Typeface Review


Reviewed by David John Earls on April 22, 2009

A slew of slab serifs were released in 2008. Most of them continuing last year’s trend of following the cute and chunky approach, often to delicious effect.

But as marvelous as so many of those slab serifs were, sadly they were let down when it came to lighter, or more usable text weights. For me, it is Archer that stood out, with H&FJ concentrating on the lighter half of the spectrum, eight weights offering a delightful range of contrast, but never venturing heavier than bold. Making a text face distinctive with a clear personality that can scale right up to display sizes is a mammoth task at the best of times, but a slab?

Yet here it is; with its judicious yet brave use of ball terminals, and blending geometry with sexy cursive forms, all brought together with the kind of historical and intellectual rigour you fully expect from this particular foundry, Archer succeeds where others falter. I only hope that in its use out in the wild (and away from that jailbird Martha Stewart) people give it the same level of thought.

David Earls is a recovering graphic designer based in London. He sometimes designs typefaces for his own enjoyment, but considers himself to be very much an amateur who never wants to stop learning. David founded Typographer.org in 1999 in the hope it should provide fiercely independent voice on the web, with honesty, impartiality and independence of funding at its core.


  1. Tiffany says:

    The biggest problem for Archer is going to be breaking away from being typecast. Martha Stewart did (does) a great job of using it and, for me anyway, when I see it in use elsewhere it still makes me think of MSLO.

  2. David Earls says:

    Martha isn’t so big in the UK (and presumably across the rest of Europe) so I think it is less of a problem in markets outside of north America. As the exclusivity ends, so will the association, especially if designers are sensible enough to realise its potential outside of lifestyle applications. The family is certainly able to stand up my itself and bring colour to a diverse range of uses, in my opinion.

  3. Sye says:

    I have tried looking for the mag here in Australia but have not seen it yet. So I think Archer is safe here as well.

  4. Typegirl says:

    That is a good point. So perhaps we will see, at first, the more original new uses of it come from outside the US.

    Please don’t get me wrong. I <3 Archer. A lot.

  5. I am starting to see it quite a lot here in Australia (and no, I haven’t seen ‘Living’ here in the past 2.5 years either), but sadly, not in very interesting ways yet. I’m hoping it doesn’t become hijacked the way Gotham has…

    The biggest outdoor usage I’ve seen was the recent L’Oreal Fashion Week (not as identity but for supporting text and URLs; odd). Cointreau is also using it with Avant Garde, making their typography all quite round.

  6. Kent Lew says:

    I agree with Tiffany: Here in the States, Archer is somewhat burdened by the MSL association. Interesting to hear that this isn’t the case in other regions. I’ve admired Archer for so long in Living, and they employed it so successfully, that the retail release was pretty anti-climactic. (For those who might not realize: Archer debuted in Fall 2002.) Now seeing other publications using it — especially those in the same lifestyle niche as MSL — seems all very “me-too.” Still, Archer’s a brilliant design.

  7. Tom Coates says:

    Isn’t Archer also now being used on a lot of Wells Fargo branding? I personally love it. Favourite typeface of the moment. I use it for pretty much everything (when I’m not using Gotham Rounded).

  8. Bilgehan says:

    Love at first sight. I don’t know who or what MSL is as a Turkish citizen.

  9. Andrés Magnússon says:

    Actually I feel that the ball terminals are ever so slightly overdone, not least in my beloved eth glyph which renders Archer almost unusable in Icelandic! (Perhaps being a bit harsh here.)

    I do however miss heavier weights, black or extrabold, which slab serifs usually provide (even to their distinction).

    I asked Jonathan Hoefler about that and he told me they had indeed tried going bolder than bold, but that the design couldn’t support any more weight in its lowercase. The only options would have been to raise the x-height throughout the family (which I’m glad they didn’t as Archer is exceedingly well proportioned) or to create a Black in caps only, which Jonathan felt would have been of limited value. I tend to disagree, but that is the reason HFJ decided to stop at Bold.

  10. Avery Smith says:

    It’s a beautiful face, i’m drooling over the thin italics. In response to Tiffany: I wasn’t aware it as being used for Martha Stewart’s brand. But I do know that it’s all over Wendy’s new campaign http://www.wendys.com.

  11. Hmm I only see Neutraface at Wendy’s.

  12. Love this font. It’s too bad there is currently such a strong association with certain well known brands, but regardless; this is a very nice font.

  13. I recommend that fans of this style keep
    their eyes open for the release of this: http://typophile.com/node/53395

  14. Claudia Fayad says:

    For me it was a love at first sight. Love Archer and all its many versions. Although originally drawn for Living Magazine, (a great work) it’s still an inspiring and versatile font. A beauty!

  15. Dave Nalle says:

    I was dismayed to see such a nice site about type with so many reviews and not one review or even mention of any of our fonts, designers or even our website. After 20 years with 600 fonts in production I sort of hoped someone would notice.

    Scriptorium Fonts

  16. Ian Kirkland says:

    Looks like Wendy’s is also using Verlag.

  17. it’s a beautiful font, and one that i have not found the perfect use for yet

    and i disagree with it being sort of ‘spoken for’ by martha stewart and her publication (even though it was created for this use).. i don’t really think this is as big of an occurrence as a lot of people online make it out to be, the way fonts are deemed to be ‘pigeonholed’.. i wouldn’t even declare gotham as being so by the obama campaign

  18. Kalibrasyon says:

    and i disagree with it being sort of ’spoken for’ by martha stewart and her publication ?

  19. Kukri says:

    @Tom Coates – Archer is being used in Well Fargo branding. It’s also one of my favorites and has stuck the stop spot in my mind for about 2 years now.

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