FontFont rings in the new year with its 54th release. It boasts two new type families: the self-explanatory FF Basic Gothic, and clubbing face on steroids FF Massive. Although both new type families are definitely worth your attention, I would like to also take a closer look at some of the thirty popular FontFont families that were converted to OpenType, many in Pro format. Eleven families were extended with new styles or Cyrillic/Greek character sets. Furthermore, 23 FontFont families joined the ranks of the Offc and Webfonts, making typography on the web and in office applications even more versatile and diverse.
FF Basic Gothic
Neutrality in typography is a fickle concept. Different times, different nationalities, different cultures regard different shapes as being neutral. Take for example Helvetica. The Modernists considered it as the ultimate neutral sans serif, devoid of any national connotation. This universal skeleton of a typeface was supposed to be the common man’s face, the perfect embodiment of Beatrice Warde’s crystal goblet. Yet its massive overuse in graphic identities for big corporations in the sixties and seventies turned it into a symbol for faceless capitalism.
Currently one could argue that Verdana – because of its ubiquity – has become these times’ neutral typeface. Due to its popularity online, Verdana has effectively become the basic sans serif. Yet in print it tends to look too heavy and a little unwieldy. As a response to this FontFont has now released FF Basic Gothic. FF Basic Gothic is a sans serif type family of eight weights plus matching italics. It was designed by Hannes von Döhren and Livius F. Dietzel in 2009/10. Influenced by the early sans serif typefaces of the 19th century and developed for today’s highest standards, they created a functional family optimized for maximum legibility.
FF Basic Gothic has a functional, basic look, being wilful but pleasant at the same time. The unique letter forms of Gill Sans or Antique Olive inspired the designers to search for exceptional yet legible proportions. At the same time, the letters are stripped down to their basic forms, with precise curves and straight lines, making Basic Gothic extremely versatile for a multitude of applications. Basic Gothic performs especially well in small sizes. The heavy weights have stronger contrasts and unfold their strength in bigger sizes. They have an eye-catching appearance in newspaper or magazine headlines.
FF Basic Gothic is equipped for complex, professional typography. The OpenType Pro fonts have an extended character set to support Central and Eastern European as well as Western European languages. Each font includes small caps; fractions; old style, lining and tabular numbers; scientific superior/inferior figures; alternates; and a set of arrows.
Download the FF Basic Gothic PDF (451 K)
If you need type for the club scene, there are few better designers to turn to than Donald Beekman. The Amsterdam-based interviewer for Typeradio, musician, DJ/producer, and head of an underground record label also designs under the monicker DBXL branding and packaging for his colleagues in the music industry. Donald intimately knows club culture and is immersed in the dance-oriented music scene. All his type designs but one originated in letters he drew for logos, record sleeves, posters, and flyers – Brak is the only design he started “just for fun”.
The original sketches for the FF Massive typeface system date back as far as 2001. It already has a long history, and has since been used in many DBXL designs. FF Massive is suitable for logos, flyers, posters and magazine headlines. Be it drum’n’bass, techno or trance, FF Massive has a distinct musical background. With its 2010 release the FF Massive OT family was expanded with an extra outline version into eight different Open Type fonts, divided in four variations which together form a versatile typo graphic system. The eight different FF Massive variations enable the user to compose a number of combinations, which can lead to surprising results, especially with the use of contrasting colours. Enjoy!
Download the FF Massive PDF manual explaining how to use the type system. (1.4 MB)
In spite of – or perhaps because of – Helvetica’s reputation for cold, calculated perfection, it has been the world’s most popular Roman typeface for over four decades. Drawn by Max Miedinger and introduced under the name Neue Haas Grotesk in 1957, its roots lie in much quirkier and personable material. Its earliest direct ancestor, known simply as Grotesk, was first introduced by the Schelter & Giesecke foundry in Leipzig around 1880. The Bauhaus, in nearby Dessau, chose this face as the main workhorse for their printing shop, and used it for the vast majority of their classic experiments in asymmetrical typography.
In 1999 Erik Spiekermann asked type designer Christian Schwartz to consider drawing a revival of S&G’s Grotesk, updating the family for contemporary typographic needs without rationalizing away the spirit and warmth of the original. The Regular, Medium, and Bold are drawn directly from S&G sources, and the Super was added for situations where subtlety would be inappropriate. The family is released in 2002 under the name FF Bau, in homage to the most noted users of the original.
The OpenType release of FF Bau is highly anticipated by lovers of classic grotesque faces. Its double-storey ‘g’, and the lowercase ‘a’ that keeps its tail in all weights distinguish it from the ubiquitous and overused Helvetica. The new version offers additional stylistic alternatives – a straight-legged capital ‘R’, a single-storey lowercase ‘g’ in the roman styles, and a slanted double-storey ‘a’ in the italic styles. Most interestingly a hooked lowercase ‘a’, ‘f’, ‘r’ and ‘s’, and alternate numerals lend Stylistic set 4 that typical vintage feel. Lining figures are now default, with oldstyle figures still included, and tabular variants too, as well as superiors, subscripts and real fractions. Pro fonts come with extended language support.
