Nitti Grotesk specimen

Typeface Review

Nitti Grotesk

Reviewed by William Berkson on March 19, 2015

Nitti Grotesk pulls off something I didn’t think could be done: it’s a neo-Grotesque that is comfortable to read.

The famous and infamous Helvetica looks strong and dramatic in display, but has problems with readability. In a typeface, comfortable reading is promoted by even “color” (meaning an even density of gray) and a fairly regular rhythm of vertical strokes across the word. The even rhythm is accomplished partly by having the white spaces within letters — the counters — balance the white spaces between letters. In Helvetica you have wide letters, such as the circular ‘o’, and tight letter spacing, and the rhythm gets uneven. If you try to remedy the rhythm by spacing letters with those same proportions more widely, the words can fall apart visually.

What Pieter van Rosmalen has done with Nitti Grotesk is to narrow the Grotesque forms and loosen the spacing, while keeping the relatively monoline and closed style of Helvetica and its cousins. In van Rosmalen’s hands, this has resulted in the strikingly even rhythm of the typeface. It comes with both (default) two-story and one-story ‘g’ and ‘a’ as variants. Getting all the forms to balance beautifully, with even rhythm, is one of the big challenges in type design, and Nitti Grotesk pulls it off particularly well. The result is an attractive, strong workhorse sans for comfortable reading.

William Berkson is a philosopher and type designer. His revival Williams Caslon is available from Font Bureau.

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