About this font family
The idea of a brand-new grotesk is certainly rather foolish – there are already lots of these typefaces in the world and, quite simply, nothing is more beautiful than the original Gill. The sans-serif chapter of typography is now closed by hundreds of technically perfect imitations of Syntax and Frutiger, which are, however, for the most part based on the cool din-aesthetics. The only chance, when looking for inspiration, is to go very far... More…
A grotesk does not afford such a variety as a serif typeface, it is dull and can soon tire the eye. This is why books are not set in sans serif faces. A grotesk is, however, always welcome for expressing different degrees of emphasis, for headings, marginal notes, captions, registers, in short for any service accompaniment of a book, including its titlings. We also often come across a text in which we want to distinguish the individual speaking or writing persons by the use of different typefaces. The condition is that such grotesk should blend in perfectly with the proportions, colour and above all with the expression of the basic, serif typeface. In the area of non-fiction typography, what we appreciate in sans-serif typefaces is that they are clamorous in inscriptions and economic in the setting. John Sans is to be a modest servant and at the same time an original loudspeaker; it wishes to inhabit libraries of educated persons and to shout from billboards.
A year ago we completed the transcription of the typefaces of John Baskerville, whose heritage still stands out vividly in our memory. Baskerville cleverly incorporated certain constructional elements in the design of the individual letters of his typeface. These elements include above all the alternation of softand sharp stroke endings. The frequency of these endings in the text and their rhythm produce a balanced impression. The anchoring of the letters on the surface varies and they do not look monotonous when they are read. We attempted to use these tricks also in the creation of a sans-serif typeface. Except that, if we wished to create a genuine “Baroque grotesk”, all the decorativeness of the original would have to be repeated, which would result in a parody. On the contrary, to achieve a mere contrast with the soft Baskerville it is sufficient to choose any other hard grotesk and not to take a great deal of time over designing a new one. Between these two extremes, we chose a path starting with the construction of an almost monolinear skeleton, to which the elements of Baskerville were carefully attached. After many tests of the text, however, some of the flourishes had to be removed again. Anything that is superfluous or ornamental is against the substance of a grotesk typeface. The monolinear character can be impinged upon in those places where any consistency would become a burden. The fine shading and softening is for the benefit of both legibility and aesthetics. The more marked incisions of all crotches are a characteristic feature of this typeface, especially in the bold designs. The colour of the Text, Medium and Bold designs is commensurate with their serif counterparts. The White and X-Black designs already exceed the framework of book graphics and are suitable for use in advertisements and magazines.
The original concept of the italics copying faithfully Baskerville’s morphology turned out to be a blind alley. This design would restrict the independent use of the grotesk typeface. We, therefore, began to model the new italics only after the completion of the upright designs. The features which these new italics and Baskerville have in common are the angle of the slope and the softened sloped strokes of the lower case letters. There are also certain reminiscences in the details (K, k). More complicated are the signs & and @, in the case of which regard is paid to distinguishing, in the design, the upright, sloped @ small caps forms. The one-storey lower-case g and the absence of a descender in the lower-case f contributes to the open and simple expression of the design.
Also the inclusion of non-aligning figures in the basic designs and of aligning figures in small caps serves the purpose of harmonization of the sans-serif families with the serif families. Non-aligning figures link up better with lower-case letters in the text.
If John Sans looks like many other modern typefaces, it is just as well. It certainly is not to the detriment of a Latin typeface as a means of communication, if different typographers in different places of the world arrive in different ways at a similar result.