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First off: I like Smeijers's work, especially Quadraat; plus he's a dedicated craftsman, so I'm tempted to like him as a person too.
But there's something in the Arnhem piece on new-series.org that bugged me immediately, even though it's pretty subtle. It might be nitpicking on my part, but I think it's significant, and could actually reflect an issue broader than just Smiejers's own design philosophy.
First, I'm putting aside two things:
1. That I think the bulb on the "a" actually reduces readability, because the identity of the "a" lies in its bottom bowl, and making the top full creates a non-descript gray blob in a bouma (word shape).
2. That too much harmony is sacrificed between the Display and Text cuts of the font, largely because of the variance in applying bulbs.
Ignoring those two notable issues, there remains the main deal: a contradition within the logic of leaving the bulb off the "a" but making the color unusually dark.
Here's how I see it:
He says that the bulb on the "a" should be there in a text font because people expect it. Maybe. But this falls apart when he comes to the part about Arnhem's very dark color, defending it with the logic that "designers are not 'the people'" and that readers benefit from the dark color. The inconsistency becomes obvious: if a font should have a relatively minor thing like the bulb of the "a" because the reader is used to it, then they should also see a much lighter color, because they're used to that too. (Did I explain that well?)
In the part about the color of the face, he says that most designers would think it's too dark (implying that most readers see -and thus *expect*- a lighter color), but the designers don't matter, and the readers in fact benefit from the dark color (even though they expect a lighter color). Actually, this is tenable of itself. But he had previously said that the reader expects the bulb on the 'a', and that's why it has to be there. Since color is clearly a bigger factor than the lone bulb in a single glyph, he's treating "expectation" inconsistently. So there is a flaw in his logic if he thinks that the bulb helps reading (because it's expected), but so does the dark color (even though it's not)!
OK, one more angle, a concise one... :-/
His rationale for *actively adding* the bulb of the 'a' is "they expect it", while his -admittedly indirect- rationale for the unusually dark color is "it doesn't matter that they don't expect it".
(Now I'm confused... Which of these three should I use from now on? :-)
Now, Smiejers could very well have been making aesthetic decisions in putting the bulb on the "a" and making the color dark - and there's nothing necessarily wrong with that. But he shouldn't use "rationalisations" (that are in fact flawed) to justify those features.