Category Archives: Great Pairs

Sweet Sans and Business Penmanship


Having kept an eye out for a definitive standard on American wedding announcements or other physical social media, I was glad to finally come across Emily Post’s Etiquette in Society, which to my mind is the latest reference to introduce a principled set of norms to the medium. While thoroughly anachronistic, I prefer it to today’s anything goes, a standard so lax it becomes synonymous with no standard at all. It requires courage to pen a line such as “The wording and spacing [of the handwritten invitation] must follow the engraved models exactly.” It’s in Chapter 11 Invitations, Acceptances and Regrets, that I remember reading a couple years back,

“All other formal invitations are engraved (never printed) on cards of thin white matte Bristol board, either plain or plate-marked like those for wedding reception cards.”

“Printed” here means that the cards are not to be letterpress printed. We’ve since swung 180° on this point, with letterpress printing back in fashionable use, but the question made brings up a few interesting points. First, engraving is a refined medium, and beside handwriting, the only suitable one for these important matters. Second, engravers alphabets come from a completely different tradition than printing types. The process is different, and the limitations of each medium, real and imposed, are very different. Thus the function, feel, and look of the type in both instances diverge. Third, in order to create an invitation that looks like one produced through traditional means, one must either follow through with the original engraving process, or design with type that comes from that tradition, made specifically to work well in a different medium, such as offset lithography or digital printing.


The Sweet Collection, including one of the subjects of our pairing, Mark van Bronkhorst’s Sweet Sans, is an example of an entire catalogue of faces drawn to this specification. They’re made to look and work like traditional engravers alphabets in print. Others exist, such as the Sackers series, but none are done so well, nor expanded into such developed families. The other face is Alejandro Paul’s Business Penmanship, a stand-in for your own penmanship, or a fine (sadly period-specific) replacement, based on the handwriting styles taught by Spencer, Zaner, Palmer, and others. My mother’s hand is more or less this exactly.


Sweet Sans is shown here in all small caps, available via OpenType. If you’re not using an OpenType-savvy app and would still like access to the small caps, there’s a small cap version specifically for you.


Together, the two work flawlessly. Their stylistic contrast, and cohesive period feel serve to deliver their message with a simple unvarnished tone.



Great Pairs continue here Wednesday.

Parry and Parry Grotesque


At the risk of turning this blogging business into a commercial venture, I’d like to announce that today’s great pair was suggested by Rudy Geeraerts of OurType, and that its publishing corresponds to OurType’s set of Wedding Month Great Pairs, meaning that this specific pair, Parry and Parry Grotesque, is selling at 50% off right now; all packages and singles. And by the way, every package includes webfonts as part of the basic license. It’s a fine deal, to understate it.Parry-and-Parry-Grotesque-2


And what I love about Parry is its incredibly grounded, correspondence type feel. The kind you get looking at a page of text produced with a manual typewriter. In all weights its low contrast serves to lend candor and relatability to its message.


Parry-and-Parry-Grotesque-6The companion sans, Parry Grotesque translates the energy of the serifed face into its natural sans equivalent, a charming English grotesque, and to the extent it can, plays up the monolinear aspect of the design. This is really a smart move on the part of its designer, Artur Schmal, allowing each face to perform successfully in a broad range of sizes.


Putting these two together creates uninterrupted effervescence. To say that they were made for each other would be to state the obvious, which I happily do. This is a fun relationship that’s built to last. And to reiterate: these are on sale this week.

Medusa with Medusa Small Caps

Okay maybe it’s a bit of a stretch for the series, but to demonstrate the typographic possibilities of one of my favorite new faces (that also happens to fit perfectly with Wedding Month), today we pair Ramiro Espinoza’s calligraphy & engraving-inspired Medusa with itself—its own contrasting set of engraved Roman small caps. This is a rare mix of styles in a single font, but ultimately a very useful one as there’s never a question of what size to set the Roman in relation to the script. It’s designed to always be set at the same size.


