Our Favorite Typefaces of 2004

Written by Typographica on February 16, 2005

See also: Fonts of 2005, Part 1

As the new year began I asked Typographica readers and contributors to share their top picks from the fonts released during 2004. Here are the results in no particular order.

Bello [MyFonts] Akiem Helmling, Bas Jacobs, Sami Kortemäki

Prior to its release, the sign-painterly inkings of Bello existed in the Underware and Typeradio wordmarks. Frankly, I adored the unassuming playfulness of those logos more than what many may deem as healthy. I hoped that a full typeface would be developed capturing that same personality. Bingo. Bello’s bouncy-brush style, pushed nearly as far as it can go using the power of OpenType makes this typeface a visual pleasure, full of contextual surprises. The fact that Bello is an obvious typographic partner to Underware’s deliciously personable Sauna is an added bonus. — Grant Hutchinson

Olduvai Randy Jones

After exciting the Typophile crit boards with a couple clever interpretations of past types (Neweue Helpetica and Saint Nicolaus), Randy Jones hit us in early 2004 with a wholly original design, a handlettered roman (drawn at 1 cm.) inspired by archeological digs at the craddle of man. Rugged and warm without being messy, with smallcaps and not-to-be-missed ornaments, Olduvai finds a balance between play and practicality. — Aaron Sittig

Auto Akiem Helmling, Bas Jacobs, Sami Kortemäki

The following confessions were found in an unnamed schoolgirl’s diary:

  • I think I want Auto 3 Italic to be my boyfriend.
  • Where in the rule books does it say that counters must be closed? Set them free, Auto 3!
  • I dreamt again of Auto, but this time its three brilliant and handsome creators were there. We all snuggled with a giant, furry swash ‘A’.

Zara Evens

Versa Peter Verheul

I first saw the beginnings of a more organic Versa as a student at The Royal Academy in The Hague. The final version has more rigid forms while still maintaining a fluidity. Versa is aptly named as it’s extremely versatile. You can use it in traditional work, like book typography, but it’s also an excellent typeface for corporate identities. As a complete family in sans and serif, Versa presents a wide range of options. — Donald Roos

Whitney Tobias Frere-Jones

Christian Schwartz recounted to me this story as told at a RISD lecture:

The Whitney Museum wanted a nice, quiet sans, sort of humanist, for signage and other identity stuff. Frere-Jones drew what he thought would be appropriate, and it basically turned out to be Frutiger. So he went in and added the angled cuts in all the “wrong” places and directions — exactly opposite of what calligraphy would give you.

I find the result is an original but familiar typeface, ideal for all the applications HFJ suggests: info graphics, wayfinding, cartography, small print. And I can always use another utility sans with index numerals. — Stephen Coles

Galaxie Polaris
Galaxie Polaris chester

Galaxie Polaris has a distinct personality and undeniable charm thanks to its supercurve structure. It fits perfectly in Thirstype’s forward-thinking signature collection. — Yves Peters

Bickham Script Richard Lipton

Richard really is the master when it comes to calligraphic fonts. And from talking to him personally, I only have the slightest idea how much work went into this … not just on his end, but Adobe’s as well. With OpenType becoming much more popular, Bickham is a good choice for one of the top fonts of the year because it really explores how OpenType can be used. Fonts will never be able to mimic to beauty of individual handlettering perfectly, but Bickham comes damn close. — Dyana Weissman

Avenir Next
Avenir Next Adrian Frutiger, Akira Kobayashi

Few typefaces demonstrate foresight and endurance as well Adrian Frutiger’s 1988 Avenir. With a constructivist frame and a humanist voice, Avenir speaks with an open, contemporary, and visually accessible style that belies the pervasive influence of varying stroke weights, optical adjustments, and knowledgeable decisions contained within. Roughly 16 years after the original, Frutiger and Linotype’s Type Director Akira Kobayashi completed Avenir Next, which expands and refines the original. Avenir Next adds true italics and small caps, along with a re-balanced set of 6 weights, in addition to condensed companions for each weight and style. — Chris Rugen

Neo Sans and Neo Tech
Neo Sans and Neo Tech Sebastian Lester

I would be lying if I said I didn’t envy Sebastian for creating this beautiful sans. I never met Sebastian Lester, so I can’t provide any inside info on Neo Sans and Neo Tech’s development, but I can point out the obvious. It’s beautiful, clean, and respectful to the balances of weight and scale, stroke, and proportion. Outside of the great options made available in the design, the subtle stroke modulations and minimalist expression really produces glyphs with personality. The design is unique and Lester pushes it just enough without carrying it too far — hence alienating it from mainstream use. It is so wonderfully tight and nicely spaced that typesetting is efficient and reliable. This really is a great face. — Neil Summerour

