November’s Font of the Month: Warbler Text Bold

Font of the Month, 2022/11 Try Buy $24

In my recent interview with The Weekly Typographic podcast, we talked about the two sides of running a type foundry: making fonts and everything else. Over the past couple months, the everything else got the better of me. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I tend to neglect administrative tasks. It was exciting to put some projects in motion for next year and release Serbia-based designer Jovana Jocić’s beautiful rendition of Roslindale Cyrillic.

But I appreciate your patience as I sneak in a small update for November’s font right under the wire. Tomorrow, I’ll be back again with a mailing for December.

Warbler text bold 2000

Since I released Warbler Text in February, I’ve received more requests for Warbler Text Bold than anything else. It’s not a glitzy request, but I get it. Roman + Italic + Small Caps might be enough to typeset a traditional start-to-finish book, but a more complex document calls for more complex typography to guide the reader through it. And in turn, more complex typography calls for more complex type families. A Bold certainly comes in handy!

But here’s the problem: As I discussed in previous mailings, what I appreciate most about Warbler—and the types William Martin cut for William Bulmer before it—is its quiet, delicate touch, and the quiet, delicate typography that it presupposes. Bolds, on the other hand, tend to be brash. They turn up the volume on a typeface and amplify its features—a caricature of the Roman whose entire purpose is to stick out.

Bold sample 2000

Slab serifs and fat faces used as Bolds, in “Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms”, circa 1884. Example courtesy of Kent Lew.

Warbler’s attempts to channel the last gasps of pre-Industrial typographic style in Britain, before advertising and mass-market ephemera transformed the design landscape. Its source material dates back to 1790, a time when fonts didn’t come with their own Bold variants. And like with Fern, I’ve been reticent to make the family more than it needs to be.

The Bold is really a creature of the 1800s, getting roped into type families only after typographers started throwing separate Fat Faces and Slab Serifs into the typographic mix for visual emphasis, as shown in the image above. There’s a funny anachronism to Bold in any pre-Industrial style, and it can be tough to shake those 19th Century origins: if you take any serif typeface and add enough weight to the vertical stems, it becomes a Fat Face. If you add enough weight to the stems and serifs, it becomes a Slab.



The 19th-century Scotch Roman is not too far off from the Warbler/Bulmer style, and has proven to be widely adaptable to extremes in width and weight. But as the Warbler family grows, I’m more and more determined to set it apart from Scotch Romans. Its relative inadaptability dovetails with my own laziness this month, to become a philosophy of “Minimum Viable Boldness”: what’s the least I could change about Warbler Text to make it function as a Bold?

So I added weight more-or-less evenly to the inside and the outside of the letterforms, and enlarged ball terminals just enough for them not to feel shrunken. I left the serifs alone as much as I could, striving for a thick-thin contrast that was sharp enough to not feel gummy, but low enough to not feel overtly Fat Face-y. I’ve thrown in SemiBold and ExtraBold options as well, so you can choose how much contrast feels right for you.

Warbler Text Bold ended up being defined more by what I don’t want it to be than by what it I do want it to be. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not, but honestly I like a little friction in my design process. Display Italics are next on my list, but I’ll probably continue to resist a Display Bold (and certainly a Text Bold Italic) until the need presents itself (or someone pays me to do it 😜).

I hope this small addition makes Warbler Text a richer, more utilitarian option for your complex texts.

New: Roslindale Cyrillic by Jovana Jocić

Roslindale cyrillic 1

It is my pleasure to announce the release of Roslindale Cyrillic, created by Serbia-based designer Jovana Jocić.

Last year, Jovana drew a Cyrillic extension for Forma DJR, and I thought she knocked it out of the park. So I was excited to work with her again on Roslindale, a quirky Victorian stew where pointy serifs, bulbous terminals, and italic forms add a new layer of complexity.

Roslindale cyrillic 5

Roslindale is a reinterpretation of De Vinne, a typeface that was originally published in the 1890s by the Central Type Foundry. It turns out that its spiky/blobby contrast is a natural fit for the Cyrillic script, which has more opportunities than Latin for both spikes and blobs. And in her Cyrillic extension, Jovana passes up no opportunity to heighten this juxtaposition.

Of course, Jovana made sure that the key features of my Latin design were brought over to the Cyrillic. For example, the spike on the Я is similar to the Latin R (but not exactly a reflection of it!). But she also carefully expanded Roslindale’s vocabulary of shapes to include forms that don’t exist in the Latin. This includes the “teeth” that descend at the bottom of д and ц, the ball terminals atop Й, and the swishes in Э and б that feel like toothpaste being squeezed out of a tube.

