Category Archives: Great Pairs

Maiola and Pill Gothic

Today we take a quick look at Veronika Burian’s Maiola with Christian Robertson’s Pill Gothic.


Maiola-and-Pill-Gothic-2One of the first things you’ll notice about Maiola up close is its rough and expressive texture. At size, this detail becomes hardly anything observable, an interesting proof of concept masterfully carried out all the way. Pill Gothic responds with a more traditional sans construction, but with interesting hard edges included here and there to offer some formal commonality. Together the two take full advantage of the maximum versatility gained through each faces’ extensive range of weights.

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Maiola additionally covers Cyrillic and Greek, offering these as separates, or in an all-inclusive Pan-European set. (At least that’s what I assume Maiola PE means.) That’s it. Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.

Imprint and P22 Underground

Today we look at the pairing of an early twentieth century rethinking of the Caslon letter, Monotype’s Imprint, with Paul Hunt & Richard Kegler’s  P22 Underground, drawn after Edward Johnston’s signage system for the London Underground.
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Imprint was similarly credited to Edward Johnston among others, designed expressly for the short-lived British printing magazine, The Imprint, for which Johnston was also one of the editors. The face’s late-Victorian/Edwardian sensibilities are evident throughout. It sets rather light and reserved digitally, though I imagine it reproduced with a touch more heft on the page as hot metal. Like all Caslons, its strength comes in a melodious chorus of imperfect forms. With restrained expressionism, P22 Underground plays a compatible supporting role, matching period and certain stylistic traits such as eccentric use of terminal angle and contrasty patches of negative space. Looking for a similar sign-painterly sans, perhaps a bit more updated? Try Edward.

Imprint-and-P22-Underground-3 Imprint-and-P22-Underground-4 Imprint-and-P22-Underground-5That’s it. Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.

Marat and Marat Sans

Call me lazy, but sometimes I think it’s revealing to look at pairings where the faces are expressly made to work together. Today it’s Ludwig Übele’s Marat and Marat Sans.

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Pervading both designs but particularly visible in Marat [serif] is a certain speed of stroke that snaps at the terminals. Marat Sans is considerably more calm in this regard, though its exuberance is undeniable in its heavier weights. Rather than assuming the more common role as a tempering force in the pairing, the subtle mischief of Marat Sans’s forms only encourages its serifed companion’s playfulness.

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At text sizes, Marat reduces to a pleasant texture, setting economically on the line.

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That’s it. Great Pairs continues here Wednesday. Both Marat and Marat Sans are participating in this year’s March Madness.

FF Quixo and MVB Solano Gothic

Today we take a look at the interaction between a couple of recent favorites of mine, Frank Grießhammer’s FF Quixo and Mark van Bronkhorst’s Solano Gothic.

To those who know its creator, FF Quixo is an autobiographical work—a serious piece of design that doesn’t take itself so seriously it fears a public perception of goofiness. The face achieves a nice texture both on the micro and macro level with a neat, quite carefully orchestrated, yet not-too-careful-looking speedball lettering approach. At size, FF Quixo’s text weight reads like a slightly upped-contrast Clarendon. MVB Solano Gothic stands in striking contrast, a set of two architectural-lettering–inspired alphabets that capture well the feel of American public building signage from, say, 1960. Drawn initially as a single style, caps-only typeface, the design was expanded to include a lowercase and small caps, in a range of weights, both in regular and Retro variants. The generous all-cap spacing seen below is activated via OpenType’s case feature, All caps, or by using the dedicated Caps font singles.

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The characteristic held in common by each is that it’s a current reinterpretation of an old familiar standard. And to me, what makes the pair, is the particularly visible wink at the audience from the vantage point of the faces’ sources. Both evidently designs contemporary to the here and now, they stand as reminders that those draftsmen, letterers, and type designers who came before us also were confronted with the same challenges of form that we face today, and that they humbly achieved greatness through the same sensitivity to form that great work has always required.


