Underrated/Underused typefaces

crossgrove's picture

As a sort of response to the thread about overused types, suppose we focus on things we want to see more of. The additional benefit to this is the possibility that some of the faces people mention might make good projects for students or designers. Faces not yet digitized are fair game, as well as those available digitally.

I'll kick off: Albertina and Breughel.

hn2o's picture

looks like us germans are gonna see a lot more Albertina soon… ;-) http://www.fontblog.de/neue-karstadt-schrift-albertina

I personally would like to see Mendoza more often…

k.l.'s picture

[And some smaller Karstadt shops have been re(tro)branded "Hertie" and use Joshua Darden's Omnes, even on the website. Very nice!]

Yes, ITC Mendoza Roman and ITC Legacy.

Stephen Coles's picture

I third Mendoza.

Oranda. Sadly hindered by lack of SC and OSF.

FF Strada

Mundo Sans. And I don't say that just because Carl started this thread. It really is an excellent all-purpose humanist.

Bulldog, Spiegel, and Brown Gothic. Three great Trade/Franklin alternates.

Arepo. Sumner Stone's underappreciated titling face.

charles ellertson's picture

Trinité -- probably because it needs a little work which the EULA forbids.

Cycles -- Sumner Stone's text font companion to Arepo (for which he needs to get around to cutting old style figures).

Linda Cunningham's picture

Joe Treacy as a font designer, but particularly Bryn Mawr, Vignette and Masterstroke.

metalfoot's picture

I want to see more Beorcana, but I haven't bought my license yet myself, so I'll be quiet.

William Berkson's picture

I have recently been reading and looking at Albertina in 'Book Typography' by Mitchell & Wightman. It is impressive indeed.

I've never warmed to Frutiger's serif faces, but I'd be very interested to see Breughel in use, as it is interesting the way it handles weight. Can you point us to any examples, Carl?

I find Trinité just awesome to look at on the TEFF site, but I've never seen it in extended use. I assumed it was because it is so expensive. Charles, what do you think needs fixing in it?

I would add Whitman to the list. I think it is awesome. I personally haven't seen it in use, though I gather it is pretty widely used.

hn2o's picture

Yeah, Whitman. I purchased it a while ago, but sadly I still didn't have a chance to use it.

I'd also like to add Alisal to the list… I can't remember having it seen in use anywhere.

charles ellertson's picture

Bill, I bought Trinité when the exchange rate of the euro was 85-cents. I guess it is more expensive for those of us in the States now. But you get a bunch of fonts, and for the Type-1 days, they were pretty complete. Anyway, I bought Trinité because Richard Eckersley wanted to use it, and when Richard began using a font, you knew he would use it for years. A good investment.

It comes with no ligatures, and no kerning. And yes, it does need an f_i and f_f_i ligature. Even the old trick of setting the dotless "i" following an "f" doesn't quite work. I doubt it is available in OpenType, but it also needs a terminal f. An f-space kern won't cut it.

Back to money for a bit. If a set of fonts costs $1,000 and you use it for 10 books, that's cheap, given the "new book, new fonts" approach of too many designers. And by the way, for my money, it takes designers a while to understand how to use a font, and comps a while to learn how to set it -- but then, I'm a dinosaur.

William Berkson's picture

Charles, I'm really surprised about the lack of kerning and ligatures. Did you ever raise this issue with the foundry?

TBiddy's picture

I second Mundo Sans and Brown Gothic. While I haven't had the luxury of using Brown Gothic, I have used Mundo Sans. I implore anyone tired of Gill Sans, to switch to Mundo...better spaced, and the weights are extrapolated a lot more consistently. (If that's the right way of saying it.)

I also think Sebastian from Stormtype is really getting overlooked.

kentlew's picture

My list of underused/underexposed types includes:

Cycles -- Surprisingly, someone did use Cycles for the logo of Cymbalta, an antidepressant medication being advertised widely these days. But I haven't run across it many other places. I used the original release in a book several years ago and loved it. (I only wish we'd printed on a slightly softer paper.) Charles, most of the cuts in the family I have include OsF. In which size(s) are you missing them?

DTL Documenta -- I've only seen it once or twice here in the States.

Paperback -- I'm surprised this hasn't been picked up on more. I found it a little dark for a book I tried it with, but I would have thought I'd see this more in advertising. I should think it's quirks would be perfect for the zeitgeist.

Iowan Old Style -- Another John Downer design. This used to be a workhorse and fallback for me. But I haven't seen it used much elsewhere.

