Last year’s “best of” list was far more popular than we predicted. The interest in type design is stronger than ever — and the audience is broader too. As public awareness of typography increases, it becomes even more important to use something other than the same old stuff that lingers in your font menu.
We took all this to heart and expanded our coverage this year. I’m pleased to present the first of two Favorite Fonts installments for 2005. Each contributing writer made their own selection with only one requirement: the typeface must have been published or released in the first half of the year. The results are diverse, but a few trends can be drawn from the list:
- The dominance of indie foundries. Gone are the days when large commercial outfits put out the bulk of serious type. Ten of the 15 top selections come from one-man studios. Meanwhile, several of the big boys (ITC, Linotype, Monotype, URW) are absent. A few of these are likely to make an appearance in Part Two, but the shift is striking.
- OpenType. Nearly every featured font is available in OpenType, and many exclusively so. OT is no longer a mysterious format with questionable benefit. The number of OT-savvy apps is still disappointing, with only Adobe Illustrator and InDesign offering full support. (Even Photoshop lags behind in its handling of OT features.) But with Quark and Microsoft promising more support in the coming months, reasons to select old TrueType and PostScript formats have become virtually nonexistent.
- Xavier Dupré. With a showing in 2004 and three(!) designs in this year’s list, the Cambodia-based Frenchman is perhaps today’s most productive single source of creative type design, rivaled only by Christian Schwartz.
Okay, enough blather. On with the list! Part Two, covering fonts released in the second half of 2005, will be published in January. If you’d like to contribute, or even just nominate a font for inclusion, shoot me a mail.
Update: January 9, 2006 — Village is offering a special discounted bundle of its fonts from this list. Arrival, Crank 8, Flama, Garda, and Litteratra are included for $575.00. Other vendors take note!
Update: July 13, 2007 — We changed our minds. There is no Part 2 to this article. The second half of 2005 is covered in our 2006 review.
Lisboa Ricardo Santos
Also available at FontShop.
Attempting to design a typeface evocative of a geographic area or a specific culture is a perilous journey. Where the Twin font system, for example, goes too far, Lisboa harbors the sagacity to merely vie for — and thereby achieve — a simple Iberian warmth, something especially difficult in a sans. In the severely over-crowded field of humanist sans-serifs, Lisboa distinguishes itself through completeness (including expert characters and two numeral styles) and technical sophistication (as in its trapping), but mostly by providing two subtly varied cuts: one that helps exhibit the design’s particular character; and another that eschews detail for maximal clarity in small sizes. Although the naming of the two cuts seems awkward, the pair deliver a useful balance of expressive potential versus humble functionality. — Hrant Papazian
Freight Joshua Darden
Also available at MyFonts and FontShop.
Just as I received Stephen’s invitation to write about our favorite fonts, I was iChatting with Josh Darden, who was just writing him to announce the expansion of his Freight family. So I think it’s only fitting that I comment on it. This family is insane. Not only because of the 100 styles, but also because of its charming little quirks. The tail of the ‘G’, the italic ‘i’s, the delicious ‘k’. While we move out of the era of the antiseptic sans-serifs, Freight offers refreshing anomalies that warm up the design. To sum it up in a few short sentences is impossible. It deserves thorough attention. You don’t need to know Josh personally to surmise that quite a bit of blood, sweat, and tears went into these fonts. And I’m sure they’ll preserve those bodily fluids of graphic designers who purchase Freight. Every piece of type you could possibly want is in this family. I told Josh, “get ready to get rich.” I also told him I expect 10% of his profits. — Dyana Weissman
Ministry Script Alejandro Paul
How do you convey sexiness with type? Use a sultry script face. The only thing more typographically titillating might be a set of canoodling ligatures. This ultra-seductive combination comes together in Alejandro Paul’s Ministry Script. (Ironic, isn’t it?) A set of 500+ ligatures and alternates makes this feature-rich beauty pure pleasure to play with. — Paul Hunt
I fell in love with Ministry Script the moment I saw it. It’s one of the most outrageously flourished digital scripts I’ve ever seen, yet it’s also remarkably friendly and approachable — no surprise, given its period American signage roots. The specimen book [1.1MB PDF] is a fabulous example of how to show off a typeface. As well as being beautiful and comprehensive, it even offers a brief lesson in using Ministry’s remarkably extensive OpenType features. With over a 1000 characters (including swashes, contextual and stylistic alternates, and a mind-boggling number of ligatures) Ministry Script is, if nothing else, a perfect example of how exciting OpenType can be for designers. — Jordan Harper
Garamond Premier Pro Robert Slimbach