Roslindale cyrillic 7

Throughout the design process, Jovana and I met regularly, looked over proofs, and discussed the best way to balance the needs of the typeface with the needs of the script.

Roslindale Cyrillic is available in a series of Display Condensed weights from Extra Light to Ultra, as well as a more limited set of sturdier Deck and Text weights for smaller sizes. It contains Bulgarian, Serbian, and Macedonian alternates, as well as stylistic alternates that allow you to easily deploy Italic forms in the Upright fonts and vice versa. Oh and there’s a variable font too!

The images on this page are only the beginning...feel free to browse the specimen page, view the PDF specimen that Jovana designed, and grab a copy of the the trial fonts. We can’t wait to see what you do with this extension!

Roslindale cyrillic 6

An interview with The Weekly Typographic podcast

League of movable type

It was an absolute pleasure to chat with Olivia Kane for this week’s episode of The League of Movable Type’s Weekly Typographic podcast! We talked about origin stories, Emigre, font distribution, fighting for novelty fonts, and a whole lot more.

You can give it a listen wherever you stream your podcasts (including spotify, apple podcasts, and google podcasts), and I also suggest you check out their other recent interviews...they’ve had some incredible guests on recently.

October’s Font of the Month: Nickel Gothic Condensed and Compressed

Font of the Month, 2022/10 PDF Try Buy $24
Nickel gothic condensed big 2000

Six months ago, I sent an update to Nickel Gothic that included lowercase and a couple narrower widths. As I hit “Send” on the mailing, I felt a pang of regret, thinking to myself: “I should have gone narrower!”

After that, I started to notice narrow, rectilinear sans serifs in the wild—on freight train cars, on construction equipment, and even on the sign for the church in the next town over. They taunted me. And they made me think about how much more useful and fun Nickel Gothic would be if it was used in the same way that folks employ classic fonts like Impact and Haettenschweiler. So I made it narrower.

Nickel gothic church

Saint John’s Church, Ashfield, Massachusetts

The Condensed Sans genre is a crowded one. It’s one of the reasons I’ve hesitated to update Bild even though I know I should…I’m still trying to find the thing that makes Bild special. But for whatever reason, Nickel Gothic feels easier. I said in my April mailing that each letter of Nickel Gothic should land with a resounding thud, and a big part of that has to do with the exaggerated flatness of “round” shapes like O

Plenty of sans serifs get more rigid as they get narrower, exchanging their ovoid O for a stadium shape. Heck, it even happens in Helvetica Compressed! But Nickel Gothic has “rounds” that have straight sides to begin with, not to mention completely flat tops and bottoms. These flat-top exteriors contrast with the round-top interiors and leave additional weight in the corners (shoulderpads?), giving Nickel Gothic the feeling of being more “engineered” than “drawn”. 

The problem with making Nickel Gothic narrower is that these distinctive flat tops started to get less and less noticeable. So I raised the thick/thin contrast and reduced the corner radius of the exterior shapes, accentuating the flat surfaces as much as possible. And I made no attempt to create a gradual transition between the straight and round segments, further underscoring the flatness that sets Nickel Gothic apart.

Nickel gothic flat top 2 2000

I tend to gravitate towards typefaces that hang out in between genres. The thing I like about Nickel Gothic Condensed is that it’s not materially different from a classic headline sans, but its flat-top style moves it one step closer to abstract shapes. It’s an odd midpoint between a functional sans like Bild and a novelty sans like Fit

Nickel Gothic’s narrower version exacerbated the difference between closed-in, double-stroke letters like O and C and open, single-stroke letters like E and T. The latter group had to get significantly narrower in order to avoid leaving big open spaces in text. Diagonal letters like v and y also took lots of extra massaging to get their intersections to not feel overwhelmingly congested.

But, as I was writing up this mailing a couple weeks ago, I started to feel the same pang of regret that I felt in April. I should have gone even narrower!

Nickel gothic compressed 2 2000

I didn’t necessarily feel the need to explore the illegible extremes of something like Barcode (after all, Fit has been there, done that), but as I was looking at uses of Permanent Headline and Compacta I wondered if Nickel Gothic could be a flat-top alternative to those as well. I followed their lead and added a bit of letter spacing to battle the picket-fence-effect that Compressed fonts get when the space outside the letters is equal to the space within them. 

These new styles get pretty far from the 1918 Chinese banknote that served as Nickel Gothic’s jumping-off point, but I think they feel like a logical extension for the family, not to mention a lively variable axis to play with in your headlines.

Thanks for letting me take the extra time this month, and I hope a few of you appreciate that these four new widths are available in Cyrillic and Greek as well. Let’s plan on the next mailing landing late as well so I can play a little catch-up. 😅 Enjoy your month!