FF Quadraat -- I used to see this a little more, but it disappeared pretty quickly. I still love it's look. The one quibble I have is that there aren't kerning pairs for quotation marks with periods and commas in any combination. And so, it was a little unfortunate that Quadraat was used in the American edition of Eats, Shoots & Leaves -- a book about punctuation, of all things -- and the lack of kerns didn't get addressed, which meant that there were all sorts of distracting gaps around the many quotation marks.

-- K.

kentlew's picture

William --

Thanks for the mention. I'm hoping Whitman will garner more use once I can complete the Bold Italic, which many people have been clamoring for. It's on the docket, but first FB wants me to finish the Display family for the Retail library -- seven weights in three widths.

Right now, the most visible place to see Whitman in use is probably BRIDES magazine. The magazine is mostly Cyrus's Relay. (Heck, the magazine is mostly ads!) But there's some Whitman in there, if you can find the hard content. They also have a few cuts from the original Display commission, which they mix in.

-- K.

William Berkson's picture

>BRIDES magazine

I'll get it, but I'll have to hide it from my daughters, who are grown women. They will think Dad is giving annoying hints about grandchildren again :)

crossgrove's picture

Stephen, Alex, Terry, I blush. Terry, I've got a copywriting job for you... ;)

I second Iowan Old Style.

"Can you point us to any examples, Carl?"

William, Isn't that the very problem? The only two places I've ever seen Breughel are in the issue of Fine Print where Chuck Bigelow wrote about Frutiger's serifed faces (there are more than you might think) and in a book called "Typefaces for Books" by James Sutton and Alan Bartram. It is a useful specimen of many book faces that were available when it came out, because it shows several sizes of text with variations in leading.

Brueghel might be newly interesting in light of the current slab-serif trend.

xa's picture

Kinesis and Kepler... gorgeous but never seen used. ITC Mendoza is so rare even in France.
FF Quadraat is widely used in Holland.

Stephen Coles's picture

We covered one of the BRIDES in our magazine fonts newsletter. Sadly, no pics of Whitman.

cuttlefish's picture

I'll just be totally self-serving and petty and say all the fonts I have released are underused and underappreciated.

But honestly, most of them suck pretty badly.

dojr2's picture

Linotype Didot and Bodoni BT.

Nick Shinn's picture

Kent, I read a lot of Quadraat every other week in the London Review of Books, and the long arm of the "f" frequently distracts me, as it often jumps across word spaces and collides with a following capital -- a frequent occurence in book titles. Nonetheless, it's a great face which I really enjoy reading, but I'm glad I rarely come across it outside the LRB.

Certainly, some faces are overused, but the issue is not that there are great type designs particularly scorned and overlooked in relation to their merit. I'd say that art directors should go out of their way to choose special typefaces, and make every publication as unique as possible. After all, there are gazillions of typefaces available, and, by astute typography, many more may be massaged into respectability than just adopting the aficionados' favourites.

charles ellertson's picture

I read a lot of Quadraat every other week in the London Review of Books, and the long arm of the “f” frequently distracts me, as it often jumps across word spaces and collides with a following capital — a frequent occurence in book titles.,/cite>

Yes, Quadraat is one of many typefaces that need a terminal f (f.terminal) set up in a contextual alternate so the terminal "f" is used when a word space follows. You both shorten the arm of the "f" a bit, and increase the right sidebearing. Of course, you can't do this with Quadraat ;) -- because it is a FontFont font, & they forbid the end user from fixing all their errors.

Stephen Coles's picture

> they forbid the end user from fixing all their errors.

This isn't exactly true. The FF EULA states that modifications are permissible with written consent.

kentlew's picture

Nick -- I agree that the Quadraat "f" does bridge a following wordspace a bit too much and can create some awkward situations with subsequent capitals. I'd forgotten about that.

Charles -- I have found FontFont very responsive in the past to requests to allow me to make minor alterations for specific purposes. For instance, reassembling LF into the regular Kievit fonts and deriving fractions for a cookbook I was working on. Obviously, we had to have a proper license and we kept the fonts in-house.

-- K.

Erik Fleischer's picture

Kinesis and Trinité, among others. If I win the lottery one of these days, I'm definitely buying every last Trinité variant and weight.

typequake's picture

Regulation Magazine used to be set in Albertina, but they switched to Legacy serif. Go figure.

fonthausen's picture


It comes with no ligatures, and no kerning. And yes, it does need an f_i and f_f_i ligature. Even the old trick of setting the dotless “i” following an “f” doesn’t quite work. I doubt it is available in OpenType, but it also needs a terminal f. An f-space kern won’t cut it..

