Typeface Review


Reviewed by Frank GrieĂźhammer on January 25, 2012

With the Alda project, Berton Hasebe took on the challenge of designing a type family whose members not only shift in weight, but also in their quality of expression.

Analyzing how typefaces change their tone of voice across their weights, and how certain properties (robust, elegant, sturdy) are automatically assigned to certain stroke widths, he devised a weight system that incorporates a transition from rigid to smooth.

Bringing together so many parameters in a cohesive concept, Alda seems like the perfect Type & Media project, which is where its design was first conceived. In his documentation booklet, Berton talks about the desire of learning “as much as possible” in the one-year master course, and therefore assigned himself this very intensive graduation project.

The bold extreme of Alda was drawn with the properties of the broad-nib pen in mind, giving it a strength and sturdiness, characterized by angular joints and heavy serifs. Hasebe refers to this style as having the tension of bent metal, which is easy to see.

The light weight, however, as is especially evident in the italic, is very fluid, referencing the tension of a rubber band. The elegant, refined appearance comes from the underlying construction derived from writing with a pointed nib.

The regular style presents a middle weight between the two extremes, and – refreshingly – was not simply interpolated. Instead, it borrows features from either of the two extremes and tones them down just enough to make for an excellent type to be used in running text. The light and heavy weights clearly have their strengths in display settings, but I can also see them used in conjunction with the regular weight. Of course, Alda has everything you need in a modern text typeface, like different figure styles, ligatures and small caps. With this set of features, I see Alda performing outstandingly in the fields of advertising and publication design, especially magazines.

Frank Grießhammer studied Communication Design at HBKsaar in Saarbrücken, Germany and at ISIA Firenze, Italy. He received a master’s degree in typeface design from Type & Media at KABK Den Haag in 2010. After working for FontShop International in Berlin, he joined the Adobe Type Team in 2011.


  1. Thomas says:

    Great review and I really fancy the Alda font family. I love the different weights while still keeping the overall style clear. Yet I have to say that $249,- for 6 fonts in opentype is a bit too much.

  2. How are you determining what is too much? $41.50 is pretty near the $30–40 per weight that is standard among premium foundries.

  3. Although Alda has an interesting design, it is one of these type families with small caps only for the romans. I think this is an outdated approach as true small caps are needed also in italics, especially considering the number of accronyms we handle. Not to offer such a basic feature limits Alda usage. And the lack of SC in italics is not clearly pointed in the font description or PDF specimen.

    Besides this, I do not like its seven digit, with a strange, ugly curved diagonal hardly justified by the overall font design.

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