Scripts legendarily take up space, both vertical and horizontal. When designing with Medusa, rather than push back at its demand for more space, I design with this requirement in mind, set the type at an appropriate scale to the medium, and give ample room by saying only what needs to be said.



The small caps mix in stylistically, but stand up with their own voice when occasion calls. The font also contains a set of decorative swashes and embellished swash caps.

Tip on using small caps

The above small caps are accessible via OpenType. To set Medusa in small caps, first, highlight the text. Then, from the top right corner of the Character panel in InDesign, choose OpenType > All Small Caps, or begin typing ‘small caps’ into Quick Apply and hit enter. If you’re in Photoshop or Illustrator, choose Small Caps from the same menu at the top right of the Character panel. In another upcoming piece in the Using Type series, I’ll discuss how to access these features in other non-professional programs.


In tomorrow’s Using Type I’ll go into more detail on using scripts specific to wedding typography. Until then, thanks for reading Great Pairs. Another great pair will be here Wednesday.

Great Pairs: Corporate A, S, E.

I remember first being introduced to Kurt Weidemann’s Corporate ASE collection while working for a boutique print design firm in Washington some five years ago. It seemed odd to me at the time that Mercedes had not secured exclusive licensing to the suite of typefaces they commissioned. In the years since it has remained no less odd. The suite consists of a serifed text face, Corporate A for antiqua, A slab, Corporate E for egyptienne, and a sans, Corporate S.
Corporate-ASE-3It should be no surprise that the faces work perfectly with each other, but one unexpected perk is the range of size at which these robust forms are capable of working. The refined Corporate A manages to ably set text and perform beautifully at display sizes, a feat that, despite the common throwaway line in type marketing copy, is in fact rare. I chalk this ability up to its narrow width, loose fit, tall x-height, and controlled contrast.
Aside from the fact that Daimler-Benz has employed them for nearly 30 years, the basic shapes should look somewhat familiar. The antiqua and sans don’t differ so radically in their relationship from that of a modern to a gothic. The main difference being polish and an overall sophisticated coolness.
That’s it for this week. Great Pairs continues next week with wedding month pairs.

ITC Stone Serif and Supria Sans

I’ve kind of enjoyed pulling out these lesser-known text faces over the past few weeks and putting them through their paces. This week we take a look at Sumner Stone’s ITC Stone Serif with Hannes von Döhren’s Supria Sans.



Supria Sans’s design walks a path somewhere in between the British and German grotesque traditions, with an overall toughened and squared exterior, and a few sweet curves. The entire set includes a normal and condensed width, each with two sets of inclined forms. For emphasis, use either the optically-corrected oblique, or the perversely cute italic.
ITC-Stone-Serif-and-Supria-Sans-4ITC Stone Serif is a marvel of legibility and evenness of color. Its tone is that of artlessness. As some font marketing copy makes a point of noting a typeface’s ‘true’ italics, let me borrow the term and say that Stone Serif’s bold is a true bold. (There’s a semi-bold if you’re not that kind of typographer.)

Catch Great Pairs here each Wednesday.

Lavigne and FF Netto

For today’s great pair, let’s look at Ramiro Espinoza’s Lavigne with Daniel Utz’s FF Netto. Trying to come up with a suitable companion for FF Netto, a face that definitely deserves some recognition, it finally occurred to me to test it with a text face that has a pretty conspicuous personality.


Lavigne was created to solve a specific problem in fashion publishing—not enough individuality among the typically bland modern/romantic type palettes characteristic to the industry. Though more well known for its Display cut, Lavigne Text settles down and gets to work at text sizes.


FF Netto, a plainspoken spurless UI/wayfinding face is probably best known for its extensive set of stylized icons.


Together, the two complement their counterparts, each serving as a proper foil to emphasize the best characteristics possessed by the other.

