Cardea specimen

Typeface Review


Reviewed by Jon Coltz on March 19, 2015

If you’re a typographic aficionado, great typefaces stop you in your tracks; they create a moment, and they leave a mark. The last one to have done this to me is David Cabianca’s sublime Cardea. On the day the Emigre specimen arrived, I read its sample text to my family, not so much for them to hear the story of Sandy Koufax’s 1965 perfect game, but rather, for them to see this wonderful book face come to life on the page.

Indeed, you want to reach out and touch Cardea, just to see whether its visual impression might be tactile as well. Owing in part to its chunky, drop-wedge terminals and concave feet, it appears more hand-drawn than digitally designed, and it looks almost carved in the italic. In an age when so many book faces seem pasteurized — even hygienic — Cardea is rare and refreshing.

It can’t be easy to create a good book face: strive for the crystal goblet, and you run the risk of banality. Attempt to stand out on the page and, well, you do. With Cardea, David Cabianca has reached a desirable middle ground. A wholly earnest, interesting face, but never humdrum, it is at once kinetic and sturdy, serene and just a bit playful.

In Roman mythology, Cardea was the protector of passages — a fitting namesake, then, for a typeface meant to serve as a passage into the world of words. Open-minded book typographers will take note, and this is a good thing. Whether modern or ancient, texts need fresh portals, and many would do well to be set in Cardea. The mark it has left in me will not soon be gone; I look forward to using it and to seeing it in print.

Jon Coltz is a longtime fan of typography. He served on the SOTA Board of Directors for several years, and he wrote about type on his website, daidala. He lives and works in Minneapolis.


  1. Lucas Sharp says:

    Insanely beautiful typeface. The fact that this review fails to mention Freight Micro by Joshua Darden is a bit upsetting tho. Although Cardea takes us to beautiful new(ish) places, the similarity is a bit too pronounced to go unmentioned.

  2. Rachel K says:

    Cardea (its core design at least) actually seems to predate Freight Micro. The specimen sheet reports that Cardea was originally designed as some sort of master’s degree project in 2004, whereas Freight Micro wouldn’t be released till 2005. So it does seem a bit unfair to compare them like one was necessarily the inspiration for the other.

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