The best typefaces from the Google web fonts directory
- Our Favorite Typefaces of 2017
- Aglet Slab
- ALS Lamon
Welcome to our twelfth annual celebration of new type design. These are not necessarily the “best” typefaces, nor the most popular or top-selling (the big retailers already have that covered). What can be said is that each of these 2017 releases inspired at least one admirer among our distinguished group of designers, educators, and enthusiasts to take time away from their day jobs and pen their personal praises. That’s more than can be said for nearly any typeface, no matter how often it’s seen or used.
For some contributors, the choice is prompted by innovation. Benedikt Bramböck marvels at the ingenuity of BC Brief’s deceptively minimal two-point structure, Dyana Weissman honors Minérale’s rejection of conventional notions about the placement of mass, Marta Bernstein digs SangBleu’s rethinking of the traditional type family, and Maurice Meilleur — a connoisseur of modular and parametric type — expounds on the complexity of Calcula.
Other writers, especially those who are type designers themselves, select for sheer quality of craftsmanship, recognizing an exemplary effort from firsthand experience. These collegial compliments are more than heartwarming — they can teach us all about what makes great type great, whether it’s James Edmondson on the spacing of Pilot, Sibylle Hagmann on the revival decisions made in Mazagan, or Ellmer Stefan on the epic achievement that is Halyard.
And sometimes, a Favorite Typeface is simply about delight, the joy of novel lettershapes. Jean-Baptiste Levée admires the intestinal circumvolutions of Digestive, Paul Shaw is refreshed by Brutal, and María Ramos appreciates the way Nickel combines a chunky body with pinprick serifs.
Reflecting our new era of global type production, last year produced an unprecedented number of multiscript selections, and this trend continued in 2017 with 29LT Bukra and Riwaya (Arabic), Graphik Arabic, ALS Lamon (Cyrillic), Soyuz Grotesk (Cyrillic), and Ashoka Odia (an Indic script). See many more non-Latin typefaces in the notable releases, suggested by a panel of multiscript experts.
I am very grateful to the contributors for their patience and generous spirit. It’s not easy to write about type, but in a world where millions of font users are faced with hundreds of thousands of choices, a few words from the wise go a long way.
—Stephen Coles, Editor
Thanks to my coeditor Caren Litherland, and to Florian Hardwig for adding missing links and specimens. The typefaces used for this year’s nameplate, headlines, and text are provided by Type Network. They include Pilot by Aleksandra Samuļenkova, Aglet Slab by Jesse Ragan, and Guyot Text by Ramiro Espinoza. Contemporary Sans by Ludwig Übele continues to serve the small bits. The “Favorite Typefaces of 2017” graphic is set in Respira Black and Halyard.
Aglet Slab is part of a powerful trio of typefaces that XYZ Type launched with last year. Along with Export and Cortado, Aglet Slab hints at what we can expect from the partnership of Ben Kiel and Jesse Ragan.
Aglet is one of those faces that grows on you over time. At first, it grabs your attention in a casual way — but once you really get to work with it, its personality shines through and you find yourself admiring all of its details. The alternating angles and levels of roundness work like a charm. Not only do they give the forms an active and friendly feel, but they also make the words simply move and take your eyes along with them.
It is a versatile typeface that includes sets of figures, numerals, and highly useful alternates, but one of the features that gets to my heart is that the lovely set of symbols is also designed to match each weight. That makes it easy to combine them with the letterforms in a cohesive way.
Unconsciously hypnotized by Aglet Slab, out of curiosity I tested it in a project for which I had initially wanted to choose a Humanist sans. To my surprise, it made sense right away. I got very excited about this match, and the client was also sold immediately.
Someone recently asked me if rounded typefaces were still in fashion. It’s hard not to think of them as being very current when looking at Aglet Slab in all its glory. Hey Jesse, I’m looking forward to some new family members!
I still remember being immediately attracted to ALS Lamon because of its incredibly novel concept and brilliant execution. The design has a very difficult brief: first, both upper- and lowercase letters appear together in the same glyph; second, the letters are (mostly) drawn with single strokes.
This creates an interesting dynamic between the uppercase letters (which are bold and brushy) and the lowercase (which are petite, cursive, and monolinear). While most letters are made from single strokes, there are exceptions. Characters like J, X, Ґ, and € are rendered with multiple lines and segments — yet the look and feel of the letters is perfectly maintained. For all its complexity, ALS Lamon is impressively legible and each character is perfectly balanced. That alone makes me call this exercise a huge success!
The main distraction lies with some of the “extra” glyphs (like .,:;*\/()–“”«»+×÷), which don’t follow the logic of the other letters. Their closed loops of single outlines create a visually simpler character that stands out in running text. In most cases, I think, it could have worked to add smaller versions of the symbols to the insides — similar to the treatment of the numbers.
But the big question is this: Should ALS Lamon be considered one of the best typefaces of the year? By most benchmarks — what it offers (weights, styles, glyphs, and OpenType features), quality of the outlines, range of usability, etc. — probably not. It has one weight with only basic Latin and Cyrillic glyphs, plus a handful of symbols and punctuation.
I keep thinking that I wish this typeface would have moar (weights, styles, diacritics, etc.), but maybe there is already enough. Because where and how will this typeface be used? It would be great for a logo and headlines, or maybe drop caps would be cool — it basically just needs to be used fairly large and sparingly to work well. So with this relatively limited usability, maybe it doesn’t actually make sense to add more (except for language support). And while I’m usually into expansive families for “serious” typesetting, I fully support more new purely display types. The world would be a pretty boring place if there were only text typefaces!
In the end, ALS Lamon is what it is, and for me that is a memorable typeface that deserves to get checked out, appreciated, and used. And please, someone, make this type out of neon already!