Nickel gothic all widths black 2000

September’s Font of the Month: Gimlet Sans Optical Sizes

Font of the Month, 2022/09 PDF Try Buy $24
Gimlet sans blah screenshot 2000

At the very end of 2020, I issued Gimlet Sans Blah, which is probably my silliest font to date. It uses a little OpenType trickery to replace all text with “blah blah blah”, helping the user get some distance from messaging apps (like Slack) and unwind a bit, while still remaining logged in.

But this jokey font revealed a serious limitation of the Gimlet Sans expansion I sent out earlier that month: those four letters (and one wordspace) didn’t look great at small sizes! I didn’t bother mentioning it at the time, but I had actually modified the forms in Gimlet Sans Blah to make them feel a bit less cramped when used in a text or interface setting. The x-height got larger, the letterspacing opened up, and thus, the idea for Gimlet Sans Optical Sizes was born.

Gimlet sans text sample 2000

I’ve been working on a few UI fonts for clients in recent months. Each time we’ve had to figure out how to address legibility/accessibility concerns without boiling out every last bit of personality from the typeface. So I’ve been asking myself a lot recently, how far can you stretch a design before it stops feeling like that design? And conversely, how much personality can you get away with in a font made for small sizes?

Size-specific adjustments in type are a pretty subjective thing, but they generally follow the same playbook. As a font gets smaller, it gets looser, airier, simpler, and more obvious. A small-size font is a ruggedized font…details need to get exaggerated or they need to disappear.

That being said, it feels like we are turning a corner in small-size typeface design. It once felt like open forms were the key to a great UI font (Lucida, for example), but with better rasterizers and higher screen resolutions, many of the common UI fonts out there today have closed apertures, including San Francisco and Roboto. My hope is that this is a stepping stone towards more diversity and expression in small-size text.

Gimlet sans sizes sample 2000

You tend to see optical size variants a lot more often in serif fonts, where changes in thick/thin contrast, serif sharpness, and proportions tend to be more radical or even showy (take the changes I made to Warbler Banner several months ago). 

As a sans-serif, Gimlet Sans already had a lot going for it in terms of small-size-friendly attributes: it was low-detail and relatively low-contrast, and already had a decently-high x-height. Much of its off-kilter charm comes from its wide stance and exaggerated underbites, so I didn’t have to worry about anything being too narrow or subtle.

But it did need something. So just like I did with Warbler Text, I grabbed my trusty HTML test page and custom stylesheet and I started changing stuff and testing it. And while I did, I’d ask myself two questions: Does this change genuinely make the text a little easier to parse? And, does this still feel like Gimlet Sans?

Gimlet sans wiki sample 2000

So much of typeface design is about the trial-and-error process of figuring out “recipes” that transform one style into another. What I mean is something like this: Increase the x-height and lowercase width by nearly 10% while maintaining the existing stroke width. Then, loosen the letterspacing by roughly 100 units and increase the gaps of the pothook terminals by 20–30 units, including the distance of dots and accents to the base letter.

At a certain point, the system breaks down and I have to shift my focus towards managing the details. It turned out that round-sided shapes needed to gain a little more letter-spacing than straight-sided ones. The taller lowercase letters couldn’t tuck underneath capitals like T and F anymore, so I created untucked alternates to manage the transition. 

I tried to keep as many distinctive Gimlet-y quirks as I could, but I did have to part with some along the way. The pothook of the lowercase f got to be way too crowded in the now-reduced ascender space, and I begrudgingly replaced it with a simpler form. The t’s pothook, on the other hand, didn’t feel as disruptive, but there’s a simplified alternate in case you disagree. I even toyed with the idea of throwing in high-legibility alternates into the mix, including a Verdana-style serifed capital I and a lowercase l with a tail (which both felt sufficiently quirky and Gimlet-y to me!)

Gimlet sans text diagram 2000

This month’s download contains a bunch of fonts. You get the new Micro size (optimized for 9pt and below), a Text size (optimized for 10–13pt), and fresh cut of Gimlet Sans Display (previously “Gimlet Sans”), which has various improvements such as tighter spacing, OpenType alternates, tabular figures, and (*gulp*) a few bug fixes—thanks to the club members who reported them!

And it finally has Italics. Instead of shooting for a more flowing Italic, I stuck with the approach I used for Gimlet Serif, which follows Schadow’s unusual mix of oblique Roman forms and exuberant cursive outbursts. It features a round v and w, and I even managed to shoehorn in the notorious x, which is essentially a backwards c glued to a forwards c. It’s weird, but it’s not overly-crowded and definitely not subtle. I figured I might as well see if you’ll let me get away with it! 😆

Gimlet sans italic sample 2000