Typeface Review


Reviewed by Michael Surtees on April 7, 2009

I spend most of my day reading on screen with the same browser friendly typefaces that we’ve all grown to love and hate. I don’t spend much time laying out type on paper anymore, but if I were to publish a book I’d want to use Mokka.

I asked myself if I had to spend a lot of time with just one typeface designed in 2008, what would it be? One of the requirements would include that it needed to feel like it was crafted by hand as I didn’t want it to look like it was spit out by a computer and interesting character relationships. I absolutely love the ‘ae’ pairing. There’s a great dance going on between those two letters together. They each pick up where the other one is missing. The sharp terminal on the ‘a’ balances with the eye of the ‘e’.

Another requirement for my face: it should show different personalities depending on the size. When it’s tiny Mokka has a fluid uniformity, yet when the type is increased significantly in size each character offers a lot of distinct shapes.

In Mokka there’s a nice spatial relationship that draws the reader’s eye across a page, yet there are enough hooks to offer an interesting reading experience. Large blocks of type together with subtle and not-so-quiet characters let a designer be quite sophisticated in how they express themselves. It’s funny what brings me joy — the word “just” is very close to perfection in flow and balance.

Finally, up until now I’ve never really wanted to use an italicized version of a typeface except to highlight small amounts of text. I’d feel very comfortable with Mokka to try more than just that. If I relate the roman set of the typeface with a sharp chisel, the italics feel as though they were crafted with a brush by the same hands.

Michael Surtees is a product design director and practitioner of user experience design (UXD) based in NYC. Currently he is the Head of Design at Dataminr designing early warning and detection systems for clients in News, Finance and the Public Sector.

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