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 is a type-obsessed designer and overall curious person who is currently a Senior Typeface Designer at Frere-Jones Type in Brooklyn. Nina studied multimedia design in Halle (Germany) and type design in Zurich and Den Haag, and previously worked as an independent graphic designer, typographer, and type designer in Switzerland and the Netherlands. Nina has spoken at numerous international events, and was appointed a Critic at Yale School of Art in 2016. Follow her on Twitter.