Category Archives: Great Pairs

Malaussène Translation and T-Star


Let’s look at a pairing of a couple of Gestalten faces, Laure Afchain’s Malaussène, and Michael Mischler’s T-Star.


Alright, technically it’s called Malaussène Translation, and that’s because it’s the first of a series that explores different kinds of stroke contrast: translation, rotation, and expansion. If you haven’t read Gerrit Noordzij’s The Stroke, doing so will clear everything up in about a fifty pages. The face comes in four weights, the standard Roman, Italic, Bold—and then—out of nowhere a super-quirky topheavy black Display weight. Its overall feel in text is fresh and refined.

T-Star is a spare, rectilinear design in five weights, all but the heaviest accompanied by its italic. It also happens to have a monospaced variant in selected weights. Together the two serve to create an updated and contemporary palette capable of refreshing the eyes of their readers.

Malaussene-Translation-and-T-Star-3 Malaussene-Translation-and-T-Star-4
Great Pairs land here each Wednesday.

Alisal and Recta

Today we look at the pairing of Matthew Carter’s Alisal with Aldo Novarese’s Recta (digitization by Canada Type).


Recta, also known as the “Italian Helvetica,” distinguishes itself from others in its class mainly by the dynamism of its character widths. Its forms give the appearance of geometric construction, while maintaining contours full of nuanced touches. What first drew me to Alisal was the forceful nature of its italic, a spare and linear updating of the Italian Renaissance hands that influenced the first italic typefaces. Note the fine details, such as the swelled terminals of the brackets and parentheses.
Working with each other, Alisal and Recta give one another sufficient opposition in structure, while retaining a strong sense of stylistic compatibility.

Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.

Tiina and Monopol

Let’s take a look today at Valentin Brustaux’s Tiina with Tomas Brousil’s Monopol.
Tiina is a sturdy, contemporary serif face, drawn from no specific tradition or family line. Its low contrast and generous fit serve to keep the face both approachable and firmly affixed to the page. As a block of text, Tiina holds together exceptionally well.
Tiina-and-Monopol-2 Tiina-and-Monopol-3
Monopol exists solely as an extra compressed, or skyline sans in a range of weights from very thin to as heavy as heavy goes. Its construction is that of the draftsman-inspired alphabets of the early to mid-twentieth century, with several well-considered exceptions in form and fit. Depending on final size, you may need to track Monopol open some. Together, Tiina and Monopol form a fine working relationship, each offering more than sufficient ground to allow its companion’s distinguishing characteristics take the role as the figure.

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Great Pairs land here each Wednesday.

Satyr and Lisboa Sans

Let’s examine the pairing of Sindre Bremnes’s Satyr and Ricardo Santos’s Lisboa Sans.

Satyr sets somewhat wide and carries itself with an air of confidence. Where its inky and mottled forms add age, its fit and sense of proportion gives it a fresh young voice. The characters of Lisboa Sans sit much more upright, generating interest at a large scale by the interesting use of counterform and snug fit. Additional exotic elements include its terminal angles, and an overall dynamism of character width. Together the two support each other in a relationship of equals, each full of small quirks, each doing its own job.
Satyr-and-Lisboa-2 Satyr-and-Lisboa-3 Satyr-and-Lisboa-4
Detail of Satyr seting body copy.
Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.

Update: Nina Stössinger left a great comment on how FF Legato makes a very cohesive companion to Satyr. Please keep the insights coming.

Swift and Tondo

Today we pair Gerard Unger’s Swift with Veronika Burian’s Tondo.
A news face, Swift’s rigid forms set economically with a tone that’s neither too harsh nor too supple. Tondo is a clear, simply structured grotesk with modestly squared curves and rounded terminals. Among its weights is a slightly condensed Signage variant. Together, the two contribute to a texture that can oscillate between taut and loose, sparkling with detail, and flat, plain and clean.


Should you need it, Swift 2.0 from Paratype has full Cyrillic support. And Tondo Corporate supports both Cyrillic and Greek.
Swift-and-Tondo-2 Swift-and-Tondo-3Swift-and-Tondo-5

Great Pairs land here each Wednesday.

Griffith Gothic and Velino Display, Text

Turning what has become the normal pairing scheme for this series on its head is Griffith Gothic and Velino Display / Velino Text. Here it’s the sans that has been engineered to hold up at small sizes, and the serif that takes up the role of the urbane, dominant voice.
Griffith-Gothic-and-Velino-1The shared formal characteristic of the pair that sold me on its compatibility was its use of stroke contrast. In Velino, Dino dos Santos uses contrast to impart stateliness and control to the characters. Chauncey Griffith’s Bell Gothic, the original archetype of Griffith Gothic, uses high contrast (most notably in its heavier weights) out of purely functional concerns, counteracting the spread of cheap ink applied to cheap paper on a fast printing press. Griffith Gothic’s designer, Tobias Frere-Jones takes advantage of this functional adaptation, turning it back into a stylistic choice. If you’re interested in the history, Nick Sherman shares a concise run-through of Bell Gothic on his website.

Griffith-Gothic-and-Velino-2 Griffith-Gothic-and-Velino-3Together, the unsophisticated gothic seems to really brighten up, following Velino’s lead.

Griffith-Gothic-and-Velino-6 Griffith-Gothic-and-Velino-4Velino has a great text variant with lower contrast for handling text sizes. Put in the service of text, Velino adds a sophisticated feel that marries well with Griffith Gothic’s plainspoken delivery.
Griffith-Gothic-and-Velino-5Great Pairs continues here Wednesday.

Nassim and Axia


Today we look at Titus Nemeth’s Nassim with Sibylle Hagmann’s Axia. Nassim was concurrently designed to work across Latin and Arabic scripts. The two are not only stylistically cohesive, but structurally complementary. By the way, if you need fonts that support both Arabic and Latin, see the Nassim Arabic Bundle.



Looking closely at Nassim, I found in Axia a nice bit of symmetry in its angular nature, high joins, seemingly arbitrary shearpoints in the curves, and overall open structure. Used to each’s advantage, their combination comes off with a contemporary feel and inviting tone.

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Williams Caslon and Figgins Sans

Williams-Caslon-and-Figgins-Sans-1For the final great pair of Wedding Month, we look at the relationship between two faces developed from English printing types, William Berkson’s Williams Caslon, and Nick Shinn’s Figgins Sans. I’ve featured Williams Caslon through the course of Wedding Month, mentioning it in the Using Type piece on non-traditional invitations. (The swash alternates included in its italic are fantastic.) Williams Caslon’s strength is text, and it was designed to reproduce by digital means the effect given by an earlier, yet not archetypal Caslon, Linotype’s hot metal Caslon of the 1920s.

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Paired with Williams Caslon is a revival of an early sans from the man who first coined the term sans serif, Vincent Figgins. Its awkward forms might upon close inspection suggest a face devoid basic table manners, but I welcome its untamed energy as does the plain yet dignified Caslon family. Working together, each introduces just enough grit to keep the guests relaxed and comfortable, but not without losing its inherent stateliness. Figgins Sans is part of the larger Modern Suite. Great Pairs continue here Wednesday.

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.