Typeface Review


Reviewed by Jan Middendorp on March 11, 2014

Until recently, hairline fonts (typefaces with an ultra-thin, near-monolinear stroke width) were rare beasts. It is easy to see why: making a well-balanced hairline face requires superior drawing skills, and the market for these designs is limited. They only work well in large sizes, and web use can practically be excluded. But their spiderweb aesthetic has gradually conquered magazine and advert­ising design, and type designers have followed suit and embraced the challenge.

By and large, hairline typefaces fall into two cate­gories. They are either display variants of large text families (Interstate, FF Meta, and TheSans come to mind), or monolinear scripts, like Ale Paul’s Business Penmanship. Both genres are rooted in firmly defined conventions, which they kind of extra­p­olate into the realm of the filigree. Contrary to what’s happening on the other extreme of the weight spec­trum, where wacky ultra-blacks abound, the hairline principle seems to offer less room for experimentation.

That’s why the laconically-named Line is such a welcome addition to the typographic palette. With its striking combination of calligraphic connected letters and square shapes for ‘h’, ‘m’, and ‘n’, plus un­ceremon­ious straight top serifs on ascenders, it is a wonderful paradox: a fluid script that gets punctuated at irregular intervals by over-rationalized, straight-lined parodies. I imagine this is a bit how Jonathan Barnbrook, the godfather of hipster fonts, might do a script.

I like Line for its innovative spirit and cheekiness. I also appreciate that it comes in a range of weights, from thin to thinner, so that imaginative art directors will be able to set page-size headlines in a variety of sizes with constant stroke thickness.

Jan Middendorp is a type writer and page maker. He is author of several books about graphic design and typography including Shaping Text, Hand to Type, Lettered, Creative Characters and (with Erik Spiekermann) Made with FontFont. In 2018 he self-published a reprint of his successful and sought-after 2004 book Dutch Type, which is now available again at the original price.

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