Typeface Review


Reviewed by Eben Sorkin on October 18, 2018

Early in my type design education at the Reading MATD course Antonio Cavedoni very kindly presented me with the axiom that your type will inevitably reflect fun you had (or didn’t have) designing it. I took this idea to heart. I realized, too, that it was both a warning and an encouragement. The result of this (for me) pivotal moment is that I now pay special attention when a typeface raises a definite emotion in me. It is by this measure that I want to praise Vesterbro’s feeling. When I look at Vesterbro it feels very well behaved but with a welcome dose of optimism and occasional touches playfulness or even glee. I am simply charmed. It makes me smile.

Arguably, charm is a good thing in general, but is a particularly good sign for a workhorse text face since there is more than enough superlative competition. I think that a new design entering this space must offer a feeling that is both distinctive and compelling enough to get a user to bother trying it in place of what they already know and trust. The reticence of users of workhorse text faces may also be why Black[foundry] cleverly allows you to use a trial version of Vesterbro before licensing it.

In fairness for some people (and some purposes) the point of a workhorse really is that it be dialed back and “transparent” because a more definite feeling will limit what you can do with it. However my reading of the current trend in attitude is that we are seeing a movement away from and an impatience with “transparency”. Now we seem to want body text that has a stronger personality and which seems to emote more. This should give Vesterbro more appeal.

Given what I have said so far it is a little ironic to me that most persuasive element in the collection is not the part intended for body text. It is the very heavy poster weight. And in the end it is the really the key element in the system that caught me and kept me coming back to look at the design. The Poster weight has the full grin of a Cheshire cat.

The one aspect of the family that I would like to see improved is that while the design as a whole seems to read nicely across a fairly broad range of sizes the non-Poster weights of the italics look less good than the rest when they are very large.

I hope to see Vesterbro in use!

Eben Sorkin is a type designer living in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. He designs fonts for Darden Studio, URW++, Google and his own foundry Sorkin Type. Eben is a member of the ATypI board.

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