Great Pairs is a regular series. Catch it here each Wednesday.

Custodia and TheSans

Today we examine the pairing of Fred Smeijers’s Custodia and Luc de Groot’s TheSans (also known as Thesis Sans). What surprises me most seeing these two at work together isn’t how one pulls the other in a specific direction, but rather how very much at home the two Dutch designs appear to be with one another.
Custodia,-TheSans-1 Custodia,-TheSans-2

Custodia takes influences from the work of a number of 17th century Dutch punchcutters, creating a lively surface when setting running text. I’ve given the body generous line spacing in these examples, helping to give it an contemporary look.



TheSans is humanist (and obviously, a sans serif design), full of many complementary quirks, such as the baseline-twisting S. TheSans, together with the numerous members of its superfamily, TheSans Mono, TheSerif, TheMix, TheAntiqua, etc. come in an impressive array of weights and offer quite a bit of options in terms of language support. Seeing the relationship come together between TheSans and Custodia was a nice surprise for me, given the sometimes haphazard nature of pairing faces, but I see these two getting along quite well.


Great Pairs continue here Wednesday.

Pona and Salvo Sans


This week we examine the pairing of Jordi Embodas’s Pona and Cyrus Highsmith’s Salvo Sans. Our look will more or less be a quick study in typographic texture, a pairing of coarse and smooth. As I generally do when working with two faces, I line up their styles to get a sense for what’s working.


Pona comes off incredibly even-colored, a contemporary pushing along of the great page presence had by late baroque and neoclassical types before it. Note how the rhythm of the stems, overall relaxed fit, and high stroke contrast contribute to a rich, sophisticated, smooth texture.

Add to that the much coarser texture of Salvo Sans’s exuberant gestures and near-monolinear stroke. The result is a text that warms to its subheads, and a titles that – though casual – stay on their best behavior.


Great Pairs drop here Wednesdays.

JAF Lapture and Geogrotesque Stencil

Today we pair Tim Ahrens’s JAF Lapture, a careful reworking of Albert Kapr’s Leipziger Antiqua, with Eduardo Manso’s Geogrotesque Stencil.



JAF Lapture comes in a three weights (with companion italics) across a generous four optical sizes arranged below into columns: Caption, [Regular], Subhead, and Display. Geogrotesque Stencil spans seven weights from Thin to Bold.


The particular stencil variant shown above is one of three. See sets A, B, and C below, the difference between the them being the width of their bridges. A non-stencil version also exists, complete with italics.


Above: Geogrotesque Stencil C Light with JAF Lapture Display. The decisions made to preserve some characteristic signs of Lapture’s age and the age of its influences can cause it to come off a bit stern. Pairing it with a contemporary sans, and specifically this lighthearted stencil face, highlights Lapture’s easily overlooked newness and freshness.



Great Pairs land here each Wednesday.

Richler and MVB Embarcadero



Nick Shinn’s Richler and Mark van Bronkhorst’s MVB Embarcadero make up today’s great pair. Let’s look at Richler on its own for a moment. See how its squarely-drawn curves, sharp bits and airy fit allow it to resonate on the page. Nick’s description of the face as a 21st century antiqua I find particularly worth noting. It achieves an old familiar look, similar to say, a Melior, but with a fit that’s crisp and contemporary.


Playing up Richler’s contemporary feel is a gentle piece of American vernacular-inspired type, MVB Embarcadero. Together the two create a compatible and versatile relationship that can be tuned between clean, staid polish and carelessly relaxed warmth.

Richler,-MVB-Embarcadero-4 Richler,-MVB-Embarcadero-5

Great Pairs continue here Wednesday.

ITC Mendoza and FF Good



This will be a super short great pair. I came across José Mendoza ITC Mendoza a few weeks back and felt like this was one that definitely deserved more attention. Its odd lettershapes and loose fit produces a kind of wild rhythm on the page. Playing the strong sans in this pairing is Lukasz Dziedzic’s wood type inspired FF Good. Itself possessing a similar unsettling quality, together the two strike a chord that’s utterly haunting in its subtlety.