Download the FF Bau PDF. (233 K)
OpenType Update and Extension
Originally it was Łukasz Dziedzic’s aim for FF Good was to design a cool, informal family for a news weekly – very straightforward and legible, but still with unique personality. A few months of work into this project Łukasz’s team got another, even more important redesign project: the computer magazine Komputer Swiat. As with 49 styles finished the type family was nearing completion, they decided to try it for this project. The complex set-up featured lots of columns, combined with the Polish language, and it worked! Subsequently the family was used for yet another project – the Russian version of OK magazine, a glossy with a lot of pictures and short stories about celebrities, for which Łukasz was asked to design a Cyrillic version. That news weekly is still waiting for its redesign, but following another period of hard work Italics and a Headline version complete the FF Good family now.
For its OpenType release FF Good was boosted from a mere 9 styles to 60 styles. The versatile straight-sided sans serif has been radically overhauled. The original incarnation of this contemporary alternative for News/Trade Gothic was a rather small family of three weights in three widths, with no italics. The new version however comes in five weights ranging from Light to Black, in Condensed, Regular, and Wide widths, all with matching italics, and small caps for both roman and italic styles. Even better, the expanded suite of 30 styles is also available in a Headline version, with shorter ascenders and descenders to allow for more compact setting. All the fonts have been augmented with Latin Extended and Cyrillic Extended character sets. Little bits of trivia – proportional lining figures have become default, and the typeface has three ampersands, ideal for fine-tuning headlines.
Download the FF Good PDF. (213 K)
OpenType Update and Extension
Nick Shinn’s idea behind FF Fontesque was to do something that was very loose, with really extreme proportions, but at the same time be beautifully drawn. And although it would be a “novelty” face, it would set like real type, with a bold and a proper italic. And be original. That was the challenge. FF Fontesque is based on several concurrent design principles. Like animation; this is the idea that the characters are alive, moving, and can’t stand still. It’s expressed globally in the irregularity of size, varying angles of the uprights, and non-adherence to the baseline. Individually, each character is stretching, with sinuous curves and proportions that don’t divide evenly: each letter has a small part and a big part. To improve legibility the irregularity of the texture of white space maximized. If you look at the word “sea” in Helvetica, with its six similar spaces, you can see what FF Fontesque tries to avoid.
FF Fontesque Text | The original iteration is a graceful, delicate face – a display face, really. So for a wider variety of body-copy use, the addition of a more robust “text” version is a good idea. The weight is slightly heavier, the hairlines are thicker and the serifs bigger. Also, the side bearings are wider. However, some details were kept fine to preserve the “cut” of the face. Another reason for a text version is that in many instances people would prefer a little more heft. You know the kind of thing that can go wrong: someone uses Fontesque to surprint a busy photo, and it’s not quite strong enough, so they add a drop shadow, but it still doesn’t look right, because the hairlines are so fine. A text version would help here too, at display size
Fontesque Sans | Introducing the typeface that belongs in every food cupboard, uh, fonts folder, Nick Shinn peeled off the serifs, thrown it in a pot with some Helvetica, added a dash of Swiss, and cooked to perfection. Mmm, enjoy.
The FF Fontesque OpenType make-over presents an interpretation of the typeface that is more sophisticated than the original grunge-era rendering, with carefully refined drawing of the glyphs. There is a contextual alternate for every character, including all spaces, accented characters, punctuation, figures, ligatures, and so on, meaning every character is represented by two different glyphs. Most alternates are similar in structure, but slightly different in proportion, alignment, and detail. The overall effect enhances the original premise of Fontesque – the appearance of graceful hand lettering without mechanical repetition. Thanks to advanced OpenType technology this remarkable family finally reaches its full potential. Besides more language supports, additional alternate glyphs and ornaments, a few more new Display weights complete the family to perfection.
Download the FF Fontesque PDF. (1,6 MB)
OpenType Update and Extension
The FF Archian family originated from Hungarian designer György Szönyei’s desire to create a geometric typeface using only vertical and horizontal elements, without any curves. The first-born of the family, FF Archian Normal, was the result of playful experimentation with form and function. The other styles followed as variations on a theme, each with their own, different inspiration – architecture, painting, and fine arts. For the OpenType re-release the family was extended with two more styles, Amphora and Labirintus. An additional Stencil version – inspired by Russian constructivist avant garde traditions – allows the user to create two-colour effects via the simple use of Stylistic Sets.
Download the FF Archian PDF. (172 K)
The original freeform handwritten typefaces FF Erikrighthand and FF Justlefthand were the result of Just van Rossum and Erik van Blokland experimenting with software that was new at the time, and years of indoctrination on how to write. More than simple handwriting fonts, the original release already featured small caps, oldstyle figures, and ligatures. For the new versions the character shapes have been carefully reviewed and reworked, and new features were added. Kerning was improved, and connections and ligatures provide an improved text image. Furthermore the fonts now offer extended language support and localised forms.
Download the FF Hands PDF. (381 K)
New OT, Pro, Offc, and Web releases
Some of FontFont’s most popular families have been expanded into the new and popular font formats: Pro, Office (Offc), and Web Font (Web). For more detailed release notes, download the FF54 Overview (4.2 MB PDF).