Perhaps because they are often used as upgrade incentives or because they tend to be solid, workhorse typefaces, Adobe’s font releases sometimes do not gather the press or excitement that they deserve. However, the new Garamond by Robert Simbach does deserve more attention. Not only for the Latin portion of the design — with four optical sizes, five weights, and more accented characters and OpenType features than you can shake a stick at. No, the most exciting thing about this new design is that Slimbach, a non-native speaker of Greek, has now designed two very different Greek fonts and has done both very, very well. If the first of these designs, Minion Greek, is a solid linebacker/mid-fielder of a typeface, Garamond Premier Pro Greek is a ballet dancer. The design sparkles with fluidity of line and contrast, taking all of the calligraphic influences of Greek and putting them to the fore. — Ben Kiel
Deréon Jean François Porchez
Deréon is sophisticated type design hip-hop and visual R&B. When I see Déreon, I see a Whitman and Dalliance mix (two of my favorites) creating something unique. Like Whitman, Deréon gets its body from the Scotch Didone Caledonia. Scotch forms, made contemporary and suitable for display with angled counters and sharp serifs, are the steady rhythm over which Porchez improvises like a skilled vocalist. He incorporates funky, elegant forms in the alternates that curl and twist organically, creating a hybrid style and unique voice. The typesetter becomes the turntablist, cutting and blending the three styles. Put this one in the back of your crate, because it’s exclusive to music star Beyoncé’s House of Deréon for six years. — Chris Rugen
Proxima Nova Mark Simonson
Proxima Nova takes all that is good from faces such as Gotham, Neutraface, Futura, and Akzidenz Grotesk, and leaves what’s bad behind. It nestles neatly in a place between the geometric, grotesque, and gothic. Its generous x-height, thoughtfully balanced color, and expert typographic features (small caps, text figures, lining figures, etc.) position it as a prime candidate for extended textual setting. This is definitely Mr. Simonson’s tour de force. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Proxima Nova pop-up in the next major magazine redesign. — Kyle Hildebrant
Zingha Xavier Dupré
Also available at FontShop and MyFonts.
Reviewing Xavier Dupré’s Zingha type family is as delightful as discovering several long lost cases of unreleased ATF hot metal typefaces. The fourteen styles released through Font Bureau are not purely retro, but dreamily reminiscent of early 1900s designs; they are complemented with roman small caps, italic swashes, plus an open face display cut called Deco paired with an italic swash. All in all, Zingha a well balanced family with diversity and flair. — Norbert Florendo
I like harmonious variation across a family of types, and of all the types I’ve seen in 2005, Xavier Dupré’s Zingha achieves it better than any other. From the open, engraved ‘Deco’ styles to the scriptish italics (with some delicious swashes), Zingha enjoys life in a multitude of ways. (The italic ampersand looks as though it may be enjoying itself too much!) The angular serifs and seemingly disjointed and overly-pointy stroke terminals all work (surprisingly) well together. I’m a big fan of the text setting — it looks like a mischievous child pulling a straight face. Zingha has personality, energy, and flair, and I’m constantly looking for a project to persuade me to splash out on a license for the full family! — Jordan Harper
Vista Sans Xavier Dupré
Also available at FontShop and MyFonts.
Xavier Dupré’s third major release of the year is arguably his most useful. With its friendly quirks, Vista Sans is a lot like Tarzana — another Emigre font — but succeeds everywhere Tarzana fails. The more distinctive glyphs feel harmonious with the rest of the font, never jarring. Gentle swashes and a large x-height make for a friendly sans that would work just right in so many settings, it seems an excellent investment. Also, if you haven’t seen it, be sure to request the Vista booklet from Emigre. The pioneering firm may have laid their magazine to rest this year, but their printed catalogs continue to make us lust after Emigre type. — Stephen Coles
Cézanne Pro James Greishaber
Also available from FontShop
You may recognize Cézanne, as it is probably the most ubiquitous digital script ever released, showing up on everything from scrapbook pages to the walls of Starbucks. Unfortunately, its popularity has led to a great deal of misuse. Cézanne in OpenType is a big thing — it puts some power back in the type designer’s hands. Thanks to its extensive array of new alternates, ligatures, and swashes, this edition of Cézanne will result in more organic renderings that actually evoke handwriting rather than copy-and-paste handwritten letters, revealing the true spirit of the artist’s hand. — Colin Hartnett
Arrival Keith Tam
Arrival has finally arrived (pun intended). It took Keith Tam three years since he first showed his PDF specimen of Arrival until it was finally released. This typeface references both industral and calligraphic forms, from the work of Evert Bloemsma to the selfnamed font by Adrian Frutiger. The humanist flare with the expansion of the end strokes creates a genial feel, but the face can still seem formal. This, I think, is perfect for a font made especially for directional signage. A strictness combined with friendliness. I can’t imagine a better welcome to a new city. — Peter Bruhn
FF Maiola Veronika Burian
Just when you thought your collection’s text categories were set, Veronika Burian burst the stable doors open, reviving the Czech genre and its warm idiosyncrasies. A “warm” typeface? FF Maiola solves this puzzle using discrete play of irregularity and multiple angles, harkening back to Menhart and Preissig’s approaches. — Dan Reynolds
Maple Eric Olson
Also available at MyFonts and FontShop.
