Quarto specimen

Typeface Review


Reviewed by Matthew Buchanan on March 19, 2015

One of Hoefler & Co.’s longtime strengths has been an ability to fashion an original take in what often felt like a crowded genre. Most notably, their reinterpretation of the rationalist Didones as HTF Didot for Harper’s Bazaar, and the expansion of their Clarendon-inspired yet undeniably modern slab Sentinel to include italics, testify to their knack for bettering the best.

Quarto — inspired by early display types of Flemish punchcutter Hendrik van den Keere and named for the printed format in which his exemplars were distributed — is a high-contrast, humanist display serif that pairs old-world structure and confidence with contemporary flourishes. Think of it as Garamond on prom night.

Sara Soskolne and Jonathan Hoefler collaborated to expand Van den Keere’s single, 400-year-old alphabet into a family of five weights, each with a matching italic. Maybe it’s my proximity to Australia, but I was particularly drawn to the light italic weight; creative director Brian Hennings’ setting of the phrase “North Queensland” among the H&Co. specimens highlights its flawless rhythm, aggressively tucked tails, and centerpiece swashed ‘Q’ like they’ve existed for centuries.

I’m usually averse to a smaller bowl in the lowercase ‘a’, but the combination of organic curves and an abrupt, straight-line cut in the terminal more than remedies this one, which only works better the larger it’s set.

Quarto is authoritative and elegant in equal measure.

Matthew Buchanan is a designer and typographer from Auckland, New Zealand. He co-founded design studio Cactuslab and social network Letterboxd, convenes the interactive judging panel for New Zealand’s Best Awards, and created Vimeo’s most popular typography channel, Nice Type.

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