Chances are you haven’t. Most people don’t consider the font or typeface and they go with Arial or Times New Roman or any other pre-installed fonts on your computer. However, if you want to want to think outside of the box and highlight your unique personality, the business you work in or the event you are organizing, choosing the right typeface can be extremely important. In the following, I would like to help you find the right font for you by telling you the story of Robert, who was completely unaware of fonts when he started, until he fell in love with unique typefaces.
Fonts – Do I need those?
Robert is a promising young attorney, he’s about to establish himself with his own law firm. As far as his outward appearance is concerned, he prefers a classic, elegant style and values understatement. With the offices opening soon, he has become somewhat interested in interior design and furniture because the building is from the 1930’s and he would like to create a great experience. He is convinced that his personal style testifies to his professional aspirations and his qualities as a lawyer.
I need a Designer
For his new office new shop signs and business, stationery is to be made. A proprietary website is in the making. Robert is in contact with a local design studio to one of it’s shareholders he got acquainted a while ago at a private party. The fellow talked about serifs, Didones and script fonts, upon swash alternates and display fonts… of things Robert had never heard someone talking about. But it sounded interesting in some way. During their conversation, the man happened to mention typeface selection and outlined his opinion that this was a core aspect in building a visual branding for a business.
There they were – the words Robert got stuck with: typeface selection. He wondered. He was used to selecting things, naturally: shirts, ties, shoes. But to choose from a range of different typefaces in order to use them consciously? He had, in fact, never thought about that.
We all produce text bodies and pick something from a fonts menu daily. Well-known system fonts get used in most cases. For instance, Times New Roman or Arial. They are clear and legible; they do what they’re supposed to do. But sometimes, a headline is to be highlighted – an invitation requires something with a special touch. Then we start to look for something in the font menu… but for what exactly?
At the latest, when the new business card design is at stake – when we spot our own name presented prominently on that little credit card sized sheet, then we realise what the selection of one typeface or another is about. Times? Far too common. Arial or Helvetica? Ordinary, boring.
A few concepts shall ease our venture into typeface degustation. There are about a handful of font categories: Roman, Sans, Blackletter, Scripts and Display faces. Roman typefaces are those with serifs; these are the tiny little feet and hooks at the stroke terminals, which help increase legibility. The ‘Sans serifs’ are, likewise, those without. Blackletter is the term for all those scripts featuring angled or ‘broken’ strokes in the letterforms, also known by the terms, Gothic or Fraktur. Nowadays, we usually associate them with tradition and the old-fashioned. Script fonts are, more or less, based on hand-writing models. They often feature a slanted angle/floating connections between letters, sometimes even calligraphic embellishments. Last, but not least, we count among the display fonts all those designs of a great variety which elude classification otherwise.
For his new business card, Robert is looking for something special, yet not flamboyant. He was recommended a range of websites to browse and finds himself overwhelmed by the sheer mass of typefaces on the shelves, in fact, tens of thousands. One can easily purchase them online, then download, install and use them immediately. Now he is spoilt for choice. The same was true for business card cases but he decided on the one by Fort Belvedere.
Well then, let’s talk about fonts for the gentleman. How do we sort out what is suitable?
Fonts for Gentlemen
Let’s begin with some of the classics. The typeface, Bembo, is regarded one of the most sophisticated among typographic professionals to this day, despite its origin dating back to the 15th century! Noted modern interpretations of the Bembo model are faces like Centaur, Dante and Andron. These fonts guarantee for a reputable and superior performance, and hence, they are not over-used like other, more popular products of the kind. Another attractive choice of a classical Roman is Deepdene, a design with a somewhat austere charm and an individual character. Quite related is the famous Trump Medieval from well-known German artist, Georg Trump (1886–1985), one of the most prolific type designers in the 1930’s. Take note of the tight rounding and sharply molded serifs; spot some details of decent eccentricity like the lower corner of the G or the slanted lower-right terminal of the R – it is refinements like these which lend distinction to the font.
Like in car design, architecture or fashion the 1920’s and 30’s has also been a vivid period in typeface design. It was a time producing a plenty of innovations and setting classical modern standards that we cherish still today. It was also the time of the breakthrough of the Sans serif typefaces. With this style, we associate the urban and metropolitan way of life in particular, economy and advertising as well as smart architectural lettering or legendary cinema posters.
