NaN’s Metrify sans serif typeface is the international workhorse solution to the neo-grotesk genre
Known for their library of ‘wild horses,’ Berlin-based foundry NaN decided it was time to craft a sturdy workhorse. Responding to an increasingly transborder world and contemporary branding challenges, NaN Metrify is their no-BS take on the neo-grotesk sans serif category. “Metrify adapts a unified systematic approach to the genre,” type designer Jérémy Landes tells us. “The metric system – a marvel of ingenuity as a unified approach of measure – came as an obvious reference for us.” By turning the metre into a verb, they developed the idea of ‘metrifying the world.’
Neo-grotesks are typically synonymous with the Swiss ‘International’ style. Ironically, in the era when this style was developed, there was little regard for scripts outside of Latin. Therefore, NaN questioned how a sans serif could be in 2023, and created a type family that is truly international. The NaN team worked with several consultants in order to offer Metrify in Arabic, Cyrillic, Greek, Hebrew, Thai, Pan-African and Pan-European writing systems. Each script stays true to the spirit of Metrify whilst also remaining respectful to the taste and culture of local readers.
Once the central concept of Metrify had been developed in the Latin script, the creation of the other scripts ran in parallel. Design decisions in one script inspired choices in another script, “as in a creative ping-pong game,” Landes reflects. “At the end of the day, these different scripts will work well together because we took great care of having compatible proportions, weight and rhythm between each script. Compatible but not similar, because each script has its own logic and they should follow unique sensible routes,” he adds.
Furthermore, with the expansive branding world in mind, NaN devised three ‘flavours’ of Metrify – A, B and C. They are built around a common skeleton and glyph set, but stand apart with their own vision of what a neo-grotesk can be. “We believe that our approach of offering three different typographic flavours in the neo-grotesk subgenre is quite unprecedented,” Landes notes. “In such a small niche, and in styles that are so bare-bones, the smallest detail has a huge impact on the whole look and feel of a typeface. Designers will often choose between two similar-looking typefaces because of the difference between the structure of the capital ‘R’ for example. By offering those A, B and C flavours, we’ve allowed users to have the ability to fine-tune their choice,” he explains.
One other defining feature of Metrify, Landes reveals, is how the bowls have a straight segment in the inside of their curves. This gives the typeface a sturdy look, enhancing its screen display quality, and making it fit closer to the pixel grid.
“The last thing that definitely differentiates Metrify from other type families is our new ‘Fair Fonts’ licensing model, which we launched just a week beforehand,” he says. “This new model allows us to charge differently depending on where our end-licensee lives, adapting the price of fonts to the average purchasing power of each country. By doing so, we want to offer everyone a fairer and more equal access to high-quality fonts, especially when these fonts support the under-represented languages those users are writing.”