Garalda specimen

Typeface Review


Reviewed by Mark Jamra on July 5, 2017

I liked Garalda immediately. It’s an attractive interpretation of the French Renaissance style by Xavier Dupré, who’s a strong enough talent to make something special of it and distinguish it from the multitude of Garamond-inspired designs.

This is far easier said than done, but it’s not surprising coming from Dupré, who has continuously shown a preference for artistic and interesting ideas rather than the revival of historical genres for the sole purpose of doing business. To date, his oeuvre contains a number of creative interpretations, each enlivened by the presence of a conceptual feature or two that step outside of the conventional framework.

The roman shows a cohesive visual concept with the energy and idiosyncrasies of a type cut in metal. It’s the subtle combination of warmth and chiseled hardness that makes this type a real alternative for extensive copy. The fundamental character of the italic is of a soft cursive that dances down a line of text in a slightly arhythmic bounce.

In an interview, Xavier Dupré stated that his intention was to create an easily readable typeface at small sizes and provide readers with an “effect” at large sizes by placing “quirks” in various places in the italic. Here again, the insertion of an unconventional twist into the concept keeps it off the straight and narrow path of a revival.

But I feel that Dupré has handled unconventional features more thoughtfully in other designs. In the Garalda italic, the straight lines in terminals and in the crotches of off-strokes seem like a hasty intrusion on the concept instead of a well-considered feature. And instead of creating swash caps that embody the type’s feistiness, we are left with the impression of broken historical forms. According to the marketing copy, this was done to make them “more captivating”. At the root of all this is the real challenge in wanting to make something different; one can risk inserting “quirks” which appear forced and tacked-on for the sake of being odd, but it’s more desirable to weave in unexpected features that have the same heartbeat as the core design. The Garalda roman is more successful in this respect.

And yet, it’s the italic that’s more fun to look at when it’s set in a respectable 16–36pt text. There, it has a playful snap-and-roll dynamic that’s quite a pleasure in short copy. The formal dissonances become a distraction only in larger sizes. And all of this is not an issue at 10pt or 12pt, which is where Garalda shines and unfolds into a warm and spirited purveyor of information, a useful individual in the palette of readable book types.

Mark Jamra is a type designer and recently retired professor of graphic design at Maine College of Art in Portland, Maine. He has designed and produced typefaces for over 35 years, and runs TypeCulture, a digital type foundry and educational resource. He is also a partner of JamraPatel, a type design studio specializing in typefaces for the writing systems of under-supported language communities in the US and abroad.

One Comment

  1. Pedro Canepa says:

    This is the Garalde I had been waiting for a long time, and considering how much I loved FF Yoga, it did not surprise me at all when I saw that it was Dupré’s creation.

    I do most of my longform reading on a frontlit eInk screen with 267 ppi resolution, and Garalda absolutely shines with a beauty of its own in a display that makes many of the traditional digitized text serifs with medium-to-high stroke contrast — e.g., Stempel Garamond, Sabon, most Baskervilles — look even worse than they do in phone or computer screens when used in 10–14 pt.

    Until now, Robert Slimbach’s serifs with smaller optical sizes like Garamond Premier and Arno were some of the few good alternatives for using Old Style revivals on eInk screens, and they do work very well. But I find that Garalda, just like Mark says in his review, manages to convey a warmth and originality almost as pleasing to the eye as that of hot metal printing. Chapeau, Monsieur Xavier!

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