Typeface Review

Druk Text, Druk Text Wide

Reviewed by Reed Reibstein on May 9, 2016

It’s easy to sort typefaces into broad categories of useful text faces on one hand and exuberant display faces on the other. One group is designed for small sizes, the other for big; everyday workhorses versus once-in-a-blue-moon spectacles.

Commercial Type’s Druk clearly fits into this scheme as a display face: Tânia Raposo’s review last year appropriately centered on the word “extreme”. But the new additions to the Druk family, Druk Text and Druk Text Wide, are outliers. They are named “Text” and yet, in an apparent contradiction, Commercial Type’s specimen states that “Druk Text is a display face designed for small sizes…”

My first impression was how extremely condensed and extremely extended these typefaces are, and I found it hard to imagine using them below headline sizes. Com­paring them to the original Druk, however, I was struck by how drastically their designer, Berton Hasebe, has moderated their proportions.

Druk Text is shockingly easy to read for its width, thanks to its ample spacing and relatively open aper­tures. Setting a whole page in it might wear out its welcome, but it could thrive in many briefer contexts, aided by four weights and italics. Druk Text Wide pursues the same strategy, but works better for labels and subheads than captions. The Wide is easiest to parse at very small point sizes, when the eye can see more of a word at one time.

This type family made me reconsider my assumptions about what faces I should consider for a particular role. Instead of seeking a transparent small type experience, prioritizing readability at all costs, should I contemplate typefaces with far more flavor? Must “display” mean that a typeface only works at large sizes? Or should I use the term to identify a tone more than a size, referring to the outsize impact such a typeface has on a website or magazine design? Druk Text is the rare new release that provokes questions about how we practice typography.

Reed Reibstein is product design manager at The Philadelphia Inquirer, where he focuses on design and user research for Inquirer.com and its mobile apps.

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