Typeface Review


Reviewed by MarĂ­a Ramos on October 18, 2018

It is easy to understand how a few shapes created for a banknote can inspire a whole typeface; the bold big characters need to stand out in a complex composition of ornaments, fine-tuned illustrations, and geometric patterns. I am curious to see the 1918 Chinese banknote that inspired Nickel.

The long triangular serifs make me think of those Latin typefaces that appeared in the second half of the nineteenth century, rather than a Glyphic style. This kind of flared serif has seen a renaissance in the last decade. The sharp terminals are an obvious choice for display typefaces. Recently, however, they can also be found in text typefaces of various genres. In Nickel, we see a typeface for bold designs and big sizes. One of the challenges that surfaces with this idea is how to fit elegant serifs in a chunky structure, how to maintain the tight metrics and not create a Frankenstein. This well executed mix is one of the strengths of the typeface. The heavy, squarish skeleton of the glyphs, combined with sharp stylish terminals, makes for an exciting design.

Nickel was also the inaugural typeface from the Font of the Month Club, a font distribution channel that launched in 2017. Looking at the other typefaces in the Club, together with other retail fonts from DJR, I see someone who uses patterns and countershapes in a very smart way. Most of his typefaces show the skills of a designer who masters negative forms in a positive way.

After obtaining a degree in advertising, MarĂ­a Ramos worked as a graphic and editorial designer. In 2014, she decided to focus her career on type design; she holds an MATD from the University of Reading. She is one of the founders of NM type and a member of Alphabettes.


  1. Thiago says:

    When I first saw the font, it most immediately reminded me of the logo of the company I work for, which is set in all-caps Serpentine Bold Oblique. I was very happy when I saw that Serpentine was inserted as “related” to it in Fonts In Use .com, not only because I think it was very rightly done, but also because it helped me remember the name of the font of the logo.

    It does look very nice. I think it is cool how the “J” is the opposite of the “L”.

  2. If you are curious to see the banknote that inspired Nickel, look no further than the New York Times article that my mom sent to me (before the section “Chinese Walls”).

    A 1918 bill for the Asia Banking Corporation. Collection of Mark D. Tomasko via nytimes.com.

    If you look closely, you’ll see that the serifs were a bit more Latinate in the original, which gels with the Latin connection that María makes above. Thanks so much for the wonderful review!

  3. Here’s a zoom:

    I also enjoy the wide, square sans used in the border around the central illustration.

  4. Thanks for sharing! There is some beauty in the squashed 1918 as well.

  5. Nickel Sans spoilers!? 🙈😜

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