I have been working a lot with the Trinité. Until now, I have encountered but a very few typefaces, which have the same quality. Its lacking of kerning is not a disadvantage, but a proof of craftmanship. Having worked for The Enschedé Font Foundry in the recent past, I know kerning the Trinité would be a diffilcult job and it would be somewhere a contradiction to the typeface.
Although I like ligatures a lot, I also find the use anoying. If you change the tracking in any way, they become obsolete.


charles ellertson's picture


In a lot of ways, I agree with you. One of the virtues of Trinité is that it looks quite good when set by application programs that do not support kerning or ligaturing. It is a masterful execution from that perspective. But I bought the fonts to set some books for Richard Eckersley, who also owned the fonts & set some books himself. If you knew him, you know he was not satisfied with less than what could be done, and I don't think anyone would disagree that the fonts can be improved with kerning and ligatures

Somewhere in all my email correspondence with Peter Noordzij, he mentioned that if I kerned it, he would like to see the result. I guess I haven't followed up on that. And I think he mentioned once that de Does had changed his mind about the need for ligatures.

I don't think a properly set up font (which Trinité is) should be tracked. But if you must track it, you can always break the ligaturing.

The crack about the EULA concerns the price: I asked Peter Noordzij about the extra cost for allowing full embedding of the fonts in a PDF file, which some publishers require. His response was that the number of people (computers) then involved was the whole world, and of course, that price would be astronomical – at the time I bought it, 2,000 computers would have been about 76,000 euros.

So for the numerous academic publishers that have a contract with NetLibrary, which requires a PDF with full embedding, Trinité should not be used.



John Nolan's picture

"I have found FontFont very responsive in the past to requests to allow me to make minor alterations for specific purposes."

Don't get me started! You were lucky! I asked for permission to place the f ligs in the regular font so that they would function properly in InDesign, and was told that the work had to be done by FontShop at a cost of, if I recall correctly, $25 per lig...and they asked what position I wanted the character should be placed in, which indicated to me that the person doing the work didn't understand how to properly encoded f ligs for InDesign.

Fortunately for me, after some discussion it was agreed that I had licensed the font under an earlier EULA that did allow mods.

eolson's picture

Speaking of Whitman, the Minneapolis StarTribune uses the unreleased Display extensively and it looks fantastic. I've been out of the country for six months but the last I saw it was used for most of the heads. But yes, crazy underrated.

fonthausen's picture


thank you for your elaborate reply. Now I know of the context you were speaking of, I can imagine the lack of tracking is/was an important issue.

PM Noordzij and I have had lots of discussions on this theme. They often ended it up in discussing the way typographer, fontdesigners and graphic designers differ in approach when setting text and the making of books.


TBiddy's picture

Terry, I’ve got a copywriting job for you… ;)

Send it on. ;)

Delete's picture

Specifically, it looks like Trinité #2 Roman Condensed. I really like this font, but in the book, it really does not stand out. The Roman wide and italic versions look classier.

charles ellertson's picture

My mileage on Trinité varies. Prefer the condensed. More importantly, so did Richard Eckersley...



BTW, Peter Noordzij was pretty accommodating about a slight change to the license, so I drew up ligatures & kerned the font. You have to magnify the sample, but they are there.

And I still think Trinité is worth the price. I don't get to use it much these days, because for any title, publishers hold out hope there may be a PDF ebook. At the price, they won't buy it. My feeling is you get a fair bit for that $1,000 Euros -- or whatever it's gone to these days.

Second edit:

If anyone cares, these are Richard's specifications:


Can't remember if Richard was using an 18-unit em in those days, or the 54-unit one. Probably 18. Always had to "translate" his letterspacing instructions...

Delete's picture

Thanks for the interesting example and your thoughts. I like the added ligatures. Nice job!

hrant's picture

Hard to find a more under-rated typeface than Sitka.


Celeste's picture

I do agree with you, Hrant — hard to believe considering that you can have Sitka for free with Windows…

hrant's picture

Microsoft is now to type was Apple was to type 2–3 decades ago.


quadibloc's picture

It's just an artifact of the lower resolution, but on this page the 0.8 em size of Sitka Text reminds me of one of the typestyles for IBM Executive typewriters.

Also, I see it was added with Windows 8.1. I have a Windows 8 computer, but a bug keeps me from using Windows Update, required before I can upgrade.

