Ken Barber is an incredibly talented letterer. And Tal Leming is an incredibly talented font technology whiz (and a good type designer as well). House Industries’ Studio Lettering series unifies great lettering, cutting-edge OpenType font technology, and one more thing: culturally-sensitive design.
The three script fonts — Studio Lettering Swing, Slant and Sable — deliver just what one expects from a House Industries font family: high-quality, fresh, lively signwriter-style “hand lettering”. Yet unlike most “script fonts,” text set in the Studio Lettering faces looks anything but mechanical. Smart OpenType programming produces alternating letter shapes so that the result looks natural.
Owing some to House’s earlier successes, House Script and House Casual, the first member of the series, Sable, recreates the friendly “store signwriter” look — but takes it a few steps ahead. After an extensive study of handwriting differences between America and various European countries, Ken Barber created (in all three fonts of the series) letter and digit variants that follow different national preferences. In Sable, there is a “forward” and a “reverse” ‘r’, a ‘7’ with and without a horizontal stroke in the middle, or a ‘p’ with a swoosh or with a bowl. The variants have been linked to the OpenType language selection mechanism, so assigning a different language in InDesign automatically gives the text the appropriate local flavor. Bloody awesome! Also, the diacritics in all three fonts are really well done. I only wish Sable included the all-favorite “Sale! Yes! Free! Call!”
wordmarks, ideally with localized variants.
With more than 1,400 glyphs, Studio Lettering Swing has the most extensive character set in the suite. Though this be madness, yet there is method in ’t. Rather than randomly switching alternate letterforms, Swing smoothly flows between slightly larger and smaller shapes, which produces a recurring rhythm. Signwriter-style, and a bit girly.
To me, the third member of the suite, Studio Lettering Slant, is probably the most impressive. The localized flavors in this bold, backslanted, somewhat serious script go as far as allowing the user to switch to a German-style flavor, in which some letterforms are derived from Sütterlin — a kind of a handwriting counterpart to Fraktur. But while Fraktur has very little practical application today, the German flavor of Slant feels very authentic, reminding me of handwritten signs that I still sometimes see in Berlin.
Overall, I’m impressed and amazed.
Based in Berlin, Adam Twardoch works as product and marketing manager at FontLab as well as multilingual typography and font technology consultant for MyFonts and other clients. He teaches at universities in the UK, USA, Germany, Poland, and Russia. In 2007, Adam edited the Polish edition of Robert Bringhurst’s “The Elements of Typographic Style”.