An exemplary interpretation of that genre is, undoubtedly, the much-praised Brandon Grotesque (‘grotesk’ is a German expression for sans serif). It combines a basis of clear geometry with interesting letter shapes. They feature – in a wine review we would speak of finishes – subtle terminal rounding, which adds a gentle soft touch, not to lower the face’s clarity, but rather lending a pleasant warmth to it. Among the very classical modern sans faces we also count Kabel, a 1920’s original. By the very name of Le Havre, the glamorous age of the great steamers is evoked: remarkable tall ascenders and capital height give it a more lavish appeal. In a similar manner we may think of bygone streamline locomotives and the past luxury of travel when we look at Bahnhof or Mostra Nuova. To complete the set, Estilo is another cool urban font, with the speciality of raised small capitals at the positions of the lowercase letters.
If you’d like to go for a rather slim and smart design instead, then Blakely may be your choice. As an alternative to the oftentimes pointed shapes of A, M, V and others, some fonts offer rounded sorts for these letters instead. Good examples are Empire, Hagemann JNL, Renard Moderne or Huxley. Entirely indebted to the aesthetics of Art-Deco is the wonderful Marlowe, which comes with three additional embellished variants.
- Embellished fonts are a class of their own. We are not to linger over floral patterns and blossoms now (which may fit to a more female style), we should rather focus on the kinds of ornaments likely suitable for the gentleman. Lines and stripes play an important part here and the parallelity to pinstripes or tie patterns is by no means coincidental.
- Slim and prominent round-shape sans faces with lengthwise lineaments are Tea Dance and Super Bob Triline. Such a typeface will hardly be the choice for body text, but for setting names or headlines they’re just brilliant! They bring in some unmistakable flavor of their own. Also accentuated by lengthwise bystrokes are the letters of the elegant Arthur Sans, which comes as a pure capitals face and with several ornate variant fonts.
On the other hand, there are faces like the fashionable and sturdy Jazz, which are refined by hatchlings. This treatment originates in old printing techniques, foremost copperplate engraving. Since the 18th century, hatchings have been applied also to formal lettering. This custom gave birth to the engraved typefaces, yet another class of its own. Notable representatives of that class are faces like Ademo, Chevalier, Honduras and Jubilee Lines. The elegant and classical Burlington has no hatchings at all, but shows delicate stroke weight variation. More elaborate ‘engravings’ enrich the main strokes of the splendid Modernistic as well as those of Venezuela, which is based on the didone letter structure.
A stunningly crafted Blackletter with bystrokes and a fine hatching is Zierfraktur. It goes back to the famous Klingspor-Gotisch. In a somewhat comparable manner, the vivacious Heraldica Script got orchestrated by a fragrant bouquet of delicate swash and shadow lines.
And so we arrive at the Script faces at last. They have enjoyed an enormous popularity for many years now, and hence, the range of font products available is huge. We shall limit this review to a few worthwhile examples.
Whoever argues that this would be a more ‘cosmetics-and-romantics’ affair, should have a look at Cabriolet. This is what we may rightfully address sportsmanship in type! Yes, writing is an exercise, too. The way it smells of chrome and tires makes the automobile fancier’s heart leap under the bonnet, does it not? However, for those who like to be accommodated in a style not so breakneck, the typeface, Jeeves, is an interesting option – yes, THE Jeeves. A slender, contrastive script, the somewhat stiff main strokes of it vanishing in swinging hairlines with sweet melancholy. Or let’s turn to the cultured Butti, which, on white cardboard, turns out to be the ideal companion to black tie – eventually emerging from the waistcoat pocket, presenting the bearer’s name card with noble contrast and calm vividness.
As for Wooster, on the other hand, a typeface like the jolly Jaunty Gent would obviously be more suitable. Or maybe, the bold Geetype which comes with spectacular dandy-esque details only a true liberal mind could ever truly appreciate. The beautiful Forelle Pro is serving for the more distinguished palate, whereas Stradivarius introduces a resolute artistic tone for which hot-blooded capitals race along severely tailored minuscules dramatically. Ingenious detailing makes for cunningly lively harmony – see k, r or s for instance. More conventional is the appearance of Troubadour and Wilke Kursiv.
Last, but not least, the admirably relaxed, bright Wagner Script expresses sophistication and kindness – just as is befits perfectly to a gentleman.
A lot more could be recommended – but for now we’ll conclude this little font review and hope that it will inspire you to consider selected typefaces as a means for expressing yourself. It’s all about taste and awareness, but also a little bit about knowledge, which can be obtained with pleasure. Just like with apparel, shoes or fine spirits
As for Robert, he has discovered a new façette of lifestyle. It opens new facilities of communication to him. And when he eventually gets questions about his new business card, he’ll turn to serifs, scripts and swashes …
To ease your way into font picking, we have set up a special “Gentleman’s Selection” album at MyFonts.com. There you’ll find all the fonts featured in this article, alongside with a lot more of interesting typefaces.