Other type designers have mined the 19th century English grotesque, but Eric Olson gives it an energetic crispness which makes earlier attempts seem a bit stuffy. Maple captures the exuberant quirkiness of the grots without slavishly imitating them. I’d love to see this family expanded to include some condensed members. — Mark Simonson
Maple in SOTA‘s Interrobang 3.
Garda Mario Feliciano
Garda is a set of three classically proportioned titling caps. The full serif, #1, is as elegant as Trajan, but more genial. The small serif, #2 achieves a new look with straight horizontals and verticals, tapered rounds, and noticeable, but not assertive serifs. The sans, #3, has a fully classical look, but a softer grace than Futura caps. With great elegance and style—and alternative characters and ligatures—the set offers superb alternatives to Trajan, Optima, and Futura for titling. — William Berkson
Litteratra Karsten Lücke
I am a sucker for modern fonts that rework and expand on historic typefaces and ideas, framing them in the newest and most exciting technology. Mrs. Eaves was a great example of this, and Karsten Lücke’s Litteratra — a ligature of “littera atra,” meaning ‘dark letter’ — is as well.
It’s a sort of roman amalgam of textura and Schwabacher, channeling the expressionist spirit of Vojtech Preissig. While Lücke writes that his intention was to make a face that created “a dark text block on the page,” Litteratra still manages to bring an awful lot of movement and organic sensibility to counter its thematic darkness.
The immense OTF package includes italic lowercase, small caps, spaced and titling uppercase and a load of discretionary ligatures and contextual alternates (as well as oldstyle and lining numerals, each in both proportional and tabular varieties, replete with superiors, inferiors and arbitrary fractions) — more than 1900 glyphs total. It’s not only “a family in one font,” as Lücke notes, but an entire historical movement. — Joshua Lurie-Terrell
See also: Karsten Lücke’s personal site for more info and PDF specimens.
Relato Eduardo Manso
Also available from MyFonts and FontShop
Sometimes you don’t really need an impressive type system with dozens of weights, nor feature-rich OpenType, nor extended ligature sets et al. Sometimes all it takes is being smitten by a small, beautifully designed serif family by someone you’ve never heard of before. Emtype Relato combines Dutch purposefulness with Latin sensuality. Its serifs are constructed following a clever principle, and the faces look simply gorgeous. — Yves Peters
Relato was reviewed in Typographer.org’s TypeCon2005 keepsake booklet.
Other notable January – August 2005 releases:
FF Absara Sans Xavier Dupré
Amor František Storm
Avebury Black and Open Jim Parkinson
Ayres Royal Gert Weischer
Bembo Book Robin Nicholas
Bluemlein Scripts Alejandro Paul
Botanika Tomáš Brousil
Cabazon Jim Parkinson
Chocolate Angel Koziupa and Alejandro Paul
Crank8 Greg Lindy & Henk Elenga
Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) Christian Schwartz and Erik Spiekermann
Dynasty Rian Hughes
Fedra Sans Display Peter Bilak
Flama Mário Feliciano
Galicia Rian Hughes
Gill Sans Pro Monotype
Groovin’ Jason Walcott
Handsome Pro Nick Shinn
Happy Hour Jason Walcott
Incognito Gábor Kóthay
Kaffeesatz Jan Gerner
Kingfisher Jeremy Tankard
Lapture Tim Ahrens
Mashine Tim Ahrens
Mercury Display & Text Jonathan Hoefler & Tobias Frere-Jones
Miserichordia Rian Hughes
Modesto Text Jim Parkinson
Morice Morice Kastoun & Stephen Banham
Nerva Dino dos Santos
Nicholas Nick Shinn
Orgovan Tomáš Brousil
Paperback John Downer
Propane David Buck
Radiogram Rian Hughes
Rough Riders and Redux Michael Hagemann
Sculptura Jason Castle
ITC Stone Humanist Sans Sumner Stone
Soap Ray Larabie
Sovereign No longer available. Nick Cooke
Tamarillo Jason Walcott
Tourette Jonathan Barnbrook
Wanderer Michael Hagemann