. Not all results were pretty.
With Stratos, type designer Yoann Minet and art director Emmanuel Labard explored what Erik investigated with Action: multiplexing presents exciting possibilities for interactivity on the web. With Stratos, a letter occupies the same space regardless of weight or case. This gives type all sorts of opportunities to change and react without hopping all over the place.
In an even more unusual innovation, the majuscules and minuscules also share a width. This touches on another issue: narrow type works great for compact headlines but is an eyesore in body text. According to Production Type’s own description, the uppercase is inspired by turn-of-the-century gothics, while the lowercase is closer to classic geometric faces — but I find the combination so natural that I didn’t give it a second thought.
Stratos represents an exciting step forward, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for variable fonts employing similar design principles.
Patch Hofweber is a designer based in Malmö, Sweden.