The best typefaces from the Google web fonts directory
- Eckmannpsych & Cheee
- Opinionated revivals are much better than historically accurate ones (I don’t see the “faithful” Eckmanns used very often).
- New technologies are meant to be embraced (and made fun of).
- Our Favorite Typefaces of 2018
Eckmannpsych is a revival of Otto Eckmann’s eponymous Eckmann-Schrift, originally released in 1900 at Rudhard’sche Gießerei in Offenbach. Eckmann’s training as a fine artist is evident in this typeface, which is expressive rather than utilitarian. Eckmann-Schrift is an embodiment of the art nouveau style, fashionable at the time of its release.
Cheee is a free interpretation of Aldo Novarese’s Sintex, originally designed in 1973 for the Phototype foundry Visual Graphics Corporation (VGC). Novarese is known for his designs for the Nebiolo foundry, like Microgramma or Stop; Sintex (a space-age design with heavy horizontals and thin stems) is a bit of an outlier in his repertoire.
In revisiting these designs, Edmondson didn’t attempt faithful replicas of the originals. Instead, he took what was good about them and brought those ideas to the next level, replacing (in the case of Eckmann, at least) century-old design decisions with a healthy dose of funk.
Originally drawn as lettering for Vulfpeck’s North America Tour Posters, these free revivals often stray from the originals much further than expected — if Edmonson hadn’t disclosed the influence of Sintex on Cheee, I never would have made that association. With its spaghetti-thin stems and blobby terminals, his interpretation made me think of balloon modeling rather than the distinct shapes of Sintex.
It’s difficult to imagine what would have happened if Eckmann had been reincarnated in San Francisco in the sixties. Eckmannpsych gives us at least an idea. Edmonson’s interpretation of Eckmann’s work carries it to an extreme by exaggerating the contrast, changing the proportions, and making the floral forms of 1900 become more . . . exotic? At any rate, Eckmannpsych looks much more dangerous than the original Eckmannschrift.
Eckmannpsych and Cheee were released as some of the first Future Fonts. Supporting uppercase letters only, one might think of them as digital rub-down alphabets — the low introductory price of $6 seemed fair.
The story could have ended here, but the feedback loop built into the Future Fonts website (and — presumably — its commercial success) encouraged Edmonson to keep thinking about these projects. As a consequence, both designs quickly gained useful additional glyphs like numbers and punctuation, and accumulated additional weights.
2018 was also the first full year in which major design applications (such as Adobe Illustrator) supported variable fonts. Luckily, Edmonson decided to enthusiastically embrace this technology.
Eckmannpsych received a size axis, which allowed users to interpolate the psychedelic high-contrast display variant to a much friendlier looking, wider (almost blobby) text size. This axis alone is worth several lessons in typography: it clearly illustrates the benefit of (and need for) optical sizes.
Cheee was outfitted with a weight axis, which allowed the user to change both heaviness and contrast at the same time. Only a month later, a “gravity” axis was added, which enabled the movement of letter mass up or down (weight being renamed “yeast”). The final axis (so far, at least) is “temperature”, released just in time for Halloween — it entices the user to create dripping letters, revisiting the idea of a Hobeaux dripping with blood.
Edmonson’s playful approach managed to explain the whole point of variable fonts better than any technical demonstration could. Cheee and Eckmannpsych may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I think they teach us two valuable lessons:
I congratulate Edmondson for effortlessly drawing two of the most impressive fonts of 2018 (and letting everyone take part in their development). I can’t wait to see what he will come up with in 2019!
I have to admit, I have a huge soft spot for typefaces that have paper cut-out vibes and Découpe is no exception. With its straights and selective curves, it curiously reminds me of Preissig Antikva, which is lovely in all its eccentricities but remains quite hard to use. Découpe, on the other hand, was designed for modern times. Its quirks are noticeable, but not to the point where it would discourage the user from envisioning where, and how, the typeface might be used. It undoubtedly has some grit in its personality, but remains amiable.
The Sudtipos website describes Découpe perfectly: “A little bit irreverent and effervescent from time to time, this gestural sans serif family reveals its contrasts and asymmetrical shapes when it breaks through display functions.” It also notes that the designer, María Carla Mazzitelli, was inspired by gestural graphic expressions, like paper cut-outs (découpes!) and spontaneous handwriting.
For the letter constructions, Découpe has lovely details that wind through both the uprights and the romans. Notably, the upright letter joins have a quasi-italic construction that translates well when compared to the italic forms. (See, for example, the upright lowercase n, a, and b.) These highly stylized joins really shine when it comes to the thicker weights, and create little sparks of highlight when they come together to form words.
All in all, Découpe is a typeface that makes a statement, yet doesn’t take itself too seriously. Bravo to María Carla Mazzitelli and Sudtipos!
If there’s any thread that binds this edition of our annual, it is diversity. I mean this in terms of style and purpose, of course (as is true every year), but a wide range of voices and ideas also made itself especially evident in 2018.
Our selection this year was more limited than usual in terms of quantity, yet the expansion and diversification of the type design community is still embodied by this shorter list — perhaps more than ever. Three new contributors — Agyei Archer, Tanya George, and Sandina Miller — join us, and there are typefaces from many designers who appear here for the first time: Connor Davenport (Garnett), Maria Doreuli (Chimera), Elias Hanzer (Phase), Gor Jihanian (Spindle), Adam Katyi (Mohol), Margot Lévêque (Kalice), Charles Mazé (Berthe), Krista Radoeva (FS Kim), Alice Savoie (Faune), Christian Vargas (Salvaje), and Mark van Wageningen (Ziza). Further emphasizing the global nature of excellence in type, these eleven young designers come from eight different countries.
Also making her first appearance on our list is someone who is certainly not new to anyone who follows type: Gudrun Zapf von Hesse. Sadly, she passed away last week, but in 2018 she left us with Hesse Antiqua, her first typeface release in decades and a fitting celebration of her 100th birthday.
Font distribution diversified in 2018 as well. Two years ago we noted the sprouting of new retailers in the market, and this year marked the first releases from Future Fonts. This gutsy project is not only a new place to get type, but a new platform for collaboration between type makers and users.
Future Fonts presented a challenge when we sent Type of 2018 nominations to contributors: If a font is available on the platform, does it count as an official release? What is an official release, anyway? Is it fair to review a typeface in its very early stages when it may appear in a much more mature format later on? In the end, we elected to officially suggest only those designs that Future Fonts labeled “Finished” in 2018, knowing that no typeface is ever truly finished and giving contributors the freedom to select whatever they were excited about, regardless of label.
More to Come
This annual is not finished, either. A few more selections are on their way, including the list of Other Notable Releases. We’ll announce them, along with each review, on Twitter, Instagram, and our favorite method of editorial distribution: RSS.
This year, Typographica puts a variable font through its paces for the first time since the format was introduced in 2016. We’re using an early version of Roslindale Variable, thanks to David Jonathan Ross. A single 135 KB font file delivers a small optical size for text, a medium size for decks (the first paragraphs of each review), a bold weight, and italics. Headlines are set in Nikolai by Franziska Weitgruber. This spiky dazzler was initially posted to Future Fonts in 2018 and revised throughout 2019. In keeping with the fast and frequent release tempo of our era, Nikolai was updated with italics today, just in time for the launch. The Favorites graphic is set in Bourrasque, with its novel slanting and backslanting styles. As always, Caren Litherland served as coeditor, coaxing copy from three dozen contributors into language that is accessible, accurate, and engaging. Thank you!
— Stephen Coles, Editor