Despite seeing a few rough spots in the design, an incomplete set of weights, no small caps and so on, I have chosen Urbana to highlight this year. The reason is the profound rightness of nearly everything that is already there.
This rightness comes in part from an especially assured use of the Dwiggins inspired visual trope of a round curve and cut curve on the interior lines of the letterforms. Many other faces use have used this feature and it is becoming very popular. But so far I don’t know of a typeface uses it so well. Urbana’s cuts introduce just the right sparkle to open the counter and make them feel bigger than they really are. The effect is not showy. Instead it’s presence is carefully modulated throughout the face to give a superbly even and subtly inviting impression. Consider Urbana without it; it might be a lumpy eccentric mess. But with it, that sense of inevitability and unquestionable rightness is achieved.
Urbana’s rightness also comes from a seemingly improbable merger of brush inspired strokes welded selectively onto parts of the familiar lines of of 20th century style sans type. Described in this way it’s easy to imagine a Frankenstein Monster of a font. But looking at Urbana you see the opposite. The contrasts of the curves and straight lines are thoughtfully and above all quietly integrated.
Looking quickly at Urbana it would be easy to simply notice it’s upbeat feeling. But I think in time designers will come to appreciate the solid reliability of it’s design along with it’s quiet novelty that draws and maintains the reader’s attention.
Eben Sorkin is a type designer living in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. He designs fonts for Darden Studio, URW++, Google and his own foundry Sorkin Type. Eben is a member of the ATypI board.