Typeface Review


Reviewed by christopher hamamoto on April 12, 2009

Zócalo succeeds on multiple fronts. Functionally, its multiple cuts are fine tuned for optimal setting at various sizes. In a historical sense, it reinterprets classical faces while infusing Cyrus Highsmith‘s distinctive character. And, most refreshingly, it also succeeds by accounting for cultural concerns.

Highsmith based Zócalo’s text cut on two historical typefaces, Chauncey Griffith’s news face Ionic No. 5, and Nicholas Kis’ oldstyle. The Display cut, however, is much freer in its interpretations, drawing inspiration from the “energetic character of Mexico City”. These inspirations combined create a sturdy, readable text face that’s loose in the details. While the roots of the historical models are still apparent, the elongation of the tails, more oblong balls, and curvaceous points of contrast all indicate Zócalo’s Latin flavor.

Highsmith has taken special care to visually unite the family. By drawing aspects of both the Display and Text cuts into Banner, a weight meant for subheads and pull quotes, Highsmith creates both a gradation for size specific use, but also unites the elegant display size with the rough text face.

Highsmith clearly considered cultural context in this design for the Mexican daily El Universal. In addition to the Latin characteristics of the face, special attention was paid to the unique character repetitions of Spanish language texts in a wonderful marriage of form and function. A success on many levels, Zócalo’s unexpected combinations and thoughtful details form something wholly new.

christopher hamamoto is a designer and educator based in Berkeley, CA. He holds an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design and is an assistant professor at California College of the Arts. He co-designed and developed Typographica.

One Comment

  1. Andrew says:

    Daily Nation in Kenya also uses this font.

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