Great Pairs are featured here each Wednesday.

Malabar and Versa Sans




There’s something nice and earthy about Dan Reynolds’s Malabar with Peter Verheul’s Versa Sans. At size and set in a body, Malabar’s sparkle is made a quiet fire. Its rationalized posture and renaissance details, along with its tall x-height and eased fit produce a text face both sophisticated and grounded. Marrying this with Versa Sans, the slightly de-thorned model of its namesake Dutch humanist face, each takes on a nicely plainspoken quality.


Shown at the same size here, 8/12 pt, one can see how comparatively big on the body Malabar is.


Great Pairs land here each Wednesday.

Ysobel and Dessau

This week we pair and explore the relationship between Ysobel, the Century-inspired collaborative work of Delve Withrington, Robin Nicholas and Alice Savoie, and Gábor Kóthay’s Bauhausian display type series Dessau.


Both come in a variety of styles. Ysobel includes a separately drawn Display optical size for large work. Dessau’s various styles catalogue the popular architectural lettering and type created during the early years of the Bauhaus, offering alternates and variations on the theme as the designer edited his collection. Dessau does include lowercase letters, though I don’t show much of them here since the faces are more successful in uppercase.

Ysobel, Dessau

Together the two temper one another. Dessau’s cool tendency is turned cheery. Ysobel’s conversational nature comes off slightly more factual and succinct. Since it’s designed for display, at text and small subhead sizes Dessau requires a bit of tracking to allow its letters room to breathe. Though the pair is anachronistic, I think I’ve found something worth discovering by putting the two in the same composition.



Great Pairs run here weekly on Wednesdays.

FF Videtur and Ciutadella

I’ve kept an eye out for a while now for a pairing that brings out the most interesting qualities of Axel Bertram & Andreas Frohloff’s FF Videtur. Coming across Eduardo Manso’s Ciutadella and testing the two together revealed a nice compatibility. The compositions of both Ciutadella and FF Videtur hold to a strict structure, but in different ways, one geometric, the other observant of a coarse modular grid. Either is capable of taking a cool or warm tone depending on use.

Ciutadella’s characteristics such as its low-waisted capitals and casual M, along with its unassuming lowercase tend to warm the page. FF Videtur, begun from a bitmap-based face for maximum legibility on televisions screens, has generous apertures and modest serifs that all but disappear at text sizes. Together, the two oppose each other just enough to create an overall cozy relationship.

Ciutadella’s default single-story a, &, and t have alternates accessed through OpenType Stylistic Sets. FF Videtur’s overall low contrast gives it a special ability of functioning at both text and display sizes.

Scotch Modern and Koch

Scotch Modern Display, KochScotch Modern

One of the things I love about Nick Shinn’s Scotch Modern is its ability to capture the best characteristics of the great old moderns, and yet keep a crisp feel. You may then wonder why I choose to pair it with an obscure ’90s digitization of Kabel, Garrett Boge’s Koch. I think what I see in each, and the pair together is a real, substantive attempt to get at the beauty underlying the many years of wear put on by the passage of time.

Scotch Modern optical sizes, Koch

Scotch Modern comes in three optical sizes: the robust and generously fit Micro for classifieds, captions, etc., above left; its normal cut for text, center; and the finer Display, right. Choosing to limit myself this week to a sans without a range of weights was a welcome change. Koch’s medium weight with tall ascenders and caps isn’t very versatile, so you have to plan around it.

Scotch Modern, Koch

Scotch Modern, Koch

If I could name a couple of the more updated sanses in this vein, I’d include Sindre Bremnes’s Telefon and Nick Shinn’s Figgins Sans, initially released with Scotch Modern as part of The Modern SuiteGreat Pairs continues here Wednesday.


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