Typeface Review

Greta Mono

Reviewed by Jon Coltz on May 9, 2016

The lot of monospaced typefaces has improved considerably in recent years, but still, too many are little more than the utilitarian servants they were apparently born to be.

Flat and flavorless, their design reveals more techné and much less poiesis: their characters queue up duti­fully, albeit inharmoniously, as they pay primary heed to the pitch constraint. In these faces, the norm­ally slender ‘i’ and ‘l’ appear emaciated; the fuller-figured ‘m’ and ‘w’ squeeze themselves in as best as they can. The result is an unhappy marriage of warp and weft, and so dullness is compounded by discordance.

But for a handful of monospaced faces, designers have turned the pitch constraint on its head, leveraging it in deft explorations of stroke and space. Fifteen years ago, with his first monospaced face (FF Eureka Mono), Peter Biľak vanquished this constraint via letter­spacing: he gave his glyphs ample room to breathe. With his recent Greta Mono (produced with Nikola Djurek), Biľak takes an even more elegant approach: stroke contrast.

Witness the upright, wherein (particularly in the heavier of its ten weights) contrasting strokes impart a vitality seen in few faces, much less monospaced ones. A geo-humanist mélange of arcs here, right angles there, it does its job, and it looks beautiful to boot: monospaced, but certainly not monochrome. The italic, with its cleaved curves and asymmetrical twists, is cheeky and a just a touch scary, its dynamic letterforms taut and ready to spring. Take note: this Greta Mono is a step change from its prototype seen for a time on the pages of Dwell. Unlike its prede­cessor, this new face shares more with Greta Sans than with its seriffed counterpart, Greta Text.

The coders, musicians, scientists, and transcriptionists I know will love this font. They say they’re on a quest for the ideal monospaced face, and with Greta Mono, I can tell them to stop searching. With over 1000 glyphs — including Cyrillic and Greek, and even circled numbers — it comes with all the fixins, and is very much a product of now. You don’t need anyone to tell you that Biľak is a brilliant designer; his work speaks for itself. With Greta Mono, it’s the same simple story: he’s done it again.

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.

One Comment

  1. Christian Telemann says:

    The coders, musicians, scientists, and transcriptionists

    …will not use this font, because, as nice a visual design as it is, it doesn’t pay attention to fundamentals that are important for such people. Two characters in particular are problematic: zero and asterisk. These need to be highly legible and distinguishable from other characters, and in this font, they’re not. Zero and O are very easily confused. * is almost invisible. These are not trivial issues for at least coders and scientists. I have to assume that it’s not really intended for coding and/or science.

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