Typeface Review

Styrene

Reviewed by Graham Bradley on July 5, 2017

Berton Hasebe’s Styrene is an unexpected design, executed with a determined confidence that immediately drew me in. It is extremely difficult to find a unique space in the world of geometric sans serifs, but Hasebe has done just that with this typeface.

The Enschedé Typefoundry sans serifs that informed the design of Styrene contain many of the characteristic shapes in Berton’s typeface, but they have a warmth, a very human inconsistency, that Styrene rejects. When flipping through old specimens, it’s so tempting to set out to capture the kinked verticals, wobbly curves, and blunt corners of early sans serifs; I love that Hasebe decided to do the opposite. Styrene is definitely quirky, but its quirkiness comes from hewing uncompromisingly to an extreme concept rather than replicating the inconsistencies of handmade type.

Circular letters often define geometric sans serifs, but in Styrene the squares are what jump out at me. Many of the letters occupy square spaces (look at that r!), resulting in a texture of implicit squares repeating one after another. The best type designers are just as expressive with space as they are with form, and one of the most engaging aspects of Styrene is how decisive it is about its rhythm and pace. The spacing is regular yet unfamiliar. I’m amazed at how these implicit squares interact with the circular strokes, each reinforcing the other.

I keep returning to the word “cool” when I think of Styrene. It’s so cool, and I believe a lot of that coolness comes from its attitude toward the past and its take on geometry and spacing.

Graham Bradley is a multidisciplinary designer. He is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and the Type@Cooper program. He was a typeface designer at Frere-Jones Type, where he worked on Mallory and Retina, created specimens and illustrations, and developed custom tools. Previously, he worked independently from Santa Monica, California, designing type, lettering, identities, websites, and printed pieces. He is currently working on a cookbook with his wife, Maria Zizka.

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