A new take on Kabel

Tomi from Suomi's picture

I've been mulling over Kabel for some time now, and yesterday I decided to jump in, and do my version of Kabel-isque font. It has no metric or proportional or direct design of Kabel, since I keep finding issues with the original. The fact is I really like the overall feel of Kabel, but when I take a closer look, it just throws me off.

So, I decided to make my own version:

This is medium weight, and there'll be five or six other weights.

It has pretty much the same feel as Kabel, but now I can live with the glyph design as well. This is less than two days' work, so be gentle, but what do you think? I already know that uc M and lc g need work.

sample.pdf92.51 KB
Gary Lonergan's picture

Apologies but in what way is this a new take on Kabel.
It looks good, very well drawn,but its still Kabel

I must be missing something

1985's picture

I'm quite happy to work quite closely with existing typefaces, probably more than many others here, but this I don't understand.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

I see your points, but in my opinion, I've made a whole new and differet version of Kabel with different x-height, weight(s), and with quite a few totally different glyphs. As you can see here, the ITC and Adobe/Linotype versions are pretty different from each other, as well as my take is very different from them:

Here is glyph 'a' with my design, then ITC and then Adobe with same point size:

I found ITC x-height way too tall, and Adobe too small, so determined mine to my liking. Also, glyphs 'n, 'm', 'h' and 'u' have sharp connection instead of smooth like in 'a' above; and there are many more differences over the whole character set.
I've gone through my sample books, and both Adobe and ITC have taken some liberties from the Koch original. I think the most honest to original fonts is Elsner + Flake versions.

Gary Lonergan's picture

I was a bit harsh in my initial comments. Yes I agree that
ITC Kabel with its huge x-height is a parody of Koch's original.
But the small x-height of Koch's type – meaning tall ascenders
and descenders – made it very elegant.

The sharp rather then rounded connection of your a is a design feature
that could also be applied to b d p and q.

And what will this face be called?

Tomi from Suomi's picture

Yes; the small x-height does make Kabel very elegant. I want my version to go in the middle area between these existing designs. And I like some of the seventies posters made with ITC Kabel with the heavier weights, so I think I'm keeping the current x-height. (I might make a tall ascender/descender version as well…)

I did try out the sharp connections for b,d,p and q as well, but when I tried that on the 'b', I wanted to keep it in Bauhaus-style, so it looked somewhat wonky. Therefore round connections.

As for the name, I'm undecided. Any suggestions? STF Kabel? Tabel?

aric's picture


Tomi from Suomi's picture

Cabel > Kabel > Kaapeli. Good one!

Tomi from Suomi's picture

Here's a rough sketch of the weights of Kaapeli:

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

I like it... good job!

Mark Simonson's picture

Your rough sketch of the weights makes a good case for the practice of changing the x-height for different weights, which was discussed a few days ago:


I would also loosen up the spacing on the lighter weights.

Gary Lonergan's picture

Gosh, rough sketches aren't what they used to be. That looks pretty good to me. Do you have an interpolatiom programme?

Tomi from Suomi's picture

I'm still not sure about the x-height adjustment. I do agree with your point that heavier weights seem stubbier, but then again, they are.
I do not think anyone uses the whole family for one work (not good English). Heavy weight is not usually used with light weight, and so on, so I want to make weights to work with one weight removed from between.

Mark Simonson's picture

I don't think it's so much that one might use certain weights together (although people do) as it has to do with creating a family that has a visually consistent design from the lightest to boldest. A big part of the art of type design has to do with compensating for visual illusions like this. Making things look consistent is more important than having them be consistent.

It's your design and your decision, but I think you should consider it.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

You have a good point, Mark. With Lu(cas) de Groot formula you get optically perfect weight in between weights, but it does not work with every design. With Kabel/Kaapeli, it does – somewhat - but in no way it is a formula everybody should go with. I found it appropriate to use with my fonts, but it is hardly a bible to type design.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

And I'm still thinking about that 's'.

Tomi from Suomi's picture


Lu(cas) de Groot interpolation is somewhat biblical to me. It is just beautyful to see that mathematical order.

But there are many types that work better with unique weights. I have no problems with those.

William Berkson's picture

Walter Tracy in his Letters of Credit has a very astute analysis of the problems in Kabel, particularly the lower case, and even suggestions for improvement. I think you'd find it very interesting and maybe helpful.

I think you have some problems with widths. Your a to me is too narrow for the rest of the design, particularly the e. Tracy criticizes the original m as too narrow. Here you have also made the n h u narrow as well, which I think is going to cause problems for good rhythm in words. The usual view, as expressed in Tracy's discussion of spacing, is that the counters in the h and o need to be not so different in volume.

I think you are right that Kabel has a lot of merits, but also problems in the lower case. But I think you need to work on the end result having more even rhythm, if the revision is going to be successful.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

I had in fact forgotten Letters of Credit. But like I said, this is just a rough sketch.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

And I think Light is too heavy. And with Heavy, 's' is not working.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

But it is all work in progress.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

And Gary; sketch is a sketch: when I think of a font family, I can not think of just a single weight. That's why I check the weights as well. It is a lot of work, but in fact it saves a lot of time in the end.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

Here is the latest. I want to keep the upper case Futura-like feel (which is taken from Trajan forms), and also keep lower case with that Bauhaus-influenced proportions.

Numbers are too loose, and thinner weights are too tightly spaced, but otherwise I'm pretty happy with this.

I also think that transition from spiky Medium to flat Heavy works pretty well.

ryantoyota's picture

Wow. This is really cool. I've never really liked Kabel either, always rubbed me the wrong way, but I like this.

I don't have much to say as I don't feel nearly as experienced as others on this forum, but I will comment that I notice the round lowercase letters seem to look bigger in comparison to the other lowercase letters as the font gets lighter. This seems to be a result of all of the letters except the round ones thinning in character width with the weight loss. The o's not too bad, but the p, q, d and b look huge. Perhaps bring the stems in closer and loose the full circle? I know that kinda ruins the integrity of the font style but it might help create a more consistent color across the light weights.

Nice work on this. I'm amazed thinking of the amount of work that must go into this that you make look so easy with a few image posts on a forum.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

Hi, Ryan-

Thanks for your comments. And I also had an issue with Kabel; it is very recognisable font, but those few things just weren't right to my eye. That's why I made my version.

In my opinion the optical difference in height with light and heavy are of no concern; have you ever seen those weights been used next to each other? Basic rule with large families is to leave one weight in between for emphasis; so, for light, use medium as an highlight weight, and for book, use bold, and for medium use heavy.

That is why I've decided not to change the ratios of x-height and des- and ascenders.

Sindre's picture

This is very nice looking indeed. But I have to agree on the x height thing, to my eyes, the two lighter weights now look slightly compressed. This might be a spacing thing, though. Perhaps everything will be fine if you give the thinner weights the space they deserve. Keep it up!

Tomi from Suomi's picture

I did try that, but then I came back to user: many times different weights are used next to each other. Different x-height would make it difficult.

This is just a sample, but you see my point: x-height and as/descenders should be the same, when there's a chance they're used with each other. Adjusting the ratios would be difficult.

Tomi from Suomi's picture

I just noticed that Kaapeli is a contender on Bestseller list in FontSpring.

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