Type, Tracking & Terminals: 8 sans serifs with a twist including Dinamo and Displaay (Part One)
A topic with the power to spark heated debates and divide studios, type choices are a passionate territory for designers. Who doesn’t have a favourite typeface? Instead of compiling a list of Helvetica lookalikes, we wanted to share some unique and experimental sans serifs for you to try out in your next projects. From marker pens to light traps, these eight typefaces show that inspiration can be found in the unexpected.
While many contemporary sans serif typefaces are known for an amenable, smooth roundness, La Rochelle-based foundry A is for have provided something a bit more textured with the angular curves of BPT. The design was heavily inspired by the typeface used in AutoCAD, a computer-assisted design software used by architects. The name, which stands for Building, Typing, Publishing, is also a nod to the software’s impact. Born out of a typographic experiment for Issue #195 of the French design magazine Étapes, entitled ‘Somewhere between graphic design and architecture…,’ the typeface was enhanced and developed by Jeremy Perrodeau and Guillaume Grall.
An increasingly popular choice for visual identities, Roobert is a mono-linear geometric sans serif type family by Prague-based foundry Displaay. Originally designed as a bespoke typeface for MoogFest 2017, the name originates from the founder of Moog Music, Robert Moog – but with an added ‘o,’ because why not. Taking MoogFest’s logotype as the starting point, the rounded characteristics found in the ‘g’ bleed into the rest of the alphabet and can be seen in ‘a,’ ‘g,’ ‘r,’ alternative ‘t,’ ‘G,’ ‘R’ and more.
Brownfox’s Jet blends the past and present in an unmistakably 70s and sci-fi-inspired type family. Its dynamic sturdy forms and angular tapering of some horizontal forms convey movement and edgy impatience for change, with a few re-imagined details, like the reversed slant on top of the lower case ‘t’ and the atypical round counter of the lower case ‘a.’ The assertive italic typeface was designed by Gayaneh Bagdasaryan and Vyacheslav Kirilenko in 2020 and is available in five weights in Latin and Cyrillic.
For fans of the Bauhaus, ES Build from Swiss type foundry Extraset, finds inspiration in the work of Herbert Bayer, the graphic designer and master of the Bauhaus typography workshop between 1925 and 1928. When creating the typeface Universal, Bayer had decided to remove the terminals at the juncture between the stem and the bowl on the letters ‘b,’ ‘d,’ ‘p,’ ‘q,’ ‘n’ and ‘m’ to make way for more circular curves. Retaining this feature, ES Build offers a more readable interpretation of this design approach. Unlike its reference, however, ES Build offers upper case letters and a complete palette of 675 glyphs.
The geometric sans serif Platform was the first typeface released by typeface designer Berton Hasebe. As a response to the well-trodden territory of the geometric sans serif, Platform plays with the inherent crudeness in letters that have been reduced to their simplest essence. The type’s development was informed by a variety of global takes on the geometric sans serif genre; from the quirky Latin alphabets designed to match Japanese typefaces, to the strangely-proportioned early modernist German and Dutch sans serifs. Rather than aiming for perfection, Platform demonstrates how this area of type design can be approached in a contemporary context.
In the first half of the 20th century, many designers were engaged in the construction of modular fonts in which geometric parts and an underlying grid produced the letterforms. Originally designed by Nik Thoenen in 2003, the Blender typeface follows this principle whilst retaining both a soft and technical final look. Since its original iterations, the typeface has been revised and extended until 2017; and was later completely rebuilt in collaboration with the Vienna-based font design company Schriftlabor. Blender is a favourite typeface of ours at The Brand Identity, and appears as the leading typeface of our mockup platform THE TEMPLATES.
The typeface Round by Bureau Brut finds itself in a beautiful contradiction of circles and squares. Designed by the French foundry in 2020, and published in 2021, unique characteristics of the typeface can be seen in the lowercase ‘b,’ ‘d,’ ‘p,’ and ‘q’ where the vertical bars cut through the rounds with sharp precision to result in a graphically eye-catching sans serif. Round’s visually impactful, angled terminals took inspiration from the texture, shape and feel of a marker pen tip. Combined with rounded simplicity, the family evokes a modern, geometric and fluid approach, going to round then square, and back again. Optimised for text and graphic fluidity in its smaller sizes, the corners become rounded for reading clarity.
For those looking for a Helvetica alternative with eye-catching features, Dinamo’s Camera is similar in style but with freer, less strictly defined proportions and a narrower body – and unmistakably, holes! The origin of the typeface can be traced back to ‘light traps,’ a technique used to make text more readable on low-resolution TV screens in the 60s and 70s. An early work of Dinamo Co-founder Fabian Harb, the typeface was conceptualised around the inception days of the Swiss type design studio. The light traps were a striking visual feature, so Dinamo scaled them up for ABC Camera, with the team referring to them as ‘holes,’ much like the ones found in a wedge of Swiss Emmental cheese. Available with and without the holes, in a family of five weights (including italics), the typeface is both a vibrant and neutral, toned-down grotesk.