Celeste's picture

One other thing I don’t quite get about Sitka : what use can ‘ordinary Windows users’ (sorry, no disrespect here, I just couldn’t find another turn of phrase) have of the optical sizes available to them ?

quadibloc's picture

It's true that if they are typographically unsophisticated, they may fail to realize the possibilities afforded by the optical sizes.

But ordinary Windows users, like anyone else who uses a typeface to print stuff, may print things in different point sizes. So having "Sitka Small" recommending itself for the smaller point sizes may result in it being used for them by some of them.

I suspect that the magazines for PC users will get around to mentioning the uses of this feature, so some people will learn of it that way.

hrant's picture

The hope (I hope :-) is that software will choose the correct size automatically.


PJay's picture

Speaking of Enschede, has anyone seen Collis used in American or English publications?

Knockdown's picture

"Microsoft is now to type was Apple was to type 2–3 decades ago."

Off topic: I remain to be convinced. Maybe in future, but right now as a Mac user interested in seeing what they're doing...the website is a joke. All fonts are shown with text samples in Cyrillic and Greek first even though I'm looking at an English-language webpage! And I can only find a list of fonts on Windows 8, not 8.1. Did extra new stuff arrive with 8.1? Who knows? There's nothing on the website explaining Sitka or how I could use its optical sizes as a consumer, either. (There's a bit explaining it for developers.) Was it worth commissioning a huge MM font family if nothing but IE can safely use it? Or can other applications safely use it? Is it worth the hassle for me to update to Windows 8.1 if I'm a Windows 7 user to get it? Why does Office 2013 seem to come with far fewer fonts than Office 2010? What happens if I reinstall Windows and never install Office 2010, do my documents suddenly stop being in Garamond and start being in Calibri? Who knows?

The big giveaway is that when you go to the 'overview' page on fonts, it points you to an exciting list of new fonts that come with Windows 7. Check the 'last updated' date for yourself, nobody's touched it in half a decade.

And Sitka is just one font. The Windows bundled font library has always been a bit rubbish, but it's really rubbish now. Meanwhile, buying a cheap Mac is effectively buying a decent starter font library and a basic DTP app with a computer thrown in for free.

hrant's picture

Many good questions, and good points. I guess in a huge corporation it's hard to be consistent, especially concerning something that many people sadly don't think is too relevant; we see that at Adobe too, with the maddening differences in the ways menus etc. are presented, and even OT support.

But it remains that MS commissioned the Core Fonts, then the ClearType fonts, and now Sitka, plus they've been much more serious and sober about non-Latin support. In contrast, until the glimmer of hope presented by the new San Francisco, it really has been the typographic dark ages at Apple for many years now. A Comic Sans clone, really? But let's hope this new change is real and long-lived.


quadibloc's picture

I thought Apple's "Comic Sans clone" was instead a clearly different and better typeface... but provided as a Comic Sans substitute, because, after all, Mac users want to look at the same Internet as PC users, and there are a lot of web pages out there which just assume everyone has the standard PC typefaces.

So I didn't see that Apple had a choice, it just made the best of a bad situation.

riccard0's picture

No. Chalkboard wasn’t created for a “better” web experience: the “core web fonts” were already available to Mac users. After all, IE 5 was the only browser pre-installed in any Mac up until Safari came to be.

quadibloc's picture

This reminds me. I don't think that Linux includes an open-source substitute for Comic Sans, even though it did aim at providing equivalents of Times Roman and Arial/Helvetica. (I know they aren't the same typeface, but just as Arial was Monotype Grotesque with Helvetica metrics, intended as a substitute for Helvetica, clones of Helvetica can serve as a substitute for Arial when rendering web pages "intended" to display in Arial.)

But I could be mistaken. If so, what is their answer to Chalkboard?

Ah, a search happened to turn up an answer; they could use Balsamiq Sans if they wish.

Té Rowan's picture

Using an original Comic Sans is possible on Linux as shown by the Core Fonts project over on Sourceforge (http://corefonts.sourceforge.net/). MS’s EULA allowed redistribution of the unmodified files which the Core Fonts project did by distributing the original self-extracting cabinets and using cabextract to get at the contents.

Sure, Comic Sans isn’t Open Source, but I’m not rabid enough to blow my top.

ycherem's picture

>>"The hope (I hope :-) is that software will choose the correct size automatically."

Perhaps it would not be hard if anyone cared about optical sizes. I've seen this done automatically for years now with (Xe)LaTeX.

Syndicate content Syndicate content