Vēlo Serif specimen

Typeface Review

Velo Serif

Reviewed by Indra Kupferschmid on March 19, 2015

Velo Serif won my heart four seconds after hitting my inbox with seductive gifs and a big ‘ä’. No one was surprised. I have a super-soft spot for squarish serifs. I love Zapf Book, not Palatino, I collect Old Hamcherry, have researched Corvini, and stare at Antikva Margaret in awe. Velo Serif brings several of these loves together in one contemporary retro type family, but avoids becoming too gimmicky 1970s (e.g., by resisting the obvious temptation for ball terminals).

The first features that spring to your eye are the ridiculously large x-height and the wide super-elliptic forms of the lowercase. They are capital without being majuscule. Where other display serifs go for delicacy and long extenders, Velo rides the opposite way. The bolder styles get so wide that they feel more at home in packaging and advertising than headlines.

Alongside the main act, the twelve display styles, there are four text styles available, which — contrary to the classic display/text-relationship — have a lower x-height and narrower shapes. This makes them less obtrusive in running text and easier to read (a generous x-height doesn’t improve legibility infinitely). However, the boxy shapes and large counters still make the glyphs rather uniform and monotonous, especially in the Regular Italic. The bold weight of the text styles with its higher stroke contrast is the most readable one to me.

But Velo Serif is not charted for long novels anyway. The overexcited display styles prompt big splendid uses (the text styles may assist here and there): sparkling large words in the almost monoline* Thin Italic, cigarette packages in Regular, and please, please, please, a tear-off calendar in the Black style that uses the lovely curvy alternate figures.

In short:

Attack design doldrums with stylistic souplesse. Fashionable figures break away from the populist peloton. Comprehensive characters for culturally correct creations. Sturdy serifs nimbly negotiate any typographic terrain.

Not only have the House team and Ben Kiel, Mitja Miklavčič, and Christian Schwartz won “Best Super Elliptical Squarish Serif of 2014” in my book, they’ve also scooped “Most Eloquently Worded Typeface Descriptions and Promo Blurbs of the Decade”.

* I hesitate to call Velo Serif a slab serif. The Thin styles become almost monoline, yes, but the bracketed serifs are notably thinner than the stems. I admit that Ye Olde Classification System has no good drawer for these kinds of squarish serifs (and even that term is inadequate; I only use it because I don’t know a better one, yet).

Obsessed with topics such as the history of sans-serifs, font rendering, and the classification of typefaces, Indra Kupferschmid is a German typographer, professor of communication design, and traveling activist for the good cause of good type.


  1. The typeface Renault (Wolff Olins, 1978) should be mentioned here. The concept is alike, with its thin Didone-like horizontal Serifs and the heavy vertical slabbish serifs. But Velo combines all the beauty that is missing in Renault with its boxy serifed terminals of the bowed strokes like in ‘e’.

    Regarding your terminology problem, maybe the word “slaboid serif” would be a proper description, which means that the slab serif classification group would be divided into real (Geometric) slab serif and slaboid serif (geometric base with mild bracketing). Clarendon and (most of?) all Scotch Romans would be Slaboids then. And Velo would actually be a Hybrid of Didone and Slaboid. :)

  2. Haha, I like this term. Not sure how practical, or how realistic it is to convince our colleagues. (I prefer “rational” over “Didone”, so Velo would be a Rational Slaboid Serif Hybrid? :)

  3. To me “slab” is most useful in reference to the serif’s brutalist shape, irrespective of its thickness relative to the stem. However Velo Serif still doesn’t fit that mold because of the smooth bracketing… So I would suggest “adnate slab”, borrowing from Bringhurst.

  4. Toshi Omagari says:

    Isn’t that Ionic?

  5. Meh, I’ll go with (rational, bracketed) Serif. That describes what it is. Think of all the non-native English speakers with less refined typo-historical knowledge of terms. (Slab serif was the category Stephen suggested for this site.) I was only looking for a better word than “squarish”.

    I feel Ionic or Clarendons are different to Velo but would fit similar descriptors. With its boxy, superelliptical shapes, I would never describe Velo as being geometric. Most people understand decidedly circular and “constructed” typefaces like Futura or Rockwell under this term. I used “geometric” for serifs with more circular, simplified forms like Candida but all of those, as well as geometric slabs, have unbracketed serifs.

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