Karol Sans specimen

Typeface Review

Karol Sans

Reviewed by Aoife Mooney on March 19, 2015

In Karol Sans, designer Daniel Sabino has created a seemingly contradictory harmony: a beautifully balanced text family with oodles of personality. Ostensibly inspired by wood engraving and evoking the work of Menhart, Koch, and (to my eye, in the heavier weights) even some notes of Novarese’s Ritmo (Nebiolo, 1955), Karol Sans is more than the sum of its influences. Faceted forms, chunky solidity, and a pretty delicacy coexist here in a poised tension, wrangled with a skill and rigor also evident in both its seriffed relation, Karol, and Sabino’s tasty script typeface Haltrix.

In its range of weights and styles, Karol Sans supports a breadth of diverse expression and typographic tones of voice. In text settings, it feels informal and yet trustworthy, with a comfortable and economical set of proportions and a durable contrast that equip it well for use in a variety of media. With the inclusion of Black and Light for display, it seems particularly useful for editorial design.

At small sizes, the confident features of the forms become well-behaved subtleties, conveying an even-tempered friendliness that colors but does not overpower the content. Karol Sans is not a neutral crystal goblet by any means — as its tagline will attest — but careful decisions on the part of the designer have allowed this family a mutable disposition that appears to adapt seamlessly to new contexts and content through its potential for permutations of scale, weight, and style.

Small caps and both oldstyle and lining figures come as standard, for tabular and proportional setting, and Karol Sans also comes equipped with a set of dainty little arrows! These comforts, along with discrete and independent long-reading weights and display options, allow this family to span the typographical gamut with deceptive ease.

From the swaggering, confident march of the heaviest romans to the brisk, sprightly jog of the lightest italics, this family boasts a strident rhythm that pervades and coheres with a self-assured elegance — a defining quality of this family and, it seems, a mark of Sabino’s work in general. In the jaunty tittle, jostling quote marks, deliberate ampersand, and expectant question mark, the speed, angles, and sheared curves of this typeface conspire to make a living language almost breathe on the page.

Aoife Mooney holds an MA in Typeface Design from the University of Reading. She has over seven years of type design experience, having worked as a full-time typeface designer for Hoefler & Frere-Jones before becoming a freelance typeface designer and consultant for Frere-Jones Type and Google since moving to Ohio in 2013. She is an Assistant Professor at Kent State University, where she researches, writes about, and teaches type design, typography, and graphic design.

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