I just as well add that FF Quixo has a fantastic set of dingbats, and that Solano Gothic sets short bits of copy just fine. To end, the below example shows what happens when you convert the eszett or German double s ligature, ß, to all caps—it becomes SS (as it should). Though recent attempts have been made to establish the validity of a capital German double s ligature, our two type designers in question today remain firmly opposed to such a step. That’s why I find it an act of supreme humility that Frank Grießhammer includes in FF Quixo the character in both cap and small cap form. He does exile the two to the glyph palette, with neither discretionary ligature nor stylistic alternate / stylistic set access by way of OpenType.


That’s all. Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.

Adriane and Brooklyn Samuels

Today we take a look at the pairing of Marconi Gomes Lima’s Adriane and Hans Samuelson’s Brooklyn Samuels.


A recent expansion of the Brooklyn Samuels family gives us four new numbered widths from (if I were to name them) compressed to normal. Its unusual constructions and softened corners create a casual and inviting texture. Adriane’s strong Neoclassical core gives it the ability to play it straight, though its lively gestures serve as a strong unifier.


The two create a nice cohesive relationship. Brooklyn Samuels irons out much of the bounce in Adriane, and gives its eccentric italic and swash forms license to relax and be themselves. The text preceding No. 4 above is tracked open slightly to allow its setting of a short passage at a smaller size.

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That’s it. Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.

Parkinson Electra and Metro Nova

Let’s look at the pairing of two successful Dwiggins revivals today, Jim Parkinson’s Parkinson Electra and Toshi Omagari’s Metro Nova.
William Addison Dwiggins’s work is marked with a distinctive American voice, and in its forms, an intense preoccupation with detail, a push to ever hold the reader’s attention with an enlivening texture. Both faces exhibit a certain fanciful approach to lettermaking that favors innovation over convention. Note how the serifed face below, Electra, compromises the construction of its lowercase g without sacrificing in the least its stateliness or legibility. Metro gets a similar clickety-clack rhythm from its varied gestural axes and terminal angles.

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That’s it. Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.


Bullen and Rhode Wide

Today’s pairing is Juliet Shen’s Bullen with David Berlow’s Rhode Wide.
Bullen-and-Rhode-Wide-1 Bullen-and-Rhode-Wide-2We’re really just looking at one small part of the larger Rhode family, which draws from American gothic wood type. Bullen is likewise an synthesis of several ATF faces, each chosen for its quirks. In spite of its quirks, Bullen produces an immensely readable result.
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Together, the pair is possessive of a kind of charm that comes from a carefully controlled clumsiness. Rhode Wide emphasizes Bullen’s economical fit.


Great Pairs continues here next week.

FF Tisa and Pilcrow


Bringing us a type palette with a subtle bounce today is the pairing of a long-held personal favorite, Mitja Miklavčič’s FF Tisa, and Satya Rajpurohit’s recently released Pilcrow. Though Satya’s work through his own Indian Type Foundry focuses mainly on Indic scripts such as Devanagari, Tamil, or Gurmukhi, his latest release demonstrates a developed understanding of the Latin alphabet, and a new perspective at the intersection of geometric and industrial gothic.


Pilcrow offers enough structural reinforcement to complement well FF Tisa’s casual demeanor. Unifying the two is Pilcrow’s own playful take on what would otherwise be featureless curves and joins. This is particularly evident in the heavier weights of the blunted variant, Pilcrow Soft.


As Tisa progresses in weight, the face advances from a relatively narrow fit to a comfortably wide stance.

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That’s all. Catch Great Pairs here each Wednesday.

Le Monde Journal and Parisine

Today we pair a couple of Jean François Porchez’s masterfully understated faces, Le Monde Journal and Parisine.

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From Le Monde Journal emanates a certain strength, mostly due to its forceful rhythm and its forms’ careful balance between robust gestures and delicate details. The face is designed to set compactly both horizontally and vertically, with a narrow fit, a large x-height and modest extenders. It also comes in a range of tightly-stepped weights to accommodate various factors of scale and output. As a companion to Le Monde Journal, Parisine operates as a sophisticated humanist sans, adding a softer dimension to the pairing. Together the two create a versatile set that lends care and credibility to its message. Should you require something even more playful, see Parisine Plus.Le-Monde-Journal-and-Parisine-3 Le-Monde-Journal-and-Parisine-4 Le-Monde-Journal-and-Parisine-5

Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.

