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Typeface Review

Telefon

Reviewed by Nina Stössinger on March 13, 2013

Telefon is a flavorful geometric sans inspired by the lettering on Norway’s classic red telephone booth designed by Georg Fredrik Fasting in 1932.

In developing a full typeface based on those starkly geometric caps, Norwegian type designer Sindre Bremnes was aiming less for a precise reproduction of their shapes than an intuitive manifestation of their spirit. Additional inspiration was drawn from Jakob Erbar’s eponymous forefather of geometric sansserifs. Nearly three years in the making (with part of the progress documented on the Typophile critique boards), Telefon is among the first batch of releases from Bremnes and Frode Helland’s Monokrom label.

What makes Telefon stand out is its thoughtful and sensitive design approach. While Bremnes visibly enjoys honoring the flavorful (and occasionally weird) geometry found in his historical models — like the narrow, spiky ‘N’ or the almost-too-long crossbar of the ‘E’ — he has gently reined in these idiosyncrasies to form a design that has personality, yet is balanced and consistent. Telefon succeeds in feeling equal parts classy and fresh; slightly softened corners lend the lettershapes a subtly nostalgic, friendly, inky glow. Telefon has altogether found a welcome niche — it’s more flavorful than Futura; sharper, clearer, more self-assured than Brandon Grotesque; more specifically idiosyncratic than Neutraface; and more usable for text than, really, most geometric faces.

It’s gratifying to see such a meaningful take on a genre that’s often boring, and lately flooded with historically decontextualized, neo-clumsy misunderstandings of geometry. Telefon uses geometry and history wisely, making for a characterful face well-suited to a wide range of typographic tasks. The design is not only thoughtfully conceived but beautifully executed, with rare attention to detail and a generous character set. That makes this little family of three individually-drawn weights thoroughly recommendable. (And in case that doesn’t seem like enough, additional styles are in preparation — including matching italics.)

Nina Stössinger (Twitter) is a graphic/typographic/type designer based in Basel, Switzerland. In recent years, she spent her days designing mostly printed matter at her own studio, and many of her nights drawing type. She is currently preparing for a year in The Hague studying typeface design.

3 Comments

  1. tessera says:

    I have bought Normal and used it in Czesław Miłosz’s book design. And now I want to use it in branding of my studio. Awesome stuff!

  2. […] is not bold enough for titling purposes, you can bring in alternative display faces such as Telefon and the text will amicably share the same space with ease. But as the microsite suggests, Brandon […]

  3. Nate says:

    I find this font to be a veritable copy of Futura. The two are extremely similar, both featuring a sans-serif, minimalist, geometric feel. In my opinion, Futura is more pleasing to the eye, and is has a greater historical significance.

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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.

Set in Bureau Grot by Font Bureau, Nocturno Display by Nikola Djurek, Fern (unreleased) by David Jonathan Ross, and JAF Bernini Sans by Tim Ahrens.

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