Tag Archives: Mark van Bronkhorst

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.

FF-Quixo-and-MVB-Solano-Gothic-2 FF-Quixo-and-MVB-Solano-Gothic-3

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.

Comma, Apostrophe, Quote, Grave, Prime, Foot and Inch

Let’s focus on a few character-specific type basics this week – lookalikes. What they are, how they’re used, brief, to the point.




The comma is a punctuation mark that indicates a short pause. It hangs off the baseline, spiraling outward from its interior in a clockwise fashion. You already know this.



An apostrophe is a floated comma that usually hangs somewhere in the air between the ascender and x-height lines. Its precise purpose is that of a stand-in character for parts left out in a contraction or otherwise abbreviated word (it is becomes it’s, international becomes int’l, 1975 becomes ’75), and also in possessives (Shays’s Rebellion or Black’s Law). Ah yes, and some confused people commonly use apostrophes in pluralizing acronyms. In typefaces, apostrophes are commonly drawn with some optical variation from the comma.

Single Quotes, Double Quotes, Open & Close


Quotes, in brief: Quotation marks are for quoting, repeating an utterance exactly as it was said. Use double quotes for this, and single quotes for quotations within quotations. Quote marks point in opposite directions to indicate an opening and closing of the quote. A single open quote is a single close quote more or less rotated in place by 180°. A single close quote is visually indistinguishable from an apostrophe. Now, all that’s true when typesetting English, but depending on the language, quotes may be placed in different positions or face in directions different than those in the familiar usage illustrated above. They may also not be shaped like the quotes above, like for example, «these».

Oh! Also – mirrored open quotes, or grocer’s quotes, are generally seen as endearing relics by English-speaking audiences, though they do have their own unicode addresses, and are the default in some fonts, including some non-display fonts such as Verdana, though not in the latest release of Verdana.

Dumb quotes


Dumb quotes exist because of typewriters. Apostrophes, open and close single and double quotes were reduced to two straightened characters out of pure economy. I can’t fault the inventors. Their machines were never intended for professional typesetting. I could however fault most of the assumptions made since about the necessity of and methods for accessing these ‘extra characters.’ Note how I use single quotes in that last sentence to mark what’s essentially a paraphrased term? If I can’t cite who said it, I feel like double quotes are a bit much. Of course, that’s definitely my own made-up convention.



Meanwhile, the grave accent character can be accessed all alone with a single keystroke. There it is at the top left of your keyboard, just below the escape key. This character is almost good for nothing on its own. Some truly well-meaning people have attempted to give this character something to do, such as indicate a glottal stop, or to make up for the lack of open single and double quotes. Fact is, it’s a combining character, not one to use on its own in professional typsetting unless it itself is the subject of discussion. Use key combinations to put the grave above other characters, such as the e above.

‘Okina, & similar characters


Speaking of glottal stop, the ʻokina above is represented by an open single quote, though it has its own character in Unicode called MODIFIER LETTER TURNED COMMA at this address: U+02BB. ‘Okina is a Hawaiian character, but its representation in Unicode is used by other languages who have other names for it.



Lastly, primes are by contrast quite multi-use characters. In math, primes mark sequential varations of variables. You’ve also seen them marking coordinates on a map, arcminutes (one sixtieth of a degree) with a single prime, arcseconds (one sixtieth of one arcminute) with a double prime. The fractional units of arcsecond, milliarcsecond and microarcsecond, are not represented with triple prime ( ‴ ) and quadruple prime ( ⁗ ), just in case you were wondering. Prime and double prime can also be applied to minutes and seconds as measures of time. Above, in their most common role, they indicate feet and inches. What you see above are in fact italicized straight quotes, same as dumb quotes above, kerned. It turns out that primes aren’t so common in typefaces designed for professional typesetting, so it’s good to know where one has to make do.

Anyway, this is the introduction. Next week, we’ll wrap this up with some tips on how to use all these similar and easily-confusable characters, and what common pitfalls to look out for. Special thanks to Mark van Bronkhorst’s Verdigris for setting all the samples. Till Thursday, I’m David Sudweeks and this is Using Type.

Verdigris and Apertura

Verdigris, Apertura

One face I’ve admired for its versatility quite a while now is Mark van Bronkhorst’s MVB Verdigris. It’s a Renaissance Roman that demonstrates a deep understanding of setting long texts. When in the hands of a good typographer it serves them well, and when worked by a novice, it’s forgiving and takes no umbrage. In case you’re wondering, it’s pronounced Vare-di-gree, similar in rhythm to pedigree.

Taking the display role is Christian Robertson’s Apertura, a contemporary modernist sans. Apertura’s easy to spot with its definitive single-story a. Together, the two faces create a bit of tension, which the typographer can harness to emphasize a classical-over-modernist quality, or just the opposite, or some well-sung harmony in between.

Verdigris, Apertura

Apertura, Verdigris

Apertura comes in a range of weights across two widths, and if you must, a double-story a drops in as an alternate via OpenType Stylistic Set. Verdigris’s strength is text between 8 and 12 point, though the characters don’t completely fall apart at larger sizes. If you’re looking for a display cut of Verdigris, it does exist, though MVB Fonts holds it exclusively. It’s called Verdigris Big.

Verdigris, Apertura

Verdigris, Apertura

Above, Apertura serves well delivering text of modest length. Below, the italic cut is faithful to the spirit of Pierre Haultin’s italic from which it’s based. Note how the blobbiness of the strokes, visible up close, disappears at size.

Verdigris Italic

Verdigris Italic

Typographic Countdown — 15 Days Left ’til 2012

Q concludes our set of letters that sound too much like K. It’s for this specific reason that Q has had difficulty staying in a given alphabet, like in Greek (Qoppa) where it  serves as a numeral symbol only. The Phoenician Qoph seems to be the first discovered pairing of the shape and the sound. The tail of the Q in Mark van Bronkhorst’s Sweet Sans Hairline purposely and expertly pierces the plane of its round.