Like most designers I know, I don’t have just one favourite typeface. It all depends on the task at hand. I have a shortlist of beautiful designs that have never let me down, though. Ingeborg by the Typejockeys is usually at the top of that list. It’s solid and warm in text, with more flair than you’d expect. Its italic weights are sublime, and it comes with some heavy display styles that have exactly the right blend of old and new.
I love typefaces that are multi-functional, such as Joe Hills’ Braille typeface, which combines braille with letterforms. Also, Bic’s Universal Typeface is interesting because it compiles 1.7 million individual handwritten letterforms to create a typeface representing global personal expression. While at Johnson Banks, I worked with Michael Johnson on Phonetikana, a bilingual typeface, which enables people to read both English and Japanese at the same time. This drew on my experience of both languages. I am convinced that more multi-functional typefaces would help to bridge divides.
Fonts are about the personal associations we bring to them – like smells, they have the power to unlock memories and transport you to a particular time or place. For anyone of my generation who grew up around Manchester, Stymie Bold Italic instantly evokes a period of northern confidence and belief in the future. It was used in the red sign on the Granada TV building and became a typographic landmark in Manchester for 50 years. It’s also been used in a few Robinsons pub signs around Stockport, so it’s full of homely resonances for me. The slab serif typeface was designed by Morris Fuller Benton in 1931 and has a Wild West feel to it that somehow got transplanted to the UK in the 1950s. There’s a Flickr group dedicated to it here.
If I was really pushed to name my favourite font I’d have to say the Bureau Grotesque family. It’s traditional and very British looking, but still feels modern when used carefully. It works well combined with other fonts, sitting in the background while brasher fonts take the limelight. Bureau Grotesque is available in lots of different weights and cuts, all based on the same characteristics, but varied enough to provide ample choice. I don’t trust serif fonts and use them sparingly – for me they don’t have the punch and authority of sans serif.
My favourite font changes almost every week, but most days on my trip to the library Edward Johnston’s Underground Sans provides unfailing pleasure. It’s the strength and consistency of it that I love, and the fact that it still brands a huge transport network with a comforting warmth. The lower lip of the ‘l’ and the diamond dot above the i are still its calling cards, and it looks fresh almost 100 years after its birth. Partly this is due to Eiichi Kono’s update in the ’80s, but primarily it’s because a brilliant calligrapher found his muse.
I’ve never really had a favourite font. Favourite pen — yes. Favourite note book — of course. A font that I am desperate to commercially use — perhaps. I’m not sure which I was introduced to first, the font itself or the Straight Outta Compton album it famously appeared on. Only Fools and Horses wouldn’t be the same without it, and I was rather excited to see its hot pink implementation for Drive. I’d like the challenge of using something, which let’s be honest really rather shouldn’t be used: Mistral.
Do you have a favourite font? Let us know in the comments section below.