FF Yoga and FF Sero

Today we look at Xavier Dupré’s FF Yoga and Jörg Hemker FF Sero.

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FF Sero’s understated humanized gothic, fully capable of text setting on its own, puts the emphasis on FF Yoga’s statelier qualities. Together the two create a warm, firm, yet flexible feel, suitable for contemporary work. If FF Yoga looks familiar, it’s because the face is heavily influenced by Eric Gill’s Joanna, but not without a fresh take all its own.FF-Yoga-and-FF-Sero-3 FF-Yoga-and-FF-Sero-4 FF-Yoga-and-FF-Sero-5

Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.

Athelas and Domus Titling

Today we’ll take a quick look at  Veronika Burian & José Scaglione’s Athelas with Tim Ahrens & Shoko Mugikura’s Domus Titling.

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Both drawing from classical models, but introducing their own twist, the pair support each other nicely. Domus Titling is based on and carries the proportions of formal inscriptional lettering, but its rounded corners and soft stroke endings create some contemporary interest. Athelas likewise plays with the transitional or neoclassical Roman model, introducing updated touches here and there. Its italic particularly breaks from convention, pursing a feel much more calligraphic than drafted or engraved.Athelas-and-Domus-Titling-3 Athelas-and-Domus-Titling-4 Athelas-and-Domus-Titling-5That’s it. Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.

Colvert and MVB Solitaire

Today we look at Jonathan Perez’s Colvert with Mark van Bronkhorst’s MVB Solitaire. I guess I should also mention Natalia Chuvatin, Kristyan Sarkis, and Irene Vlachou; Colvert covers four scripts — Latin, Arabic, Cyrillic & Greek — each drawn natively, though we’ll look most closely at the Latin.

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Colvert’s rich, French Renaissance texture is unmistakeable. In creating this work Perez updates the tone, leaving behind something fresh and familiar. Solitaire achieves a sophisticated humanist feel both thanks to and in spite of its wholehearted pursuit of generality. Together, the two create a versatile partnership with a feel that covers the spectrum between the ancient and contemporary.

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Colvert’s bold has a nice bite to it.

Adding to its versatility is the fact that in this pair, either typeface is quite proficient at setting text.
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Colvert-and-MVB-Solitaire-6That’s it. Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.

FF Ernestine and Directors Gothic

Today we look at something a little less conventional: Nina Stössinger’s FF Ernestine paired with Neil Summerour’s redrawing of the Lettering Inc. series, Directors Gothic.

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FF Ernestine’s delicate finish and casual, wide stance are accentuated by Directors Gothic’s plain (and compact) nature. The American sans captures a classic ad-lettering style, with tightly controlled strokes, and a subtle human touch. The face comes in an astonishing 90 styles, each of the five sets growing incrementally wider, by the numbers.
FF-Ernestine-and-Directors-Gothic-3 FF-Ernestine-and-Directors-Gothic-4 Placed in proximity to the spare all-caps line of Directors Gothic, FF Ernestine’s texture is nothing short of luxurious.

That’s it. Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.

Alda and Flex

Today we look at Berton Hasebe’s Alda with Paul van der Laan’s Flex.

Alda’s an unconventional family in that it varies in hardness along its weight axis. This is most visible in its italic, which ranges from a soft, smooth texture to one much more rough-hewn. Flex’s strong, even, humanist feel accentuates the range Alda demonstrates and allows its forms to take the primary position of interest.
Alda-and-Flex-2 Alda-and-Flex-3 Alda-and-Flex-4 Alda-and-Flex-5Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.

FF Kievit Slab and FF Kievit

Today we look at the unison pairing of Michael Abbink & Paul van der Laan’s FF Kievit Slab with the original FF Kievit.

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The overall feeling between the two is difficult to describe; the humanistic forms create an air both American and European, and at once neither. Either of the Kievits are at home setting body text, but just to demonstrate opposing roles, I pair here various weights of the sans with FF Kievit Slab’s book weight. Both variants come in a complete set of nine weights from Thin to Black.
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Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.


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