PTF Costa Jean François Porchez

My favourite release of 2004 came as the year drew to a close, and was actually designed back in 1999. Costa, designed by Jean François, started life as a corporate family for an Italian cruise ship, but thankfully it has been made available to the public as his first OpenType release. In typical style for JFP, he has produced a family of weights that each have their own distinct character and individuality, yet retain extremely close family ties, so to speak — a hard task to accomplish, and one achieved with aplomb. From the curvaceous, fat and sexy Extra Bold, through to the almost pen-like Light weight, the release makes excellent use of the OT format to draw on JFP’s love of ligatures (ch lig anyone?) to create stunning results from display sizes to small print. Fun, sexy, friendly, and readable, yet as intellectually rigourous as ever, how very very French. — David John Earls

Costa is one of those typefaces, when used strategically, which can add warmth to an otherwise rigid and cold design. Think of Costa as if it were a nice dark chocolate — full of flavor, but never to be eaten in large quantities. — Tiffany Wardle

Klavika Eric Olson

Klavika completely won me over for the squarish technical sans model. It achieves the unthinkable — lending a generous warmth and openness otherwise sorely missed in these kind of type designs. I believe this to be an important release which could give the competition a serious run for its money. — Yves Peters

Ed Interlock
Ed Interlock Ed Benguiat, Ken Barber, Tal Leming

Ed Interlock is part of House Industries’ highly anticipated Ed Benguiat font collection. Barber and Leming drew and engineered an amazing typeface. They pushed the limits of OpenType and masterfully combined aesthetics and technology. — Erik van Blokland

Farnham Christian Schwartz

Christian Schwartz’s Farnham just snuck under the wire, coming out late in 2004, and it quickly has become one of my favorite serifs (think of Fleischmann drawn with a really, really sharp pencil). Perhaps more suited to moderate display than long body copy, Farnham is resolutely traditional, a bit complex, and has a distinctive modern edge. It’s simultaneously bold and elegant, just right for convincing a worrying client that a serif can have the stuff. Like any great face, Farnham also is a great family, with 25 styles to mix and match for any occassion. — Tom Dolan

What I like about it is the combination of seemingly disparate elements — contrasting thicks and thins, vertical and diagonal lines, strong triangular serifs and ball terminals, dramatic swashes -– that gives it such a dynamic feel. — Ricardo Cordoba

Update, Feb 21 —Read more about Farnham from John Berry in today’s dot-font column.

Amira Cyrus Highsmith

Far too often, sans serif faces that deviate much from a classical structure tend to be redundant and lifeless, have poor legibility, or are overly stylized. Amira is none of these. Beautifully legible on the page and containing a calligraphic vitality that is rarely, if ever, found in a sans. The tapered terminals and subtely angled strokes seem to sing across sentences. — Christian Palino

FF Absara
FF Absara Xavier Dupré

To me, this face shows a designer coming into his own, developing and understanding his own style and approach without being restricted by it. It shares qualities with his previous typefaces, but abounds with its own personality. While many of its letterforms are totally bizarre, it strikes a delicate balance between legibility and individuality and manages not to overwhelm itself. I look forward to seeing what this face can do in the hands of an art director brave enough to use it. — Christian Schwartz

This just in: FF Absara is a winner at TDC2.

Rongel V2
FTF Rongel V2 Mario Feliciano

Revised in 2004 and more complete than its first incarnation, Rongel V2, an elegant serif typeface with a full family, remains playful and diverse while attentive to the finer details of a Spanish revival. We see the brightness of the pen in the terminals and much of the lowercase family while the italic, with its curvy finish to the stems, somehow breaks tradition and carries its new flavor back to the numerals and the roman lowercase. The capitals and experts express themselves with resilient proportioning, tightly drawn counters, and solid serifs. This face, with its beautiful restraint, sits brilliantly on the page. — Christian Palino

FF Legato
FF Legato Evert Bloemsma

Evert Bloemsma’s Legato typeface is something truly new, which is extremely rare. Its essential attribute is that the black of the individual letterforms is made equal in importance to the white inside and between the letters. It does this by disposing of the linking between the two edges of the black, something inherent in the conventional forming of shapes derived from a marking tool, such as the broad-nib pen.

By making the black and white harmonize, Legato approaches an ideal of readability, since reading involves the perception of positive/negative space as one thing. Also, it does this while still appearing conventional to the reader — a key feature in any text face. All this makes it the best typeface of a much longer period than just 2004! — Hrant Papazian

Honorable Mentions
Other notable releases of the year.

Fresco Fred Smeijers — OurType has just announced interesting Informal and Script additions to the family.
Akkurat Laurenz Brunner
Andulka František Štorm
Metron František Štorm
Didot Elder François Rappo
Lexicon Headline Bram de Does
Cycles Sumner Stone
Magma Sumner Stone
Zapfino Extra Pro Hermann Zapf, Akira Kobayashi, Adam Twardoch
Stratum Eric Olson
FindReplace Eric Olson
DTF Hefeweizen David Thometz
Costa Jean François Porchez
Borges Alejandro Lo Celso
RePublic Tomáš Brousil
Delicato Stefan Hattenbach
Brea Corey Holms
Ferox Miles Newlyn
Pill Gothic Christian Robertson
Mr Sheppards Alejandro Paul
Cabernet Italic Jason Walcott
Hucklebuck Jason Walcott
Dear Sarah Pro Christian Robertson
FF Max Demi Serif Morten Olsen
FF Hydra Text Silvio Napoleone
FF Bau Italic Christian Schwartz
Fleischmann Gotisch PT Ingo Preuss
FTF Merlo Mario Feliciano
Billhead Tom Kennedy

See also: Fonts of 2004 discussion at Typophile : Fonts of 2005, Part 1


  1. Ray Fenwick says:

    Nice, guys, thanks for that. It’s especially nice to have the commentary on each font, it adds the depth the work deserves.

