When, in 2010, David Quay was asked by communication agency FWDesign to create a custom type family to be used as the new signage and orientation system of the City of Bath, he teamed up with ReType.
Bath is a beautiful city to design for, and we were delighted to be involved in the project. The process was intensive, and demanded a well-documented research into local values, history, and vernacular lettering tradition. We didn’t want a ‘squarish’ sans with a ‘modern’ look, or indeed any ‘neutral’ type family. We wanted something a little more idiosyncratic, but rooted in the identity and tradition of the urban environment and its surroundings, rather than just appealing to our personal preferences. The new family had to be flexible enough to be employed in variable sizes, and to work harmoniously on the beautiful maps and orientation graphics devised by FWDesign.
Originally, only a sans-serif was required, but during development, it became obvious that due to the system’s complexity, more clear typographic hierarchies were required. Because our original sketches had fluctuated from serif to sans and vice-versa until we achieved a consistent and coherent family, it proved simple for us follow up with a serif version.
Bath type family comes in sans and serif versions, each with regular and bold weights. It displays strong vertical contrast and pronounced counters. Though it’s not based on any existing or previous typeface, it does pay tribute to a group of alphabets and lettering models described as ‘English Vernacular‘ by historian James Mosley, and characteristic of the Neoclassical period.
The Bath family is modern but not trendy, classic but not old, functional but not neutral. As with the city itself, the typeface is conscious of its own rich past, while eyeing the future.