Typeface Review

SangBleu (2017)

Reviewed by Marta Bernstein on October 18, 2018

What makes a set of styles and weights a type family? The answer to that has changed over time, stretching the concept to try to find the limit of cohesion and coherence inside a unified design. SangBleu is experimenting in this field, creating a comprehensive type system with variegated type solutions.

And we do need that.

Many type families are advertised as versatile, but it’s seldom true. The five “collections” here are different enough to make this promise true, in a very unique way. Blending modern features with contemporary details, SangBleu doesn’t belong clearly to any classification, historic or serif-based (serif/sans/slab). A common skeleton is interpreted in five different ways that transcend the text/display definition. This is the reason why the styles are called Empire, Kingdom, Republic, Versailles, and Sunrise (which are evocative enough names, though not that easy to remember).

If you are interested in knowing more about the previous version of SangBleu from 2015, see Jean-Baptiste Levée’s review.

What is interesting in the new release of SangBleu lies not in the details of the design, though Ian Party knows what he is doing, but in the concept of the type system itself.

Large typographic systems designed for/with interpolation may need to sacrifice details and personality across styles for a larger amount of weights, resulting in a loss of character. This is not the case here. Type design needs more experimentation with family structure and type systems. Or just less of same-same.*

So, where is contemporary type design going? There are many answers to that, but the new release of SangBleu is showing one possible and challenging way. Editorial projects are far from disappearing, printing is experiencing a new golden age, and designers need versatile, expressive, experimental, and functional type systems that can express the contemporary feel of their design.

* Quoting the talk Indra Kupferschmid gave at Robothon 2018.

Marta Bernstein is type and graphic designer originally from Milan and now based in Seattle. She attended the Type and Media Master in The Hague (NL) and she teaches type and typography in international universities and design schools. She is one of the founders of CAST type foundry.

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