Before the Haas Type Foundry released Helvetica in 1957, constructivist sans serif fonts were classified as Grotesk, a term that reflected the dismissive notion of typesetters in previous times. It was Art Deco and the Bauhaus movement, along with modernist architecture, fresh ideas and stricter shapes in interior design, a style influenced by industrial and technological developments, that made Grotesk fonts more popular over time.
Ever since the introduction of Helvetica Neue, classicistic sans serif fonts have been domineered by this Swiss style. Over the last six decades, typesetters, designers and typographers remembered and used other constructivist sans serif styles, like Futura and Neuzeit. In the late 1980s, American classics like Trade Gothic and Franklin Gothic were used again in Advertising, so the American newspaper title style has been a second strong influence on sans serif fonts and Adrian Frutiger’s typeface for the Parisian airport, Frutiger, sparked a rennaissance of humanist sans serif fonts.
It seems impossible to reimagine a constructivist or classicistic sans serif without taking one of these previous styles in account. However, its tone of voice can still be different.
A typeface represents a tone of voice, a memory of cultural aspects of a time, faintly resonating a certain Zeitgeist. It is often hidden in the subtle language of shapes, but also linked to applied documents and works associated with the use of the typeface over time. A cultural association is imprinted in the beginning, but perception changes over time.
We interpret new things with the language we learned from existing things. It’s interesting to see how typefaces like Helvetica Neue gained popularity in Japan, a country and culture that in the last century stood for discipline, strictness, but also beauty and simplicity in design and architecture. But it was used for English words, an inspill of Western influenced cultural elements, or the Japanese interpretation of those elements.
Hikari is a font with a Japanese touch. It is primarily a Latin font with no relations to Hiragana, Kanji or Katagana. And yet, the sense for proportions, a strict architecture and its overall feeling transmits a faint memory of Japanese post war culture assimilating and accumulating Western typography.
Hikari will be first released as a family of four cuts, ranging from Light to Black. Italic styles and a monospaced version will follow, with a possible expansion to a super family for various screen and print applications.
A free version for Web design is planned as well, licencesed as a Google Webfont family with a smaller set of styles.
There is still a lot of work ahead until the font will be released: accent glyphs are in works, as well as special characters. It is also possible that at some point in future, Hikari may be released as a Japanese version.
(Please have a look at the attached images, which look better on a MacBook Pro retina than the inline images)