  2. Marc Oxborrow says:

    This is my favorite Typographica topic in quite some time. Thanks to all the contributors.

    And I’ll second Yves’s recommendation of Klavika — I just licensed it for a magazine prototype, and it’s proving to be a joy to use.

  3. Hrant says:

    Juicy stuff – thanks for doing it.
    2004 was really a superb font year.


  4. Jon Kopp says:

    Beautiful. Just beautiful. Thank you for posting and reminding me how much I love using Bickham Script.

    But, ooh. I really want FF Absara, now.

  5. Ben Spicer says:

    A fantastic selection, Whitney and Absara are fantastic.

    Good luck with the new domain! :)

  6. Jeff Gill says:

    Great compilation!

    I have to agree with with Hrant. I downloaded the semibold weight of Legato when Font Shop were giving it away. It is a joy to work with & look at. I can’t wait till I’ve got the money to buy the whole family.

  7. Jeff Gill Sans Money – You can do the same with FF Absara Light which will is currently up at FontShop’s Free Fonts page. Catch it now, though — it will be replaced with another new FontFont in a couple days.

  8. Excellent list, thanks for sharing!

  9. Thanks for the great type based topic!

    From my perspective Verheul is the contemporary Godfather of brush based typefaces. The typographic quality which Versa contains and the versatility it exudes through usage are evidence of a long awaited critical incubation period. If nothing else, draw lineage from Verheul.

  10. Monib says:

    Great to see Neo and Sebastian Lester made it on this list. Neo is a great font and Sebastian is also a great individual and worthy of mention. No doubt 2005 will also bring some more contributions from him. Keep your eyes out.

  11. Stephen, thanks for including Whitney among so many great neighbors!

    Christian’s tale of Whitney’s origins is a little off: the original brief for Whitney was the prosaic yet baffling “make it like News Gothic. And also Gill Sans.” Rather than try and synthesize something out of these dissonant parts, Tobias took the opportunity to spend some time thinking about how fonts for signage differ from those for editorial use. As the design began to take shape, he discovered with some shock that other minds had taken up the same challenge: differently mixed, the same recipe could lead to Frutiger; substituting “small backlit bitmaps” for “large backlit signs”, it might well become Verdana. (Needless to say, he was eager to avoid both, especially having worked with Matthew Carter on some part of Verdana years before.)

    The result was Whitney, which hopes to be both clear and space-efficient. In the eight years since Tobias finished the core of the design, H&FJ has developed the peripheral styles (and, inevitably, redeveloped the central ones.) Though the angles that Christian mentions are intentionally “wrong,” they’re by no means arbitrary: they take a direct cue from Marcel Breuer’s plan for the Whitney Museum on Madison Avenue, and offer a foundation for a strangely practical policy of 9� angles that run throughout the font. (Tobias and I have often been asked to incorporate physical features into our work; this was one of only two times that this wasn’t an awful idea!)

  12. Mr. Schwartz says:

    Jonathan, thanks for expanding upon and clarifying my fuzzy memory of the Whitney story. It’s been several years since i heard it. (When was it that you, Tobias and I all met up in Providence?) In any case, it looks fantastic in Martha’s Everyday Food.

  13. kai bernau says:

    Great collection, great choices!
    Thanks to all who contributed to this best-of article.
    Needless to say that as preferences differ, and that the wonderful Fresco would have deserved a much higher score in my opinion :-)

    With the high and still growing reputation and acceptance of Typographica, his thing could develop into some sort of contest, like the tdc.

    Observation: I find it highly amusing and it gives me a fuzzily warm feeling that, within this relatively small circle of type afi�ionados, the typefaces become more than just tools for graphic design; they become wannahaves, objects of desire.

    Not if we could just find a way to spread our emotions about typography and typefaces to a wider audience … the world would be a much friendlier (and more beautiful) place.

  14. Thanks for including my DTD Hefeweizen!
    It was quite an honor to be honorably mentioned among such great company.

  15. bola says:

    Congratulations for the nice 2004 selection.

  16. Jens Meiert says:

    Great composition, quite inspiring.

  17. bahram says:

    i like to have nice fonts

  18. amir says:

    please send me allfonts for type in 2004 or 2005.

  19. Jeff Gill says:

    I just bought the whole Legato family for a cookbook that I am designing. My wife is sick of me talking about how wonderful it is.

  20. David Duvel says:

    I like interlocking typefaces!

  21. Choices of fonts here are really wonderful. Congratulations

  22. Robert Hartl says:

    Thanks a lot for Your collection. The 2004 typefaces are my favourites.

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